Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Growing Afghanization in Latin America.

The Growing Afghanization in Latin America.

By Luis Fleischman. *


When President Barack Obama was criticized for his over friendly interaction with Hugo Chavez during the Summit of the Americas, he responded by saying that the U.S. has nothing to fear from a country that has an economy six hundred times smaller than ours.


             This curious remark by our President brings another logical question to mind: how big is Al Qaeda’s economy in comparison to ours? It is likely that Al Qaeda’s assets are substantially smaller than oil-rich Venezuela’s. Likewise, Iran’s economy is not comparable to the American economy, even in a time of recession and economic crisis.


It is then logical to ask whether national or regional security is endangered in relation to economic capability or in an era of asymmetric wars. Does a country or an entity need to be economically or (even militarily) superior to those who oppose it in order to generate a situation of instability and threat?

The Obama Administration knows the right answer. Otherwise, the President and his national security team would not be so aggressively pursuing a war against the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan. What this Administration most fears in that area of south-central Asia is the collapse of the state in Pakistan and the inability to produce governability in Afghanistan. Both countries are located thousands of miles away from the United States but still the U.S. government recognizes that a situation of anarchy or Taliban rule in both countries would lead to regional instability. That, in turn, could lead to a situation of chaos with the danger that rogue elements could not only posses a nuclear weapon but also could take over in those places where state authority vanishes.


Obama’s public relations strategy in Latin America, mostly aimed at opening a new page in U.S.-Latin American relations, is consistent with Bush’s policies. In both the Bush and the Obama Administrations, the leading agency in charge of this policy seems to be the State Department whose philosophy is to try to improve the image of the United States in Latin America in order to mitigate the effect of anti-Americanism in the area. Not confronting Hugo Chavez and his allies appears to be a device aimed at portraying them as the instigators and the U.S. as the civilized and reasonable actor. Obama’s apologetic appearance in Trinidad & Tobago was consistent with this conception. 


There are a number of elements missing in that view. In previous issues of the “America’s Report” we have described Chavez’s intentions at revolutionizing the area by supporting anti-establishment groups and candidates like himself across the region.  We also reported that Chavez has designed a new regime based on absolutism and the elimination of civil and political rights while evangelizing these anti-democratic ideas throughout the region. He has built alliances with rogue states on the basis of anti-Americanism while attempting to remove America’s anti-drug and military presence. His wish to eliminate the American sphere of influence and bring other actors such as China, Iran and Russia into play is more than evident. However, there is one aspect not previously mentioned which deserves more attention, especially for U.S. foreign policy makers; that is the spread of anarchy at the expense of state authority.


A case in point is the Clinton Administration’s introduction of Plan Colombia in order to help Colombia fight the drug cartels and the FARC which by then had taken over forty (40) percent of Colombian territory. At that time, dangerous non-state actors took over this large portion of a democratic state in the Western Hemisphere. It is because of the hard work of President Alvaro Uribe of Colombia that this situation has been largely reversed.  In Venezuela and other countries allied with Chavez, not only are we seeing the consolidation of socialist autocracies but also the proliferation of dangerous non-state actors.


Today, Venezuelan airports are being freely used by drug cartels to export drugs to Europe and the U.S.; Chavez and Correa have helped the FARC in the fight against Colombia; Hezbollah cells have increased their fund-raising and other activities in the area with the support of Hugo Chavez; Iran and drug cartels cooperate under the auspices of Chavez; the Maoist Shining Path is reviving its activities in Peru, probably with the help of elements associated with Chavez. In Venezuela Hezbollah and other Islamists are empowered by the regime while Chavez, himself, has made chaos into official policy.


It has been reported that 454 leaders of independent unions have been murdered by parallel official “union” mercenaries.  It was also reported that the union leader representing the Toyota workers was murdered after reaching a deal with the Japanese company. The government did not like the deal because an official union leader was able to negotiate a peaceful resolution to a labor conflict. These mercenaries are allegedly criminals recruited in the prisons by the Chavez government. Criminality has already taken on a life of its own which would be difficult to control even if Chavez were no longer president. High-level criminality could serve drug cartels and radical Islamist groups like Hezbollah, or the FARC. More and more potential seditious, underground and criminal groups are encouraged as these Chavez-type regimes advance in the region. 


In other words, the monsters fed by the Chavista alliance now have a life of their own and are likely to survive even after their sponsors are gone.


That being the case, what will be the situation in Latin America?  Perhaps, it could mean that Colombia’s anarchical syndrome of the 1980’s and 1990’s will expand further. In other words, a situation similar to Afghanistan and Pakistan is likely to become omnipresent and irreversible. If in Afghanistan and Pakistan the danger is coming from the Taliban, Al Qaeda, the warlords and other non-state powerful actors, what makes us think that in Latin America we will be able to control a similar coalition of the drug cartels, the FARC, Hezbollah and the free criminals of the Chavez regime?


Curiously enough, President Woodrow Wilson was very concerned about developments in Mexico during the Mexican revolution early in the 20th century. Order and stability in Mexico were crucial to U.S. policy makers. Wilson and other U.S. administrations supported regional stability. Today, the challenge is even more serious as drug cartels and terrorist groups are far more sophisticated. Latin American countries seem to be apathetic to this possible development or may be they expect some other country to come to their rescue.    


The Organization of American States (OAS) whose president is Miguel Insulza has looked the other way while these developments have taken place. The OAS not only has ignored Chavez’s aggression towards their neighbors but it has also ignored assaults on democracy. As the example of Chavez shows us, the collapse of democracy leads not only to authoritarianism but also to chaos and criminalization of society.


