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Rising Tensions With Chávez in South America
Recent revelations that the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas in Colombia have received sophisticated Swedish anti-tank weapons purchased by the military in Venezuela has added to the regional strain in South America, which are already running high. The FARC is a designated terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union.

The AT-4 rockets and their launchers were found, according to Semana Magazine (in Spanish) in a camp abandoned by the FARC's chief military commander Jorge Briceño. While found in June, the information was just made public by the Colombian government due to Venezuela's lack of responsiveness on the issue.

The Swedish government has confirmed it sold the equipment to the Venezuelan government.

Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez reacted as he has in the past: he withdrew Venezuela's diplomatic presence from Colombia and denounced the information as part of giant, fabricated conspiracy against his country.

This reaction is due in large part because Colombian president Alvaro Uribe has decided to let the United States open up to four anti-drug bases in existing Colombian military installations. The move comes after Rafael Correa of Ecuador, a staunch ally of Chávez, decided not to renew the 10-year lease for U.S. use of the Manta base to track Pacific Coast drug trafficking operations.

Unfortunately for Chávez, his denials ring hollow and ability to really sever ties with Colombia extremely limited. This is because, under the Bolivarian Revolution and Socialism of the 21st Century Venezuela has the lowest percentage of arable land under cultivation in Latin America.

As a result of a decade of driving down food production, Venezuela now imports almost 60 percent of its food--most of that from Colombia.

At the same time, Chávez has lost his footing a bit on the Honduran crisis, as calmer heads prevailed and the ongoing dispute ended up again at the feet of mediator Oscar Arias, president of Costa Rica and veteran of negotiating Central American conflicts. This marginalized the flame-throwing calls for military invasion that Chávez was issuing, alienating even some of his allies.

The information on the AT-4 rockets tracks closely with information already made public in the computer found when Colombian troops killed Raul Reyes, the FARC's deputy commander, on March 1, 2008.

The documents, the communications archive of the FARC, showed clearly that the FARC was searching for such weapons and was in contact with two senior Venezuelan officials very close to Chávez, about acquiring them. The two are Gen. Cliver Alcalá of the army and Hugo Carvajal, one of Chávez's most trusted intelligence officials.

In a Jan. 4, 2007 e-mail FARC leader Iván Márquez wrote to the FARC leadership that he had met with Alcalá and Carvajal, and said that "next week they will send us 20 bazookas of great potency, of which 10 will be for (FARC commander) Timochenko and 10 will be for us."

On Jan. 20 Márquez wrote again to say the rockets had been delivered, and described them as "anti-tank rockets, 85 mm.,two launchers and 21 rounds. Our friend says he has 1,000 rounds and will get us more soon, along with more launchers."

So, there we have (again) a head of state sponsoring and arming a non-state terrorist/criminal actor intent on overthrowing a democratically-elected government. The hypocrisy of Chávez leading the charge for democracy in Honduras is extraordinary, even by Chávez's standards.
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