Oil, Chavez and the Farc connection.

Discussion in 'Economics' started by Raptor Deus, Mar 12, 2008.

  1. U.S. Is Probing Links Between Venezuela, Terror Group (Update3)

    By Roger Runningen
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    March 12 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. intelligence agencies are investigating a potential link between Venezuela and a terrorist group, according to a White House spokesman, who declined to say whether the U.S. will add the oil-exporting nation to a list of nations sponsoring terrorism.

    ``We don't discuss the process by which states are added to the list of state sponsors of terror,'' White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said today in an e-mail.

    U.S. authorities are looking into material seized by Colombian officials this month that a Florida congressman says may be evidence that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez aids the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, designated by the U.S. and Europe as a terrorist organization.

    The congressman, Republican Representative Connie Mack, said Venezuela should join the State Department's list of state sponsors of terrorism, which includes Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Syria and Sudan. Florida Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, also has asked the department to consider a listing.

    ``It is now abundantly clear that Mr. Chavez is increasingly intertwined with the FARC and is now giving aid and comfort to international terrorist organizations,'' said Mack, who also serves on the foreign affairs panel, in a March 6 letter to Bush, posted on his Web site.

    Mack said Chavez ``is using his vast oil wealth to fund terrorism in his own backyard and to make mischief throughout Latin America in order to destabilize'' democratic governments, such as Colombia.

    Oil Exporter

    Complicating any action is Venezuela's status as South America's largest oil exporter and the fourth-largest oil- supplier to the U.S., according to 2007 data from the Energy Department.

    Johndroe said the administration is checking out the evidence. Colombia seized computers in a raid on a FARC encampment a mile into neighboring Ecuador, an incident that prompted Chavez and Ecuador President Rafael Correa to move troops closer to their border with Colombia.

    ``Our intelligence community is now analyzing the material picked up by the Colombians in the recent FARC operation,'' Johndroe said.

    Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the Colombian government is ``learning a great deal about the relationship'' between Venezuela and the FARC.

    Chavez Actions

    ``That work is not complete yet,'' Rice told the House Appropriations State and Foreign Operations subcommittee today. ``They are apparently looking at some of the information that was made available to them because of the recent deaths of some key FARC leaders.''

    Rice also said she wanted to ``note publicly'' that Chavez sought to persuade ``various countries'' to take the FARC off their terrorist lists.

    Mack said the information found on laptops by Colombian authorities ``is evidence'' that Chavez has given millions of dollars and weapons and provided a haven for leftist rebels in Venezuela.

    ``It is increasingly evident that Venezuela now qualifies to be designated as a state sponsor of terrorism,'' Mack's letter said.

    Ros-Lehtinen, who wrote to Rice and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson on Feb. 6, also cited public statements by Colombian officials referring to evidence on the computers.

    Iran Links

    She asked Rice and Paulson to consider whether a joint oil and gas venture between a state-run Venezuelan petroleum company and a unit of Iran's state oil concern violates U.S. sanctions targeting Tehran.

    Ros-Lehtinen also asked Rice to ``review whether Venezuela's activities with Iran and its support for the FARC meets the legal threshold for the Chavez regime to be designated a state sponsor of terrorism or sanctuary nation,'' according to a March 4 e-mailed statement from her office.

    Rice and Ros-Lehtinen met separately today with Colombian Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos. Ros-Lehtinen said she asked that Santos's government share all the documents it has retrieved with Congress and allow its national police director to testify.

    Rice declined to say before her meeting whether the department is considering a terror listing for Venezuela.

    ``I would just note that it is an obligation of every member of the United Nations not to allow their territory to be used in any way to support terrorism and not to support terrorists,'' Rice said in response to a reporter's question. ``The FARC is a terrorist organization, and so there should be no support for them.''

    Tax Credits

    A listing of Venezuela as a terrorism sponsor would cause the U.S. to end earned income tax credits for companies such as Chevron Corp. with operations in that country, lift diplomatic immunity for Venezuelan diplomats and force U.S. citizens to get a license before engaging in financial transactions with the country's government, according to the State Department Web site.

    Restrictions on arms sales wouldn't affect Venezuela, as the U.S. forbade the export of military material to the country after Chavez kicked out Drug Enforcement Administration agents in 2005.

    A listing wouldn't automatically affect oil sales, though Congress could restrict oil imports from Venezuela as it has for Cuba and Iran. The U.S. is Venezuela's biggest oil customer, consuming 1.58 million barrels a day of the country's output last year, according to Energy Department figures. Venezuela produces an estimated 2.43 million barrels a day.

    Venezuela is cooperating with Colombia to identify possible guerrillas who were shot and hospitalized near the border, the Chavez administration said in a statement yesterday.