Latin American leaders, aren’t you concerned?  The advance of drug cartels, terrorist groups and criminality at the expense of state authority is, in the minds of the OAS leaders, only an American problem. They appear to be more concerned about America attempting to somehow influence them than about the dangers coming from the elements mentioned above. This is why they were delighted by Obama’s “different approach”, as if the U.S. is really their problem.  To the contrary, it is in their collective interest to work with the United States against this phenomenon while there is still a chance to do so peacefully.


* Dr. Luis Fleischman is a senior advisor to the Menges Hemispheric Security Project at the Center for Security Policy in Washington DC.


Ollanta Humala: Peru’s worst nightmare.

Ollanta Humala: Peru’s worst nightmare.

By Nicole M. Ferrand. *


The Peruvian presidential elections, to be held in 2011, will be very important for the future of that country.  The two candidates that are in first and second places in the polls are conservative Keiko Fujimori, daughter of former President Alberto Fujimori running for “Fuerza 2011,” and leftist radical, leader of the “Nationalist Party,” Ollanta Humala Tasso.  Humala Tasso’s candidacy has been plagued by accusations that he is an extremist, that he has murdered and tortured police officers and that he is being financed by Hugo Chávez. He has been accused of having an extremely close relationship with Chavez and with the Venezuelan funded ALBA houses.


Ollanta Humala became the leader of the “Partido Nacionalista Peruano” (the Peruvian Nationalist Party) and ran for the presidency in 2006 on the Union por el Peru (UPP) ticket,[1] but fortunately lost in a runoff to current President Alan García when the population became fearful of his Chavista connections. 

[1] Ibid. 

Now he plans to run in the upcoming elections and has been trying to convince voters that he has distanced himself from the Venezuelan leader.


Humala Tasso is the son of Isaac Humala, an ethnic indigenous lawyer, member of the Communist Party of Peru, and ideological leader of the “Etnocacerista movement.”[1] He is also brother of Antauro Humala, former member of the military who is now in jail for participating with Ollanta in an uprising in Andahuaylas where they attacked a police station during the Fujimori regime and allegedly tortured and killed several police officers in the year, 2000. During this revolt, some 150 former soldiers were reported to have been in a convoy attempting to join up with Humala to overthrow the government. In the aftermath, the Army sent hundreds of soldiers to capture this group but Humala and his men managed to hide until President Fujimori was impeached from office and Valentín Paniagua was named interim president. Later Humala was pardoned by Congress and allowed to return to military duty. He was sent as military attaché to Paris, then to Seoul until December 2004, when he was forcibly retired.[2] Antauro was arrested but still was a candidate for congress in the April 2006 elections.

[1] Justin Vogler (April 11, 2006). “Ollanta Humala: Peru’s next President?” Upsidedownworld.

[2] “Historia de Ollanta.” November 1, 2000 BBC Mundo.  (Spanish).

On March 17, 2006 Humala’s campaign came under attack as his father said, “If I was President, I would grant amnesty to Shining Path terrorist, Abimael Guzmán and the other incarcerated members of his group”. He made similar statements about amnesty for Víctor Polay, the leader of the Túpac Amaru Revolutionary Movement, and other leaders of the MRTA.[1]


When Ollanta Humala lost the election to Alan García, there was great relief in the region, especially in Washington, as the prospect of another country falling under Hugo Chavez’s influence seemed to disappear. However, as time passes and candidates intensify their electoral campaigns, the menace of Ollanta Humala looms once again.


Even though the allegations of an alliance with Hugo Chavez have been strongly denied by Humala Tasso and the Venezuelan President, there is mounting evidence to the contrary. During the “Nacionalista” campaign of 2005-2006, there was intelligence information that Chávez was sending money to Humala via suitcases through Bolivia, not only to finance his political aspirations, but also to create unrest and chaos in Perú. Indeed, efforts were made to block and close main avenues, to sponsor massive and violent protests in an attempt to destabilize the Toledo regime, as well as to promote a coup to place Humala and his nationalist party in power. In addition, Humala traveled several times to Caracas to meet with Chavez.


            For some time now, Peruvians have been outraged at Chavez, Bolivian President, Evo Morales and Humala for illegally using their territory to establish the infamous “Houses of Alba.” The Alba Houses are being used to promote the Chavista agenda inside Peru and are seen by them as the engines for revolutionary change in the 21st century. Unlike the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia), who have attacked the institutions of Colombia's democracy from their bases in the mountains for the last 40 years, the ALBA houses are right in the middle of cities and towns. Their activists undermine democracy from within (as Chavez and Morales have already demonstrated) by taking power through democratic elections and then methodically changing laws to subvert it.”[2]


As Andrés Oppenheimer accurately points out in an interview with the Peruvian newspaper, El Comercio: “On the surface, the ALBA houses appear to be simply benevolent local associations offering literacy programs and delivering health care with Chavez-paid, Castro-supplied Cuban doctors. Local Peruvian Chavistas who operate the ALBA houses claim that they are merely engaged in charity work and point to the 5,000 impoverished Peruvians they have sent to Venezuela for eye surgery. What the ALBA house landlords fail to mention is that, at the same time, they are indoctrinating poor, mostly young Peruvians in the ideology of the extreme left and terrorism. The Cuban doctors frequently operate as Cuban intelligence officers. Although the Chavez government insists that it is not supporting the ALBA houses, Peruvian officials have said that Chavez's financial support for the houses is being funneled through Bolivia. In the Bolivian capital of La Paz, Chavistas are building a large “Bolivarian Common Embassy.” There they have assembled a group of young Peruvians from the main cities in the south (Cuzco, Puno, and Tacna) to receive indoctrination and military training.”[3]


In reality, the intended purpose of these “houses” in Perú is to create a support system for the potential presidency of Ollanta Humala, and to help him advance Chavez’s totalitarian policies by force. Just to be clear of whom is in charge and to whom they are to pledge allegiance; there are pictures of Hugo Chávez all over the ALBA centers together with massive information on “the benefits of the Bolivarian Revolution.” ALBA workers prey on the needy and offer them free eye treatments in Venezuela and Cuba in exchange for their loyalty to the Chavista Revolution and to Ollanta Humala. They are told to vote for the leftist candidate, convince their friends and family to do so in order for them to receive the aid they need. Many of the people that underwent eye surgery were later found participating in violent protests led by Humala.


