State Dept. Pushes Southern Command to Declare Venezuela a Danger to US

Posted on March 18, 2010

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State Department Pushes Southern Command to declare Venezuela a Danger to the US, and El Nuevo Herald Throws in Cuba as Well
La Alborada – March 17

General Douglas Fraser, head of the US’s Southern Command, has been put in his place by Arturo Valenzuela, Assistant Secretary of State. Gen. Fraser had indicated in testimony before Congress on March 11 that he had no evidence of links between Venezuela, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) –a Colombian guerrilla group– and the Basque separatist group ETA, but that the Southern Command was watching Venezuela very closely. He said that “We have not seen any connections specifically that I can verify that there have been a direct government-to-terrorist connection.” (MercoPress; El Universal)

The day before, Valenzuela had testified that “there are some indications that there has been some kind of assistance” from Caracas to FARC.” However, according to MercoPress, Fraser testified in that regard that there are “old evidences” of assistance, but “I couldn’t say if that continues to be the case or not”.

[MercoPress also reported that “In Madrid, Spanish Deputy Prime Minister María Teresa Fernández de la Vega said on Friday that Spain has the support of Venezuela in the fight against the armed Basque group ETA, as it occurs with other countries like France or Portugal.”]

The divergence in the testimony of Fraser and Valenzuela did not escape notice, and Fraser was taken to the woodshed. The day after his testimony, he backed down, as he stated on his own blog:

Assistant Secretary Valenzuela and I spoke this morning on the topic of linkages between the government of Venezuela and the FARC. There is zero daylight between our two positions and we are in complete agreement:

There is indeed clear and documented historical and ongoing evidence of the linkages between the Government of Venezuela and the FARC.

We track this and continue to monitor the amount and level of direct support in the form of money, networks, and providing a safe haven for operations and personnel.

In this view and pursuit, we are in direct alignment with our partners at the State Department and the Intelligence Community.

Did the head of Southern Command not have relevant intelligence for his appearance before Congress that Valenzuela did? Does “the Intelligence Community” have information that it does not share with the Pentagon? Or was Fraser directed to adopt the line of the State Department, regardless of evidence? Was there no agreement on ties to ETA?

Today, in apparent support of the revised version, Miami’s El Nuevo Herald noted the prior issuance of a Joint Operational Environment report (JOE 20010) from Southern Command on February 22 of this year, about three weeks before the hearings. The newspaper’s article is ominously titled “Alert Sounded on the Threats Represented by Cuba and Venezuela” (title translated by L.A. from the Spanish).

The JOE 2010 report can be found at http://www.jfcom.mil/newslink/storyarchive/2010/JOE_2010_o.pdf

According to the report, the “potential major challenges to the status quo [of the region] at present are Cuba and Venezuela. The demise of the Castros will create the possibility of major changes in Cuba’s politics. The future of Venezuela is harder to read.”

Nothing further was said about Cuba; the Nuevo Herald was not able to get elaboration from SouthCom, in either Miami or Norfolk, concerning threats from or opportunites in Cuba.

Concerning Venezuela, the report suggested that “Venezuela could use its oil wealth to subvert its neighbors for an extended period of time while pursuing anti-American activities on a global scale with the likes of Iran, Russia, and China…”, but it says nothing about connections to the FARC or ETA.

To sum up:

– In February, SouthCom’s JOE 2010 report said nothing of any Venezuelan ties to FARC and ETA.
– On March 10, State’s Valenzuela testified that there were ties between Venezuela and the FARC and also ETA.
– On March 11, SouthCom’s Fraser testified that he could not say whether that was the case.
– On March 12, Fraser reconsidered, after being called by Valenzuela, to the point of finding “zero daylight” between him and Valenzuela, at least as to Venezuela.
– On March 17, the Nuevo Herald cited the SouthCom report of February to headline not just Venezuela, but also Cuba, as a danger, altough its own reporter could not get information to support the headline. The article cited Fraser’s recant in his blog, but said nothing about his earlier testimony. It was filed under “Cuba”, not under “Venezuela.”

In the postmodernist world, statements have alternative meanings, and you can choose the reading that you prefer: see above for some options. Our reading: the State Department has Venezuela in its sights, and Cuba is not far behind. When Condoleezza Rice was in charge of the State Department, the last report of her commisision on Cuba took that same approach, saying in almost so many words that, if the US could take down the government of Venezuela, the same would happen to Cuba’s government.

The commission’s report turned out to be remarkably wrong in its dire predictions of what would happen if Fidel Castro became unable to head Cuba’s government; the commission had been woefully uninformed about what was happening in Cuba.