Merchant of Death
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Blood from Stones

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The Slow Unraveling of Hugo Chávez and his Terrorist Ties
While Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez has long viewed criticism of his autocratic rule and growing abuses as part of the impending Yanqui invasion, he has suffered two significant blows in the past week and the United States was not part of either. The developments are further signs that Chávez is finally being understood as an anti-democratic strongman who consistently supports terrorist groups that the rest of the world shuns.

The most recent blow came from a Spanish judge who linked the Chávez government to support for the Basque terrorist organization ETA, as well as the Colombian FARC, in attempts to assassinate senior Colombian officials.

The allegations, made in a court document by investigating magistrate Eloy Velasco, said that the Chávez government had acted as an intermediary between Eta and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc) guerrilla group.

"There is evidence in this case which shows the Venezuelan government's co-operation in the illegal association between Farc and Eta," the magistrate said as he issued international arrest warrants for six alleged Eta members and seven Colombians believed to be members of Farc.

At the center of the controversy is Arturo Cubillas, an alleged Eta member who works in Venezuela's ministry of agriculture, who was named as the main link among the three groups: the Venezuelan government, FARC and ETA. Cubillas, who has lived in Venezuela since 1989, is married to a senior member of Chávez's government.

The allegations appeared to confirm Colombian intelligence reports that the FARC and ETA have worked together often and exchanged technological know-how and training.

The judge said that two Farc members, Victor Vargas and Gustavo Navarro, had travelled to Spain twice to identify possible targets among the Colombian community for assassination.

He said the Farc members had relied on Eta for support during their visit, and attempts had also been made to find a way of killing President Alvaro Uribe during a visit to Spain.

The investigating magistrate said that up to half a dozen Eta members had travelled to Venezuela to train Farc members in the use of C4 explosives and mobile telephones as detonators.

Members of the Venezuelan armed forces appeared to have accompanied them on at least one occasion, he added.

He also said that several Eta members had also travelled through Venezuela to Farc camps in Colombia to receive training there.

The other, earlier incident was sparked by an unusually blunt 300 page blistering report by the human rights branch of the normally-timid Organization of American States documenting the multiple and ongoing abuses of the Chávez government.

The report asserts that the state has punished critics, including anti-government television stations, demonstrators and opposition politicians who advocate a form of government different from Chávez's, which is allied with Cuba and favors state intervention in the economy.

The report outlines how, after 11 years in power, Chávez holds tremendous influence over other branches of government, particularly the judiciary. Judges who issue decisions the government does not like can be fired, the report says, and hundreds of others are in provisional posts where they can easily be removed.

The commission said some adversaries of the government who have been elected to office, such as Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma, have seen their powers usurped by Chávez.

"The threats to human rights and democracy are many and very serious, and that's why we published the report," Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, a member of the commission who specializes in Venezuela, said by phone from his home in Brazil.

In both cases Chávez reacted as he has in the past, by threatening, blustering, and personally attacking those documented his abuses, rather than substantively addressing any of the allegations. He shares this characteristic with Rafael Correa and Evo Morales, who, rather than debate the merits or truth of any criticism simply attack the messenger.

But slowly the mask is slipping on the creator of 21st Century Socialism. Rather than ushering in a new era of poverty reduction, social justice and prosperity, he is presiding over an increasingly criminalized state with one of the highest murder rates in the world, rampant corruption and shrinking freedoms. Viva la revolución!
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