The people joining the Chavez – Alba project are being trained to silence critics and to ultimately take over national and international property to promote and solidify the Bolivarian Revolution. In summary, these are centers of indoctrination for future Chavistas.


Not only is money being sent through suitcases. There are individual couriers that illegally enter Peru with cash to be funneled to the ALBA centers, to the Venezuelan embassy in Lima and to Humala, himself. Moreover, the local newspaper, Correo, has obtained information about the bank accounts of Nadine Heredia Alarcón, Humala Tasso’s wife. This would seem to prove that Chavez is not only invested in preparing a grassroots movement to carry out his plans through the ALBA project, but that he is preparing the leadership to implement his plans in Perú.  According to financial statements, Mrs. Humala has received regular payments from two well - known Venezuelan businesses with ties to the Chávez government.


Heredia alleges that the bank transfers she has received (reportedly amounting to $500,000 in less than a year) are actually her professional fees as a communications consultant for some companies based in Venezuela. However, many locals are convinced that Heredia is trying to hide the fact that her husband's party (PNP) would be receiving Chavista funds from Venezuela to finance his presidential campaign and aid the ALBA houses.


The Government’s reaction

In early May, the Peruvian Congress voted unanimously to investigate the functions, organization and financing of the ALBA houses to determine whether Chavez is using his oil riches to expand his political movement into Peru. The motion was presented by the Congress’ National Defense Commission and approved 96-0. The investigative commission then issued a statement giving the Justice System the authority to close the ALBA centers. This commission found that these centers were in fact centers of propaganda for Chavez’s socialist revolution. Congress members are currently developing a legal mechanism to prevent international aid from infiltrating local politics.


The Commission that investigated Chavez’s meddling through these “social” centers, revealed disturbing information about the awful conditions of the eye surgeries offered by ALBA under the project name “Operación Milagro” (Operation Miracle[4]). Operation Miracle operates in many countries in Latin America, the Caribbean and in Africa. The allegations are that the doctors performing the surgeries are intelligence agents for the Cuban and Venezuelan governments that are there to indoctrinate people. Other accusations are that they enter the country illegally through neighboring countries or using fake documentation and smuggle with them revolutionary propaganda and money to fund social unrest. The so-called “doctors” also come with a literacy campaign to “teach people to read and write,” when actually this is material used for training purposes.


The Government on Humala

The Peruvian government is also investigating Ollanta Humala and his wife. According to a local bank, “Banco de Crédito del Peru,” Nadine Heredia de Humala has been receiving monetary transfers from two Venezuelan companies: “The Daily Journal,” a local English language newspaper that has been out of circulation since November of last year, and “Venezolana de Valores” (Veneval) which offers custody, compensation and liquidation of securities in the Venezuelan market.


According to an ongoing investigation into these transfers, Mrs. Humala receives $4,000 every month from the Daily and $11,000 from Veneval. The problem is that she is supposed to serve as a correspondent, even though she has never published an article. When questioned, the representative from the Daily said that they sometimes don’t publish all the articles. Mrs. Humala must have negotiated an extremely good deal if she is getting paid for doing nothing.  When asked about how Mrs. Humala was receiving her salary in dollars when the Venezuelan government has strict control over U.S. currency, Mr. Lopez responded by saying that the Daily has accounts in several countries and from there they send the transfers. He then said he would only respond by e-mail but never got back to answer more questions.


Suspicions about the Humala’s began when Heredia de Humala used an alleged “contract” with the journalistic entity to obtain a mortgage of $100,000, which was approved by the financial institution (BCP). With this money, she bought a $160,000 house in the district of San Borja two years ago.


The president of the board of the Daily, Julio Augusto López Enríquez, born to Peruvian parents, together with other Venezuelan investors, bought the newspaper on March 1, 2006, five weeks before the 2006 Peruvian general elections. It has been reported that the business partners paid U$1,000,000 for the company. Mr. López traveled to Peru in 2006 and openly supported then-candidate, Ollanta Humala.


In Caracas it is well known that Mr. Enríquez is a prominent member of the so-called “bolibourgeoisie,” which include the people that illegally became rich with Chavez. Venezuelan journalists have revealed that López is a businessman that has enterprises with Chavista members of the military from where he obtained millionaire contracts and that’s where his fortune comes from. His main “partners” are retired general Jorge Luis García Carneiro, former minister and current mayor of the state of Vargas, who was crucial in Chavez’s return to the presidency in April 2002 when he was temporarily ousted and General Clíver Alcalá Cordones, commander of the district of Valencia, Carabobo. 


What has many Peruvians outraged is that in addition to being so closely associated with Chavez, it has been revealed that Mrs. Humala has a close relationship and is on the payroll of General Carlos Indacochea, part of Vladimiro Montesinos’[5] corruption ring. Indacochea’s company in Arequipa, Apoyo Total S.A., that has paid Nadine Heredia U$5,555 per month since June 2, 2007 is run by Mariela Indacochea, the former general’s sister. According to public registry records, Mariela is the person responsible for representing her brother Carlos, now an ex-felon, in all “legal, judicial, political and police matters.” It was also discovered that several family members of the Humala’s have “donated” huge amounts of cash to the campaign. The question is since they have no sources of income, where are they getting the money? Is it being sent from Venezuela to them through illegal accounts or personally through emissaries?


