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Organizacion Autentica

The Other "Axis of Evil"

By Paul Crespo

The arrest of potential suicide bomber Hasil Mohamad Rahaman at London's Gatwick Airport in February should refocus our attention on Latin America as a base for international terrorism. Rahaman, a Muslim whose true nationality has yet to be determined, but who apparently had an authentic Venezuelan passport, was caught carrying a live hand grenade in his carry-on bag shortly after arriving from Caracas. Security experts believe he intended to detonate it aboard the plane or at the airport.

While a specific al-Qaida connection has yet to be established, Rahaman's recent travels reportedly included Yemen, Sudan, Afghanistan and Germany, fitting a pattern of several terrorists involved in the Sept. 11 attacks. This incident points to a worrying nexus in Latin America between Islamic terrorists and anti-American leaders such as Fidel Castro and Venezuela's Hugo Chavez. Add the existing terrorist stomping grounds of areas such as the “tri-border” region between Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil to the mix, and Latin America poses a significant terror threat to the United States.

Highlighting this concern, Miguel Toma — the head of SIDE, the Argentine equivalent of the CIA — recently met with intelligence officials in Washington to discuss the possibility of a new terrorist offensive launched from South America.

Constantine Menges, a senior fellow with the Hudson Institute and a former special assistant to the president for national security affairs, points to an even broader threat: a Latin American “axis of evil” that could include Brazil, Cuba, Venezuela and possibly Ecuador. All are members of a Castro-inspired international group of rogue states and terror groups called the “Sao Paulo Forum.” The group, founded in 1990, espouses anti-American ideology and backs leftist guerrillas, coups and elected leftist leaders in Latin America who support anti-American goals.

Castro the Godfather. Castro's connections to terrorism are well known. He has trained thousands of terrorists and communist guerrillas during four decades in power and still maintains close ties to many terror groups and rogue states such as Iran and North Korea. His intelligence apparatus remains one of the most formidable in the world, with thousands of agents. This global network may be at the disposal of terror groups such as al-Qaida.

Castro's spies have even penetrated the Pentagon. Ana Belen Montes, the Defense Intelligence Agency's senior Cuba analyst, was arrested shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, because U.S. officials feared she would provide information to Castro that would be turned over to al-Qaida. Cuban military spy rings also have been uncovered in Miami. Communist Chinese-run electronic listening posts are known to exist in Bejucal, Cuba, and elsewhere on the island, eavesdropping on U.S. communications.

Cuba remains on the State Department's list of state sponsors of terrorism for its continuing harboring of terrorists and fugitives from American justice. Additionally, Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence Harold Ford said in March that Cuba has, at least, a “limited developmental offensive biological warfare research and development effort.” Cuba has also provided dual-use biotechnology to rogue states. Some have described Castro's biowarfare labs in detail; others believe he has moved some to Venezuela.

Cuban defectors even allege that Castro, in cooperation in with Saddam Hussein, may have been behind the mysterious and deadly outbreak of West Nile virus in the United States beginning in 1999, using migratory birds caught and infected in Cuba and then released on their way north. While intelligence sources have not publicly confirmed this, American scientists have added credibility to these claims.

Yet, as he faces increasing financial constraints and tries to gain American tourism, trade and financing, Castro may now be avoiding direct involvement in these types of activities. He seems instead to have become an anti-American godfather, increasingly advising and aiding surrogates such as his new alter ego in Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, and the Sao Paulo Forum, to threaten America.

The Castro-Chavez Team. As the Gatwick arrest suggests, the authoritarian and messianic Chavez — with Castro's direction and support — may be turning Venezuela into a new anti-American terrorism hub. Chavez reportedly meets regularly with Castro. Chavez has said Cuba and Venezuela are, in effect, “one team.”

Since 2000, Chavez has provided Castro with more than $2 billion in direct subsidies through reduced-cost oil sales. According to former Venezuelan intelligence and military sources, Castro is repaying him with intelligence and security assistance. Venezuela's intelligence service, DISIP, has reportedly come under control of the Cuban intelligence service, the DGI. Specifically, Martin Arostegui has reported in Insight magazine that “European diplomatic sources reportedly confirmed that the Cubans are operating DISIP's key counter-terrorist and intelligence-analysis sections.”

