Venezuela targets U.S. in UN terrorism debate
Accuses U.S. of practicing double-standards

By Kiraz Janicke

CARACAS, Venezuela —  Venezuela's Deputy Ambassador to the UN, Aura Rodriguez de Ortiz, slammed the U.S. government's "double standard" on combating terrorism during a UN Security Council meeting Wednesday, March 19.

He blamed the U.S. for its failure to prosecute former CIA operative and international terrorist, Luis Posada Carriles. The criticism was made as U.S. President George W. Bush renewed accusations that Venezuela has ties to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), which Washington classifies as a "terrorist" organization.

"The case of the terrorist Luis Posada Carriles is an example that shows and confirms the double standards of a government which says it fights against terrorism but endorses terrorist methods," Rodriguez de Ortiz said.

Posada, a Cuban-born Venezuelan citizen who has been described as the "Bin Laden of Latin America," is wanted in Venezuela on 73 counts of first-degree murder in connection to the bombing of a Cuban airliner in 1976. He was previously charged in connection with the bombing in Venezuela, but escaped from prison in 1985 before going to trial. While he denies involvement in the Cuban airliner attack, Posada freely admitted his involvement in numerous other terrorist attacks in an interview with the New York Times, including a string of hotel bombings in Cuba, which killed an Italian tourist in 1997.

Posada is also wanted in Venezuela in relation to a series of abuses, including a massacre of 40 people, which occurred under his command as Chief of Operations of Venezuelan Intelligence, (the DISIP), in 1973.

Venezuelan authorities have requested Posada's extradition three times since 2005 when he entered the U.S. on a fake passport. However, rather than processing the extradition request, the Department of Homeland Security charged Posada for illegal entry into the country. In May last year a U.S Federal Judge dismissed all the charges and Posada now lives freely in Miami.

Rodriguez de Ortiz questioned why the Posada case was treated as a minor immigration crime, and suggested that the U.S wants to hide its own involvement in his crimes.

The U.S. is bound, not only by the 1922 U.S.-Venezuelan extradition treaty she said, but also by international treaties on terrorist bombings and the safety of civil aviation "to extradite or submit his case for prosecution without any exception."

Carolyn Willson, diplomat at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, said a Texas judge refused Posada's extradition to Venezuela, "because it was more likely than not that he would be tortured if he were so transferred," a claim that the Venezuelan government says is baseless.

In a speech in Jacksonville, Florida on Tuesday, Bush reiterated accusations that Venezuela is funding the FARC and claimed that alleged links between the Venezuelan government and the guerrillas were "closer" than previously thought.

Referring to Colombia's illegal military attack on the FARC guerrillas in Ecuadoran territory on March 1, which sparked a major diplomatic crisis between Colombia and it's neighbors, Ecuador and Venezuela, the U.S. President said, "Recently, when Colombian forces killed one of the FARC's most senior leaders, they discovered computer files that suggest even closer ties between Venezuela's regime and FARC terrorists than we previously knew."

Colombia also claimed that the computer files show "evidence" of links between the FARC and the Ecuadoran government. Both Ecuador and Venezuela have categorically rejected the allegations as false.

In a statement released Thursday, March 20, the FARC said accusations that it has connections or received funding from the governments of Venezuela and Ecuador are false.

"In no way do we accept the blackmail that is trying to be put together against the governments of Venezuela and Ecuador by using a computer that, not even with special armor could have survived the bombing," the statement continued.

Twenty-one archconservative Republican lawmakers, including Connie Mack and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen from Florida, have used the "evidence" as the basis for a call to place Venezuela on the U.S. State Department list of countries that sponsor terrorism.

Venezuelan government officials say the accusations are part of a stepped up U.S. campaign to isolate the Chavez government and defeat the Bolivarian revolution, as the process of radical change unfolding in Venezuela is known.

In an earlier address to the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Washington last week, Bush accused Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez of backing "terrorists" in neighboring Colombia and using his country's oil wealth to fuel an anti-American campaign across Latin America.

"In the process, regime leaders have squandered their oil wealth and left their people to face food shortages," he  said.

During his weekly television program Alo Presidente on Sunday, Chavez retorted that Bush is a "terrorist" responsible for the genocide of more than one million in Iraq, and that Venezuelans "today, are better fed than ever."

Since coming to power in 1998, the Chavez government has increased public spending dramatically, directing billions of dollars of oil revenue towards social programs that provide free education and healthcare to the poor, as well as providing low cost oil and unconditional aid to the U.S., Latin American and Caribbean countries.

In contrast, Venezuelan political commentator Luigino Bracci said, "the regime in Washington" has spent $3 trillion on the invasion and occupation of Iraq, "who is squandering their country's resources?"