The Peruvian Congress is taking action to investigate the Humala’s funding, which could be illegal under Peruvian law and raises questions about where their money is coming from.


Nadine Heredia has decided not to respond saying that it is private money and that the government should investigate the current first lady’s finances, Mrs. Pilar Nores de Garcia, because she manages public funds. When asked about evidence, Mrs. Humala became upset and said she was being politically persecuted.


It is extremely important for the Humala’s to reveal who finances their political campaign especially if the “Nacionalista” wants to become president and she, first lady. Nobody is saying that the Humala’s cannot be gainfully employed, but it is awfully suspicious that their bank accounts have grown exponentially and that most of the funds are coming from Venezuela, from a Journal that doesn’t even circulate. The population seems to understand Ollanta Humala’s agenda since the polls reveal he is losing support. The Peruvian government’s reaction has been well received and hopefully they will find more evidence to set the record straight once and for all on Mr. Humala and his plans for Peru. It is also important to understand exactly how the money is getting from Chavez to Mrs. Humala and the ALBA houses. Why not answer the questions if there is nothing to hide?


*Nicole M. Ferrand is a research analyst and editor of "The Americas Report" of the Menges Hemispheric Security Project. She is a graduate of Columbia University in Economics and Political Science with a background in Law from Peruvian University, UNIFE and in Corporate Finance from Georgetown University.

[1]Antauro Humala dice que su hermano es Capitan Carlos.” February 6, 2006 El Universal (Spanish).

[2] Ibid.

[3] Andres Oppenheimer, "Alan García, Chávez y las casas del ALBA," El Comercio, March 18, 2008.

[4] Operación Milagro (Operation Miracle) is a joint health program between Cuba and Venezuela, set up in 2005. Many critics insist that the level of Cuban medical qualifications is very low and in reality, they are "political agents" who have come to Venezuela to indoctrinate the workforce. Opposition supporters in Venezuela have called Cuban doctors “Fidel's ambassadors.” Two defected doctors have claimed that they were told their job was to keep Chavez in power, by asking patients to vote for Chávez in the 2004 recall referendum. Operation Miracle currently operates in Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Panama, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Uruguay, Mali, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent, the Grenadines, Suriname and Angola.

[5] Vladimiro Montesinos was long-standing head of Peru’s Intelligence Service, Servicio de Inteligencia Nacional (SIN), under President Alberto Fujimori. In 2000, secret videos were televised revealing him bribing an elected congressman to leave the opposition and join the Fujimorista side of Congress; the ensuing scandal caused Montesinos to flee the country, hastening the resignation of Fujimori.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Banking 101 with Hugo Chavez and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Banking 101 with Hugo Chavez and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

By Nicholas Hanlon*

The leaders of Iran and Venezuela have created an impressive network of trade and international influence with which they openly oppose the United States.  Whether the funding goes to Iran’s nuclear weapons program, Hezbollah, the purchase of Latin American politicians, or the further consolidation of Chavez’s power at home, this mobilization of strategic advantage has reached a global status in international finance.  The anti-free-trade bloc, known as ALBA, and the new oil consortiums with Russia and Iran are symptomatic of a rising alternative economic system where there are no checks on tyranny.  Now, in the same month when the U.S. Treasury named six New York based Iranian front companies who move money for the proliferation of sanctioned weapons technology to Iran’s nuclear program, Venezuela and Iran have inaugurated a joint bank to fund development projects.  These projects benefit Iran and Venezuela as they jockey petrol dollars and, if needed, subsidize them with profits from organized crime, cocaine traffic, and other forms of illicit trade all while oppressing civil liberties.  Hugo Chavez hopes to create similar joint development banks with Syria and Qatar.

The Americas Report has chronicled how these unchecked advances will lead to the ability of foreign powers to leverage U.S. foreign policy in ways never imagined.  This past month, and even this past year, has demonstrated that our ability to slow or handicap Iran’s circumvention of sanctions is instructive but insufficient.  Hence, funding for the Iranian-Venezuelan agenda will become increasingly autonomous from the international finance system.  This means that despite the drop in oil consumption and declining prices, the overt intentions of both the Islamic Revolution and the Bolivarian Revolution are now more inter-connected.  Counter terrorism analysts and U.S. foreign policy makers must use the rhetoric of these revolutions as context for the formation of their own strategies.


On April 3rd, Hugo Chavez and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad inaugurated ‘The Iran-Venezuela Joint Bank.”  Each country has put up their own half of an initial capital base of 200 million dollars, which they plan to raise to 1.2 billion.  The new bank is the offspring of The Export Development Bank of Iran.  Known in Venezuela as the Banco Internacional de Desarrollo, this Iranian institution is under sanctions from both the U.S. Treasury and the international community for its alleged involvement in Iran’s nuclear program.  Chavez and Ahmadinejad must find new ways to finance Iran’s nuclear program among other suspect programs because sanctions are having some effect.  Ultimately, they prefer a completely new and alternative way to fund their endeavors.  The joint bank marks another historical step in the geo-strategic repositioning of the United States’ enemies in their alliance against the West.  With each bit of influence that Chavez buys in Central and South America with Venezuelan petrodollars, Iran either takes a cut in terms of assets, influence, or increased operational capabilities.  The joint bank will add to the perception of legitimacy in Chavez’s financial transactions.   


On April 7, 2009 the U.S. Department of the Treasury named a “Chinese individual and six Iranian entities under Executive Order 13382 for their connection to Iran's missile proliferation network.  Additionally, Treasury identified eight aliases used by E.O. 13382 designee LIMMT Economic and Trade Company, Ltd. ("LIMMT") to circumvent sanctions.  E.O. 13382 is an authority aimed at freezing the assets of weapons of mass destruction proliferators and those who support them.”1  The Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, Stuart Levey, appealed to the authority of the Security Council and international obligations to stop the fake companies from procuring “centrifuge and missile technology for Iran.”[i]  The New York County District Attorney's Office filed a criminal indictment against the procurement network on the same day.  In March, the Treasury designated companies associated with Iran’s Bank Melli for the banks part in Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.  The U.S., the E.U., and Australia had already named Bank Melli as a proliferator.  The bank maintained accounts and provided letters of credit and financial services for Iranian front companies who were moving materials for and giving support to sanctioned activities.