Several thousand Cuban “sports trainers” and “teachers” in Venezuela also are believed to be DGI operatives involved in communist indoctrination as well as training pro-Chavez paramilitary groups called “Bolivarian Circles.” These armed groups have been used to intimidate Chavez' democratic opposition. According to Venezuelan sources, between 300 and 400 Cuban military advisers — coordinated by Cuba's military attach in Caracas, Navy Capt. Sergio Cardona — also are directing Chavez' elite presidential guard and inner circle of bodyguards.

Chavez in turn has openly stated his support for terrorists and opposition to the United States, closely allying himself not only with Castro but other anti-American rogue states. In 2001, Chavez paid state visits to and signed “cooperation agreements” with Libya, Iraq and Iran. In October 2001, he condemned America's Afghanistan campaign as “fighting terrorism with terrorism.” Chavez' comment prompted the White House to recall U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela Donna Hrinak.

Chavez has publicly expressed sympathy for Marxist terrorist Ilich Ramirez Sanchez. Sanchez, known as “Carlos the Jackal,” is a vicious killer born in Venezuela who has been imprisoned in France since 1994 for terrorism and murder. The infamous “Carlos” conducted high-profile terror attacks, skyjackings and bombings throughout the 1970s and 1980s in Europe, Africa and elsewhere. Chavez corresponded with him shortly after being elected president in 1999, addressing the terrorist as “distinguished compatriot.”

Many believe Chavez also actively supports Colombian narco-terror groups FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) and ELN (National Liberation Army) both for ideological reasons and to repay them for secretly helping finance Chavez' militant MVR movement that brought him to power. This has senior Pentagon officials worried. Gen. Gary Speer, former commander of America's Southern Command, noted during a Senate Armed Services committee hearing in March 2002 that “we are very concerned about President Chavez … the FARC operates at will across the border into Venezuela.”

“There are arms shipments originating in Venezuela that get to the FARC and the ELN,” he added. “We have been unable to firmly establish a link to the Chavez government, but it certainly causes us suspicions. The company that Chavez keeps around the world, although under the guise of OPEC, certainly causes additional concerns as well.”

Much more ominous are claims of Chavez' complicity with Muslim terrorists, possibly including al-Qaida. Hezbollah and other Middle East terrorist groups have been using Venezuela — mostly Margarita Island and Maracaibo — as a base since at least the 1990s to focus on illicit financial dealings and counterfeiting. Prior to Chavez, their activities were closely monitored by DISIP. Things are quite different now.

Evidence suggests Chavez is doing more than turning a blind eye toward these groups. National Guard Gen. Marcos Ferreira, who resigned as director of Venezuela's border-control service (DIEX), recently told Insight that Interior Minister Ramon Rodriguez Chacin pressured him to cover up the identities of terrorists — many from the Middle East — passing through Venezuela and to deceive U.S. terrorism investigators. He and others have claimed that the Chavez government has illegally given more than 270 Venezuelan passports to Arab extremists.

Venezuelan Air Force Maj. Juan Diaz Castillo, Chavez' former presidential Airbus pilot, defected in December 2002 after an assassination attempt in Caracas. He has since alleged that Chavez provided $1 million to al-Qaida soon after the Sept. 11 attacks. The money was reportedly funneled to the Taliban and ultimately al-Qaida under the cover of “humanitarian aid” via the Venezuelan ambassador to India and the U.N. High Commission for Refugees. Castro and Chavez together are a serious concern, but their partnership may be just the tip of the iceberg.

Sao Paolo Forum. In 1990, with Castro's encouragement, then Brazilian Workers Party leader and now Brazil's President, Inacio Lula da Silva founded and became the chairman of the Sao Paulo Forum, a successor to Castro's old Tricontinental Congress, serving as a coordinating body for anti-American, communist, and other radical and terror groups in Latin America. Its annual meetings focus on bashing America and capitalism (now euphemistically referred to as “neo-liberalism”) while promoting radical socialism and communism under the guise of leftist “populism” and “anti-globalism.”

A Hudson Institute briefing paper titled “The Americas Report: Emerging Threats to Democracy,” published in January, stated that the main theme at the 1993 Forum meeting in Havana was that socialism's losses in Eastern Europe would be offset by gains in Latin America. Recent Forum meetings have included representatives of radical parties and movements from nearly all of Latin America, as well as local terrorist groups such as the FARC, ELN, MIR, M19 and Tupac Amaru.

