Is Chávez Helping Terrorists Go Nuclear?
Hugo Chávez has transformed Venezuela into a thriving hideout, breeding ground and launching pad for terrorism and the black market nuclear trade. Few see it, but this South American state is a large and most underreported threat to America’s national security.
On March 26, Colombian officials seized 66 pounds of uranium from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (farc) terrorist group. The uranium was buried along a road in the countryside south of Bogota. Information leading to the discovery came from the laptop computer of Raúl Reyes, a top farc leader killed by Colombian authorities March 1.
Reports said the uranium was “impoverished,” or depleted, meaning it lacked the concentrated radioactive material needed for a dirty bomb. Authorities also gave assurances that farc lacks the technology and resources to actually construct a nuclear bomb.
The Western media heard those facts and breathed a sigh of relief, perceiving the discovery of farc’s uranium cache to be an event of minor consequence. This view couldn’t be more wrong!
The Most Dangerous Black Market
That seizure marked the first time radioactive material has been linked to farc. It raises some critical questions: Why is farc in the major league of black-market uranium trade? Where did it get the uranium? And what was it planning on doing with it? So far, the most plausible explanation is that farc planned to sell the uranium to raise money, since joint American-Colombian eradication efforts against farc’s cocaine crops and operations are eating into its cash flow. That’s reasonable, though in reality the material was nearly worthless. But who would be interested in purchasing uranium, and how deep do farc’s connections with that entity run?
Matthew Bunn, senior research associate with Harvard’s Project on Managing the Atom, said he found it interesting that “a very professional terrorist organization like farc, with a good deal of experience in smuggling, apparently was interested in getting involved in buying and selling nuclear material for money. That suggests that someone who had serious nuclear material (unlike this material) and needed to move it from one country to another might have been able to make use of the farc’s capabilities” (Foreign Policy, March 28; emphasis mine throughout).
Black-market activities are inherently dangerous, but few are more so than the illegal trade of nuclear materials and technology. The nature of the underground trade in uranium, particularly when it involves covert enrichment and construction of a nuclear weapon (the ultimate weapon of mass destruction), requires above all a rare willingness to risk everything for the cause, as well as expansive expertise and vast resources. The point is, 66 pounds of uranium didn’t accidentally fall into farc’s lap.
That’s alarming when you consider the known members of the black-market nuclear trade!
Clearly, this seizure raises more questions than it answers. While many find assurance in the lack of answers, this is a naive approach. The truth is, these questions are extremely disconcerting—especially when considered against the growth of the South American terrorist network.
Mountains of evidence have arisen in recent years showing that South America is a hideout and breeding ground for the world’s most dangerous terrorist organizations, including al Qaeda, Hezbollah and Hamas. Pockets of South America—including areas in Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador, all of which have governments hostile to the U.S.—have become launching pads from which the world’s most venomous anti-American entities, particularly radical Islam, could strike the United States.
Now we learn that uranium is being illegally traded in the region. Even the weakest imagination ought to be able to conjure images of what the consequences for America could be!
Foreign Policy said Reyes’s laptop was the gift that just keeps giving. Tyler Bridges from the Miami Herald explained why: “Anti-farc operations—especially a deadly military raid in a rebel camp in Ecuador after which Colombian authorities obtained computer documents belonging to slain guerrilla leader Raúl Reyes—indicate that the farc had established links in Venezuela, Ecuador, Costa Rica and Mexico” (March 31).
Hugo Chávez is one of farc’s strongest allies. The Venezuelan president has successfully negotiated the release of prisoners held by farc, financed the terrorist organization to the tune of $300 million, allowed farc guerrillas to take refuge from Colombian troops at camps in Venezuelan territory and, more recently, made public statements supporting farc’s terrorist activities and lamenting the death of Raúl Reyes.
Word on the street is that farc received the uranium from suppliers in Venezuela. That’s entirely possible. There have been whispers over the past two years that Venezuela is mining uranium with the help of Iran. Those claims were substantiated in September 2006 when Colombia’s former Defense Minister Camilo Ospina said that Caracas was secretly operating two uranium mines deep inside Venezuela. Ospina’s remarks were quickly disavowed by the Colombian government.
A growing pile of circumstantial evidence suggests that Venezuela, with Iran’s assistance, could be operating two covert uranium mines. Confirming it is difficult because Venezuelan officials have warned that any unauthorized aircraft flights in the vicinity of the mine locations will be subject to deadly force.