All of this occurred in the last several months.  Yet, these are almost arbitrary headlines of a thirty-year-old all out overt asymmetrical war against the U.S. and its allies that began in 1979 for Iran and dates back even further for the leftists in Central and South America.  What is new here are the exponential strategic leaps forward that Iran has gained from its alliance with Hugo Chavez.  Douglas Farah summed up the relationship on his blog last year like this;


“So, Iran sponsors Hezbollah and allies with Chavez.  Chavez sponsors the FARC and allies with Iran.  The FARC has the dope; Hezbollah has the international distribution network, having been involved in heroin traffic and organized criminal activities for years.


What is alarming to me is that, despite Hezbollah’s stated intention to attack the United States and Iran’s evident interest in having the ability to strike at the United States, this alliance (and the Chavez-Iran alliance) attracts very little attention at senior policy levels.”[ii]


That lack of attention Farah mentions has continued in the present Administration.  It begs the question; would the leader of the free world have been duped into such photo ops in Trinidad had he been properly briefed on Chavez’s willful facilitation of the FARC and Hezbollah, let alone his dictatorial behavior inside Venezuela?  Such choice propaganda material will undoubtedly reinforce the propaganda machines that power oppressive leftist regimes in Cuba and their aspiring counterparts like Ortega in Nicaragua, the FMLN in El Salvador, and Zelaya in Honduras.  This goes especially for Iran.  One specific example of the benefits of the Iran-Venezuela-Hezbollah network surfaced last June when the Treasury department named a Venezuelan diplomat in Damascus as a Hezbollah fundraiser.  Ghazi Nasr al Din, former Charge d' Affaires at the Venezuelan Embassy in Damascus, gave Hezbollah donors information on bank accounts where the deposits would go directly to Hezbollah.  Adam J. Szubin, Director of the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), had this to say;


"It is extremely troubling to see the Government of Venezuela employing and providing safe harbor to Hezbollah facilitators and fundraisers. We will continue to expose the global nature of Hezbollah’s terrorist support network, and we call on responsible governments worldwide to disrupt and dismantle this activity,"[iii]


Several analysts have suggested that any threat posed by Chavez will decrease with the price of oil but it appears that he has found ways around this.  Keep in mind that Chavez consolidated power in the electorate with the promise of poverty reduction programs, known as “misiones”, at a time when oil revenue was abundant.  So, when Chavez creates a new development bank with Iran it is good to take a step back and get a snap shot of each countries development projects, accounting, and expenditures. 


In the 2008, March/ April edition of Foreign Affairs, the former chief economist of the Venezuelan National Assembly from 2000 to 2004 analyzed Chavez’s poverty program and presented evidence that there was a negative impact of the “Revolution” that actually hurt the poor of Venezuela the most.  According to Francisco Rodriguez;


Neither official statistics nor independent estimates show any evidence that Chávez has reoriented state priorities to benefit the poor. Most health and human development indicators have shown no significant improvement beyond that which is normal in the midst of an oil boom. Indeed, some have deteriorated worryingly, and official estimates indicate that income inequality has increased. The "Chávez is good for the poor" hypothesis is inconsistent with the facts.”[iv]


Rodriguez further explains how Chavez has been able to maintain the perception of success through political maneuvering.  The real lack of success is partly due to corruption and mismanagement, which Rodriguez attributes to the assertion that Chavez’s “Empty Revolution” is no different in practice from his Washington Consensus predecessors.  Yet, where does all that oil money go?  A popular view among regional analysts is that Chavez has staved off dissention in the military ranks by buying toys for his generals.  That is certainly not the only factor that stands between Venezuelan military elites and Chavez’s grasp on power.  However, the price tag on Chavez’s military expenditures explains a lot.


Jane’s Defense Weekly reported last November that Venezuela’s Defense Ministry increased its defense spending by 25% for the 2009 budget.  In the years, prior Chavez had amassed a military that defies conventional necessity.  In monetary terms, Ben Miller sums it up in a previous Americas Report as follows;


“According to the National Budget Office, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has tripled his country’s defense budget since 2000 to a whopping $3.3 billion in 2008.  Chavez's biggest purchases from Russia came in 2006 when, in that year alone, he signed deals for over $3 billion in weapons.[1] Between 2004 and 2005, Venezuela doubled the value of the major conventional weapons it imported from$13million to $27million.

This number then sky-rocketed to $406 million over the next 12 months, causing Venezuela to surpass other nations such as Argentina, France, Syria, Iraq, Sudan, and Afghanistan in the index.
[1] The large majority of the weapons it received came directly from Russia.”[v]


In terms of hardware this amount of spending on unneeded military expenditures would be scandalous were there true freedom of the press in Venezuela.  Among the hardware are Russian T-72 tanks which military analysts find hard to imagine a use for in the jungle with no outside threat.  Combined with the 50 helicopters in Venezuela’s last order from Russia they do have the hardware to oppress a resistance movement, arm revolutionary terrorists, and to become the dominant military power in the region.  In the end, Chavez’s bills are piling up, he is successfully consolidating his power, and new revenue sources are opening to reinforce an increasingly oppressive regime.       


