International community must call time on Hugo Chavez

Gone are the days when Hugo Chavez could be given the benefit of the doubt. In fact, long gone is the argument that Chavez ‘has the support of the vast majority of Venezuelans’. In recent elections, hand picked candidates running for Congress from the President's ruling and allied parties got 48% of the vote, while candidates selected by the opposition pulled in 52%. This tremendous electoral victory in a context similar to that of Iran, went somewhat misreported by the media.

Chavez recently concluded another world tour. Some of his hosts have gained distinct places in the global gallery of rogues. With Putin, for instance, he entered into yet another weapons agreement through which Venezuela will receive Russian tanks. In exchange Chavez sold PDVSA's Ruhr Oel assets, to Rosneft, Russia's giant oil conglomerate. Europeans already know that Putin, as Chavez, is keen on using its considerable leverage in energy provision to get the EU's acquiescence on certain issues. If having to kneel to ruthless KGB agents is not enough aggravation, prospects of S-300 missiles ending up in Ahmadinejad's hands through his Venezuelan proxy should really be setting alarm bells ringing throughout the Middle East.

Chavez is openly siding, supporting, and entering into dubious deals, not only with rogue regimes, but with terrorist organizations around the world. Chavez has appointed US-designated FARC kingpins to head the army, military intelligence and investigative police forces. This he does unilaterally, without consultation, or indeed the support of the Venezuelan people. Recently, I revealed that Arturo Cubillas, a wanted ETA terrorist along with Rodrigo Granda, a wanted FARC terrorist, had been granted Venezuelan citizenship by the Chavez regime in 2004. Once naturalised, both terrorists argued that they could not be extradited to their countries of origin, Spain and Colombia respectively, for Venezuelan law does not contemplate extradition of its nationals. Furthermore, there is no hope that extradition requests be considered by Venezuela, when the head of the judiciary affirms that separation of powers "weakens the State".

A Venezuelan cultural and diplomatic venue in London hosted recently a commemoration of the Second Intifada with the support of Samuel Moncada, Venezuelan Ambassador to the UK. Leila Khaled, who gained international notoriety for hijacking planes and engaging in terrorism, took part. Notorious apologists of terrorism, George Galloway, Massoud Shadjareh, and Azzam Tamimi also played integral roles. Frankly, this is unacceptable.

UN resolutions 1373 and 1624 explicitly criminalise support and glorification of terrorism. Celebrating the killing and maiming of innocents therefore, is illegal – a contravention of international law. Even Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has referred to the Second Intifada as a terrible mistake. So why is Chavez using Venezuela to fete terrorists and celebrate a ‘mistake’ condemned by the leader of the Palestinian Authority?

Venezuela is not glorifying terrorism and fomenting unrest. Rather it is Hugo Chavez and his henchmen who have decided in their wisdom to side with terrorists and rogues. The international community as well as UK authorities, would do well to investigate such flagrant flouting of international law, siding with those promoting democracy through peaceful and legal means.

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