More worrisome has been the participation of representatives of rogue states like Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Laos, Vietnam, North Korea and China, as well as international terror groups such as the IRA, Spain's ETA, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (General Command) and the PLO. The Forum seems to be the glue that binds theses rogue states with Latin American leftist movements and international terrorist groups.

The forum's goal is to finance and support leftist and anti-American groups and leaders throughout Latin America, ultimately creating anti-American regimes that could, among other things, serve as bases for international terrorism. The recent elections of Lula da Silva in Brazil and Col. Lino Gutierrez in Ecuador, a Chavez-supported former coup plotter, were seen as victories for the Castro-Chavez axis and the San Paulo Forum. The next targets appear to be crisis-ridden Argentina, as well as Paraguay and Bolivia; all had elections in the spring.

Terrorist Stomping Grounds. Additional victories for the Forum in these countries could heighten the terror threat from ungoverned areas such as the “tri-border” region, which according to U.S. and Argentine officials has an Arab population of more than 20,000 — mostly from Lebanon and Syria — and is “teeming with Islamic extremists and sympathizers.” Ciudad del Este in Paraguay is the largest city in the area and may be the new Casablanca of Latin America — the regional center of international intrigue, smuggling, contraband, money laundering and fund-raising for Islamic terror groups.

Arab businesses and mosques in this region have reportedly raised more than $50 million in recent years — both legally and illegally — for Middle East terrorist groups. According to CNN, Argentine intelligence documents spell out links between those groups and mosques and businesses in the area.

In November, CNN also reported that several top terrorist operatives met in the tri-border region to plan attacks against U.S. and Israeli targets in the Western Hemisphere. Sources said the meetings, which took place in and around Ciudad del Este, were attended by representatives of Hezbollah and other terror groups sympathetic to al-Qaida.

The CNN story added that a new terrorist effort based in Latin America aimed at U.S. and Israeli interests and coordinated by a man named Imad Mugniyeh. Operating from his bases in Iran and Hezbollah-controlled areas of Lebanon, Mugniyeh is reportedly directing the activities of terrorists in South America, planning to hit U.S. and Israeli targets.

Mugniyeh is suspected of being behind numerous attacks against American and Israeli targets, including the 1983 bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut and the 1992 car bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires. He is connected to groups such as Islamic Jihad and Gamaa al Islamiya, an Egyptian group that has publicly allied itself with al-Qaida.

Fortunately, U.S. and coalition intelligence operatives are operating in the tri-border area. Qatar, America's Persian Gulf ally, announced in November it would establish diplomatic relations with Paraguay. While some commercial reasons exist for opening an embassy there, analysts believe Qatar's decision will enhance U.S. intelligence operations against Islamic militants in the tri-border region. Yet while international intelligence agencies have focused on this area since Sept. 11, many of these potential terrorists may have moved on.

Argentina's counter-terrorism police assert that terrorist operatives have dispersed east, to the remote jungles of Brazil and to Sao Paulo, the financial capital. They've also moved west to the free trade zone of Iquique in Chile's northern desert, making surveillance efforts even more difficult. Sao Paulo is a city of 18 million and has more than 1.5 million Muslim residents. Other hiding places include Guayaquil, Ecuador and Maracaibo, Venezuela. As these terror groups disperse, Venezuela and Brazil may become even more important as potential terror bases.

The Latin American terror nexus is a clear and present danger. Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez, along with the Sao Paulo Forum, are leading an anti-American crusade in Latin America that may be allying with Middle East terrorists bent on attacking the United States. America needs to take these dangers seriously and actively counter the growing terrorist threat brewing in our hemisphere.

The Foundation for the Defense of Democracies

The American Legion Magazine
July 1, 2003

Received by mur
Cortesia de Chachi Comellas


Cuba, España y los Estados Unidos | Organización Auténtica | Política Exterior de la O/A | Temas Auténticos | Líderes Auténticos | Figuras del Autenticismo | Símbolos de la Patria | Nuestros Próceres | Martirologio |

Presidio Político de Cuba Comunista | Costumbres Comunistas | Temática Cubana | Brigada 2506 | La Iglesia | Cuba y el Terrorismo | Cuba - Inteligencia y Espionaje | Cuba y Venezuela | Clandestinidad | United States Politics | Honduras vs. Marxismo | Bibliografía | Puentes Electrónicos |

Organización Auténtica