The official statement of the Financial Action Task Force, the primary international body for countering terrorist financing and money laundering, is “that the Islamic Republic of Iran’s lack of comprehensive anti-money laundering / combating the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) regime represents a significant vulnerability within the international financial system.”[vi]  Many consider this an understatement and cite the common pet name for Iran in the international finance community as the “central banker of terror.”  There is no place for “anti-money laundering” and “combating the financing of terrorism” when those are the primary means of advancing Iran’s foreign policy.  Iran’s overt government policy to support terrorist organizations is completely consistent with the agenda of the Islamic Revolution and Ahmadinejad’s statements about the new Iran-Venezuela Joint Bank.  Ahmadinejad said of the inauguration, "What happened today represents a strong will to build a new world.” These words may seem typical for the christening of a grand endeavor were they not spoken by a head of state known for envisioning a world without America and the annihilation of Israel. 


Hugo Chavez has made many statements outlining his intentions to create an alternative international finance system.  In fact, the new communist trade bloc in the Americas bares the title, "The Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas" (ALBA).  Of ALBA, Chavez said, "A new political, economic, and geopolitical map can be perceived in Latin America and the Caribbean."  Like the joint bank with Iran, an aversion to liberal democracy and dictatorial tendencies seem to be the common requirement for membership.  ALBA includes Cuba, Ecuador, Bolivia, Honduras, Dominica, and Nicaragua.  Therefore, as the revolutionary vision progresses in Latin America and the Caribbean, Hugo Chavez has turned to the Middle East to globalize this anti-capitalist alternative.  He said at the bank inauguration “This is part of a strategy to form a new financial architecture between us”.  Chavez rarely misses an opportunity to denounce capitalism and ridicule the International Monetary Fund.  He described the recent G20 pledge of $1 trillion to the IMF as, “entrusting beef to vultures.”  The assumption being that he and his anti-western counterparts are a trustworthy alternative.   


*Nicholas Hanlon is a foreign affairs writer and researcher at the Center for Security Policy in Washington, D.C. He is a graduate of Georgia State University and has a BA in Political Science with a concentration in International Affairs and a Minor in French.


[i] PRESS ROOM Treasury Designates Iranian Proliferation Network and Identifies New Aliases April 7, 2009 tg-84, U.S. Department of the Treasury, http://treas.gov/press/releases/tg84.htm

[ii] Douglas Farah, The Hezbollah-Latin American Ties Become More Evident, Oct 24, 04:17 http://www.douglasfarah.com/?pg=6

[iii] PRESS ROOM Treasury Targets Hizballah in Venezuela June 18, 2008 hp-1036, U.S. Department of the Treasury, http://www.treas.gov/press/releases/hp1036.htm

[iv] Rodriguez, Francisco, An Empty Revolution, Foreign Affairs March / April 2008

[v] Miller, Ben, The Russian – Venezuelan Strategic Alliance The Americas Report October 6, 2008

[vi] FATF, FATF STATEMENT ON IRAN, Paris, 11 October 2007


* Nicholas Hanlon is a foreign affairs writer and researcher at the Center for Security Policy in Washington D. C.




Por Nicholas Hanlon.*

Traducido Por Nicole M. Ferrand.*

Los lideres de Irán y Venezuela han creado una impresionante red de comercio e influencia internacional con la que se oponen abiertamente a los Estados Unidos. Ya sea fundando el programa nuclear Iraní, comprando alianzas en países latinoamericanos o consolidando aún mas el poder de Chávez en Venezuela, esta movilización estratégica a alcanzado  un estatus global en finanzas internacionales. El bloque anti- mercado conocido como el ALBA y los nuevos consorcios petroleros con Rusia e Irán son sintomáticos de un sistema económico alternativo donde no existe el control sobre la tiranía. Justo en el mismo mes que el Tesoro americano acusa a seis empresas Iraníes basadas en Nueva York de transferir dinero ilegalmente para desarrollar tecnología nuclear,  Venezuela e Irán han inaugurado un banco para financiar “proyectos de desarrollo.” Lo peligroso es que estos fondos pueden provenir del lavado de dinero, del crimen internacional, del tráfico de cocaína y de otras formas de comercio ilegal. Esto ocurre mientras estos dos lideres oprimen las libertades civiles en sus países. Y esto no queda aquí; Chávez piensa hacer lo mismo con Siria y Qatar. 

El Reporte de las Américas ha venido siguiendo las actividades conjuntas entre Chávez y Ahmadinejad y sus esfuerzos para contrarrestar las políticas de los Estados Unidos utilizando los métodos menos imaginados. Las actividades de Irán en America Latina nos han demostrado que la habilidad de EEUU para impedir que Irán evada las sanciones internacionales es insuficiente. Por ello, la financiación para las operaciones conjuntas entre Irán y Venezuela se llevan a cabo cada vez con mayor independencia del sistema financiero internacional.  Esto significa que a pesar que el precio del petróleo ha bajado, las intenciones de la Revolución Islámica y la Revolución Bolivariana están ahora interconectadas. Los analistas contra el terrorismo y los expertos en política internacional deben entender y utilizar la retórica de estas revoluciones para crear sus propias estrategias.


            El 3 de Abril del 2009, Hugo Chávez y Mahmoud Ahmadinejad inauguraron “El Banco binacional Venezolano – Iraní. Cada país ha puesto como capital inicial 200 millones de dólares, y los activos del banco se estiman en 1.2 billones.  Esta entidad bancaria es parte del Banco de Desarrollo de Exportaciones de Irán. Conocido en Venezuela como el Banco Internacional de Desarrollo, esta institución iraní, está bajo sanciones del Tesoro Americano y de la Comunidad Internacional por su supuesta implicancia en la financiación de desarrollo de tecnología nuclear en Teherán. Esta iniciativa financiera conjunta marca un paso histórico en el reposicionamiento estratégico de los enemigos de Estados Unidos. Con cada pedazo de influencia que Chávez compra de Centro y Sudamérica con los petrodólares Venezolanos, Irán gana también en términos de influencia o en capacidad operacional.  Este banco además dará una percepción de legitimidad a las transacciones financieras de Chávez. 


