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Patterns of Global Terrorism: Venezuela

Released by the Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism

Venezuelan cooperation in the international campaign against terrorism was inconsistent in 2003. Public recriminations against US counterterrorism policies by President Chavez and his close supporters continued to overshadow and detract from the limited cooperation that exists between specialists and technicians of the two nations.

President Chavez’s stated ideological affinity with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the Colombian National Liberation Army (ELN) limits Venezuelan cooperation with Colombia in combating terrorism. Venezuela is unwilling or unable to systematically police the Venezuela-Colombia 1,400-mile border. The FARC and the ELN often use the area for cross-border incursions and regard Venezuelan territory near the border as a safehaven. In addition, weapons and ammunition—some from official Venezuelan stocks and facilities—continued fl owing from Venezuelan suppliers into the hands of Colombian terrorist organizations. It is unclear to what extent the Government of Venezuela approves of or condones material support to Colombian terrorists and at what level. Efforts by Venezuelan security forces to control their sides of the border and to interdict arms flows to these groups are ineffective.

Current Venezuelan law does not specifically mention crimes of terrorism, although the UN Convention on Terrorist Bombings of 1997 and the UN Convention on Terrorism Financing of 1999 became law in Venezuela on 8 July 2003. An organized crime bill pending in the National Assembly would define terrorist activities, establish punishments, and facilitate the prosecution and asset forfeiture of terrorism financiers. Venezuela signed the OAS Inter- American Convention Against Terrorism in June 2002 and ratified it in January 2004.

Terrorist tactics were employed throughout 2003 by unidentified domestic groups attempting to influence the tenuous political situation, particularly in Caracas. A series of small bombs and threats throughout the year were variously blamed on supporters of President Chavez or the Government’s political opponents.

Venezuela extradited one member of the terrorist organization Basque Fatherland and Liberty to Spain and arrested another. Unconfirmed press accounts continued to allege the presence of radical Islamic operatives in Venezuela -- especially on Margarita Island. In February 2003, a Venezuelan national managed to fly from Venezuela to London with a hand grenade in his checked luggage, but his intent remains unclear.

Venezuela is a party to six of the 12 international conventions and protocols relating to terrorism.

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