MICHAEL ROWAN / DOUGLAS SCHOEN
June 06, 2008
The pile of terrorism evidence against President Hugo Chávez soars higher than any mountain in the hemisphere, but few want to look. The 37,872 computer files of Colombia's No. 2 FARC rebel terrorist Raúl Reyes were captured after a March 1 missile attack that killed him and two dozen guerillas in a secret safe haven a few miles north of Colombia's border with Ecuador. The files, certified by Interpol, were laughed off by Chávez as a ''circus,'' as he called Interpol a ''Mafia,'' whereupon The New York Times and the Economist characterized the files as ``uncorroborated.''
In fact, the files were corroborated by two smoking guns in a matter of days. In Costa Rica, police found $480,000 of the FARC's drug profits precisely where the files said they were hidden. And outside Bogota, the files showed police where 30 kilograms of nonenriched uranium -- dirty nuclear weapon material -- were concealed.
The files also indicate that:
• The FARC -- the Spanish acronym for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia -- gave Chávez $150,000 while in jail for his failed Venezuelan coup of 1992.
• Chávez promised $300 million and an oil supply to the FARC in 2007.
• Chávez is facilitating arms sales including surface-to-air missiles to the FARC.
• Chávez is providing safe havens for the FARC.
• Chávez is conspiring with the FARC to overthrow the democratically elected government of Alvaro Uribe in Colombia.
These are gross violations of the Organization of American States charter and U.N. Security Council resolutions 1373 and 1566 prohibiting safe havens or money for terrorist groups. Yet they represent only the tip of a supersized iceberg of intelligence that includes 983 encrypted files, 452 spreadsheets, 22,481 Web pages and 7,989 e-mail addresses that are likely to incriminate thousands of powerful officials and individuals all over the world.
Little of this is new to security experts who have tracked Chávez for years. They know that since late 2004, Chávez has embarked upon an asymmetric war against U.S. power in Latin America and the Middle East. He uses the weapons of oil, terror, drugs and financial crime with overt backing from Cuba and Iran and covert support for the FARC, Hezbollah, Hamas and other terror organizations.
But Chávez is being given a pass -- both internationally and domestically -- for behavior that in any other case would make of him a global pariah.
• Domestically, no Venezuelan prosecutor, judge, legislator or journalist who wants to keep his or her job is free to act on truth that Chávez doesn't like. In fact, if this article were printed in Venezuela, the writers could technically be jailed for two years under an edict that prohibits the publication of ''secret'' information such as the Reyes files, which the authorities deem to be lies.
• Chávez's international pass is harder to explain. Surely Venezuela's uranium mining, uranium shipments to Iran and the confiscated 30 kilos of nonenriched uranium are as weighty evidence as the U2 spy plane photos of Cuba's site preparations for Soviet missiles in 1962. Faced with that photographic evidence by President Kennedy, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev lied, saying that everything Russia was doing in Cuba was ''defensive in nature,'' which prompted Kennedy to warn him, ``If it turns out otherwise, the gravest issues will arise.''
That evidence provoked a narrowly avoided nuclear war. Today, Chávez offers the same lie as Khrushchev: He claims that he is defending Venezuela from imaginary U.S. invasions and assassination attempts that he has predicted countless times since 2001 but that never materialize.
Only Colombia has the courage to impose sanctions on Venezuela, risking $6 billion in bilateral trade. OAS Secretary-General José Miguel Insulza says he will not look into Venezuela's violations of the OAS charter until he is told to do so. The U.N. Security Council is silent on the flagrant violations of its resolutions against terror. And the U.S. government says Chávez ''has a lot to answer for'' but listing Venezuela as a ''state sponsor of terrorism'' is not likely.
So Chávez -- who has handed out $100 billion since 2004 to nations that applaud his anti-American rant, take his oil money or both -- is sitting pretty. While Sens. John McCain, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton debate the conditions under which they might meet with rogues like Chávez, he is going about the terrorism, kidnapping, money-laundering, drugs and arms businesses as if none of it matters.
Michael Rowan and Douglas Schoen were the political strategists and pollsters for Gov. Manuel Rosales in Venezuela's 2006 presidential campaign and are co-authors of the forthcoming The Threat Closer to Home.