            El 7 de Abril del 2009, el Departamento del Tesoro Norteamericano designó a “un individuo chino iraní y seis entidades en virtud de la Orden Ejecutiva 13382 por su conexión a la proliferación de misiles de Irán.” Además, “la Tesorería ha identificado ocho alias utilizados por EO 13382 designado LIMMT Económico y Comercio Company, Ltd. ( "LIMMT") para eludir las sanciones. La O.E. 13382 busca congelar los bienes de las instituciones que promueven la proliferación de Armas de Destrucción Masiva y sus socios para aislarlos de los sistemas financieros y comerciales de los Estados Unidos.” El subsecretario del Tesoro de EU para Terrorismo e Inteligencia Financiera, Stuart Levey, apeló a la autoridad del Consejo de Seguridad de las Naciones Unidas para que impida a compañías falsas recaudar fondos para “tecnología nuclear para Irán.”[1]  La procuraduría de la ciudad de Nueva York emitió una acusación contra estas entidades ese mismo día. Estados Unidos, la Unión Europea y Australia han nombrado al Banco Melli como proliferador por su papel en los programas nucleares y de misiles balísticos de Irán. Este banco, mantuvo cuentas y proporcionó cartas de créditos y servicios financieros para compañías pantallas iraníes que ayudaban a las empresas en cuestión.


            Estos son sólo titulares tomados al azar que forman parte de una guerra asimétrica contra los Estados Unidos y sus aliados que comenzó en 1979. La novedad es que el esfuerzo Iraní ha ganado mucho gracias a su alianza con Hugo Chávez. Douglas Farah resumió la relación entre estos dos lideres así:


“Irán patrocina a Hezbollah y se alía con Chávez. Chávez ayuda a las FARC y se alía con Irán. Las FARC tienen la droga, Hezbollah tiene la red de distribución, y  la experiencia de haber participado en tráfico de heroína y actividad criminal por años.”


“Lo que es alarmante es que, a pesar que la intención de Hezbollah de atacar a Estados Unidos y su evidente interés en tener la habilidad de poder efectivamente hacerlo, esta alianza (entre Chávez e Irán) causa muy poca alarma entre lideres de alto nivel.”[2]


            La falta de atención de la que Farah habla continúa con Obama. Nos podemos preguntar: ¿puede el Presidente de los Estados Unidos haberse tomado fotos tan alegremente si hubiera estado informado sobre el apoyo que Chávez da a las FARC y Hezbollah y sobre su comportamiento dictatorial en Venezuela? Estas fotos, sin duda, serán usadas para avanzar las agendas de líderes opresivos en Cuba, Nicaragua, El Salvador y Honduras. Un ejemplo de los beneficios de la alianza de la red Irán-Venezuela-Hezbollah salió a la luz el pasado Junio cuando Washington acusó a un diplomático venezolano, Ghazi Nasr al Din, de trabajar para Hezbola y acusó al Gobierno de Caracas de “dar refugio” a agentes de ese grupo radical chií. Al Din fue el encargado de negocios diplomáticos de Venezuela en Damasco y ahora trabaja como director de asuntos políticos en la embajada de ese país en Líbano. El gobierno estadounidense afirma que al Din utilizó su posición como diplomático y presidente del Centro Shi’ a Islamic con sede en Caracas para dar asistencia financiera a Hezbolá. Es sospechoso de asesorar a donantes de ese grupo extremista islámico y de aportar información específica bancaria en que los “depósitos de donantes irían directamente a Hezbolá”, dijo el departamento. También fue acusado de organizar un viaje de miembros del grupo terrorista a Irán. Adam J. Szubin, Director de la Oficina de Control de Bienes Extranjeros (OFAC) dijo:


“Es extremadamente perturbador ver que el gobierno de Venezuela emplea y provea un refugio seguro a facilitadores y financistas del (movimiento radical chiíta) Hezbolá. Continuaremos exponiendo la naturaleza global de la red de apoyo al terrorismo de Hezbolá.”[3]


Muchos analistas han sugerido que la amenaza de Chávez decrecerá con la caída del precio del petróleo, pero parece que el líder Venezolano le ha encontrado la vuelta a este problema. Hay que tener en cuenta que Chávez consolidó su poder prometiendo al electorado eliminar la pobreza con programas llamados “misiones,” en tiempos que los ingresos por el petróleo eran abundantes. Entonces, cuando Chávez crea un nuevo Banco de Desarrollo con Irán, es bueno tomar distancia y tomar nota de los proyectos de desarrollo, contabilidad y gastos de estos dos países.


Es más, según expertos el gobierno de Chávez no ha hecho más que los gobiernos venezolanos del pasado para combatir la pobreza y sus muy promocionados programas sociales han tenido un escaso efecto'', acotó Francisco Rodríguez, ex economista jefe de la Asamblea Nacional en Venezuela entre el 2000 y el 2004, en un estudio publicado en la revista Foreign Affairs el año pasado.


Ni las estadísticas oficiales ni los cálculos independientes muestran pruebas de que Chávez ha reorientado las prioridades del Estado para beneficiar a los pobres'”, afirmó Francisco Rodríguez, economista de la Universidad Wesleyan en Connecticut. también llamó la atención sobre el hecho de que las políticas económicas del gobierno, incapaces de contener la inflación, terminan afectando a los más pobres, que ven su capacidad de compra reducida por la inflación. Que Chávez es bueno para los pobres, es una hipótesis que no se ajusta a la realidad.[4]


Rodríguez también explica que Chávez ha logrado mantener la impresión de que sus programas son exitosos gracias a su manejo político. Pero la verdadera falta de éxito se debe a la corrupción y a la mala gestión, a lo que Rodríguez se refiere como una “Revolución Vacía.” Pero ¿donde va todo el dinero del petróleo? La mayoría opina que Chávez ha logrado mantener al ejercito unido dándoles a sus generales todo lo que necesitan.  Aunque esa no es la única razón, los gastos en armamento revelan mucho.


El Semanal de Defensa Jane publicó en Noviembre del 2008 que el presupuesto del Ministerio de Defensa incrementó en un 25% para el año 2009. Desde que subió al poder, Chávez ha logrado acumular material militar que desafía toda necesidad convencional. En términos económicos, Ben Miller, resumió este punto en una edición anterior del Reporte de las Américas:


“De acuerdo a la Oficina de Presupuesto Nacional, el Presidente Venezolano Hugo Chávez ha triplicado el presupuesto militar desde el año 2000 alcanzando los $3.3 billones en el 2008. Las compras más grandes de Chávez fueron a Rusia en el 2006, país con el que firmó contratos que llegaron a los $3 billones de dólares.[5]   Entre el 2004 y el 2005, Venezuela duplicó el valor de la importación de armas convencionales de $13 millones de dólares a $27 millones de dólares.


Esta cantidad se disparó a $406 millones en los siguientes 12 meses, causando que Venezuela sobrepasara a otros países como Argentina, Francia, Siria, Irak y Afganistán. La gran mayoría del armamento que recibió Venezuela fue de Rusia.”[6]


Esta cantidad de dinero gastada en armamento pesado innecesario, sería una noticia escandalosa si hubiera libertad de prensa en Venezuela. Tanques Rusos T-72, totalmente inútiles en la selva si Venezuela es atacada. Pero este equipo aunado a 50 helicópteros que el gobierno de Chávez compró a Rusia, sí podrían ser utilizados para oprimir cualquier movimiento de resistencia, para armar grupos terroristas y para convertirse en la fuerza militar dominante de la región. Por el momento, el poder de Chávez sigue creciendo.


El Grupo de Acción Financiera Internacional (GAFI), organismo supranacional que une a los ministros de Finanzas de los siete países más industrializados (Alemania, Canadá, Estados Unidos, Francia, Italia, Japón y Reino Unido), dice que “la falta de políticas contra el lavado de dinero, para prevenir y combatir la financiación de grupos terroristas en la República Islámica de Irán representa una gran vulnerabilidad en el sistema financiero internacional.[7] Muchos han apodado a Irán como el “centro banquero del terror.” No se puede combatir estos crímenes en un país donde estas son políticas de estado utilizadas por el gobierno. El gobierno de Ahmadinejad apoya a organizaciones terroristas lo que es completamente consistente con la agenda de la República Islámica de Irán y las declaraciones de Ahmadinejad durante la ceremonia de inauguración del Banco Venezolano – Iraní “Lo que ha ocurrido hoy representa una fuerte voluntad para construir un mundo nuevo.” Estas palabras pueden parecer típicas para un acto así, cuando no están siendo dichas por una cabeza de estado que tiene una visión del mundo sin Estados Unidos y si  Israel.


Hugo Chávez ha hecho declaraciones delineando sus intenciones de crear una alternativa internacional financiera. De hecho, el nuevo bloque comercial comunista de las Américas  tiene el titulo de “La Alternativa Bolivariana de las Américas (ALBA). De Alba, Chávez dice: “Un nuevo mapa político, económico y geopolítico se puede percibir en America Latina y el Caribe.”  Como el banco conjunto con Irán, una aversión a la democracia liberal y con tendencias dictatoriales, parecen ser el común denominador  de los países miembros. Los miembros de ALBA son Cuba, Ecuador, Bolivia, Honduras, Dominica, y Nicaragua. Por ello, mientras que la visión revolucionaria progresa en Latinoamérica  y el Caribe, Hugo Chávez ha recurrido al Medio Oriente para globalizar su alternativa anti-capitalista. El dijo durante la inauguración: “Esto es parte de una estrategia para formar una nueva arquitectura financiera entre nosotros.” Chávez raramente desperdicia una oportunidad para denunciar al capitalismo y ridiculizar al Fondo Monetario Internacional. El describió el  reciente compromiso de $ 1 trillón al G20 como “darle carne a los buitres.” Se asume que él y sus aliados son una alternativa confiable.


*Nicholas Hanlon es escritor e investigador en el “Center for Security Policy en Washington DC. Es graduado de la Universidad de Georgia. El Sr. Hanlon estudió Ciencias Políticas y Relaciones Internacionales.   


*Nicole M. Ferrand es analista y editora del “The Americas Report” del Menges Hemispheric Security Project en el Center for Security Policy en Washington DC. Se graduó de la Universidad de Columbia en Economía y Ciencias Políticas. Estudió Derecho en la Universidad UNIFE y Finanzas Corporativas en Georgetown University.

[1] [1] PRESS ROOM Treasury Designates Iranian Proliferation Network and Identifies New Aliases April 7, 2009 tg-84, U.S. Department of the Treasury, http://treas.gov/press/releases/tg84.htm


[2] Ibid.

[3] Douglas Farah, The Hezbollah-Latin American Ties Become More Evident, Oct 24, 04:17 http://www.douglasfarah.com/?pg=6

[4] Ibid.

[5] PRESS ROOM Treasury Targets Hezbollah in Venezuela June 18, 2008 hp-1036, U.S. Department of the Treasury, http://www.treas.gov/press/releases/hp1036.htm

[6] Rodriguez, Francisco, An Empty Revolution, Foreign Affairs March / April 2008.


[7] Miller, Ben, The Russian – Venezuelan Strategic Alliance The Americas Report October 6, 2008.