What is certain, and widely reported, however, is that Hugo Chávez has developed alarmingly close connections with Tehran and has transformed his nation into one of the Southern Hemisphere’s largest terrorist havens. According to Latin American current affairs analyst Vladimir Torres, Chávez has helped both Iran and radical Islam strengthen their presence in Venezuela and across the region. “Since March 2, 2007, Iran’s national airline, Iran Air, is flying on a weekly basis to Venezuela. The commercial Tehran-Caracas flight, with a stop in Damascus, Syria, allows for easy movement of passengers, given Venezuela’s lax immigration controls, the absence of visa requirements, and the reported ‘unofficial’ instruction to Venezuelan custom officers not to ask questions regarding whom and what comes and goes in the flight” (Sept. 26, 2007).
So despite the intense efforts and hundreds of millions of dollars spent by Western nations to implement national security measures designed to curb the travel of Islamic terrorists, these hate-filled individuals are traveling between Iran and Venezuela with frightening ease!
Plenty of evidence further proves the strengthening Iran-Venezuela relationship. Torres continued: “The Iranian embassies in some [South American] countries have increased their number of accredited diplomats to figures that seem out of proportion with their needs. The presence of more than 30 diplomats in Managua alone has already triggered suspicions regarding their mandate. There are substantiated reports of Hezbollah cells operating in Venezuela—particularly in Margarita Island, where real-estate businesses provide the cover for alleged drug-money laundering and fund-raising for the terrorist organization” (ibid.).
When it comes to terrorist organizations and states seeking the destruction of the U.S., Venezuela is no respecter of persons. Hugo Chávez supports farc, he supports Iran, he supports Iranian-sponsored groups like Hezbollah, and he supports al Qaeda. Did farc’s uranium originate in Venezuelan mines jointly operated by Iran and Venezuela? Did it receive it from Iran, via Venezuela? More importantly, how many other caches of uranium, perhaps enriched uranium, are circulating in this South American terrorist network?
No one knows the answers to these questions. But the mountain of circumstantial evidence demands serious investigation!
Enter al Qaeda
Now let’s turn our attention to Syrian-born al Qaeda leader Mustafa Setmariam Nasar. Prior to being indicted in Spain for providing assistance to the plotters of the 9/11 attacks, Nasar went on a brief jaunt to Venezuela. Kenneth Rijock, a financial crime consultant for World-Check, tracked Nasar’s movements in Caracas. “Nasar lived openly in Venezuela for several months, traveling at all times with his Venezuelan government bodyguard, all the while wanted by Interpol for Spain, visiting Caracas’ most important mosque, and holding meetings with Hezbollah,eta, farc, eln and Cuban G-2 members, amongst others, in support of their criminal and political activities in Latin America” (March 29).
During his visit, Nasar was also reported to have conducted meetings with notorious Venezuelan terrorist Carlos Rafael Lanz Rodríguez. What do Nasar and Lanz have in common? “Lanz is presently the president of Venezuela’s state-owned aluminum company, Alcasa, which has been accused by former Venezuela government mining engineers of covertly mining uranium for export to Iran, under the cover of aluminum production” (ibid.).
So let’s get this straight. Carlos Rafael Lanz Rodríguez, a well-known terrorist in charge of Venezuela’s alleged covert uranium mines, conducted meetings with notorious al Qaeda operative Mustafa Setmariam Nasar, a man who traveled with a bodyguard supplied by Hugo Chávez and conducted meetings in Caracas with Hezbollah, eta (the Basque terrorist organization) and—surprise, surprise—farc!
Keeping up with these details is challenging. Perhaps that’s why so few media outlets take the time to investigate the story. But the point is, Hugo Chávez has transformed Venezuela into a thriving hub for international terrorist organizations of all shapes and sizes, their state sponsors, and participants in the black-market trade of nuclear materials and technology.
Americans in particular ought to be in an uproar by this news. “Venezuela is known as a major transit hub [into America],” wrote Fred Burton from Stratfor, “and an entire industry has developed in Venezuela around the practice of illegal alien smuggling. There is an ‘underground railroad’ of sorts that begins in Caracas and stretches along various air, land and sea routes used to move migrants into the United States. This network consists of facilitators, document vendors, pilots, bus and truck drivers, sea captains, small hotels, money exchanges, restaurants and stores that all cater to illegal immigrants” (Dec. 13, 2006).
So Venezuela is not only a hub and staging ground for international terrorist organizations and the nuclear black market, it is also a key pit stop for illegals entering the U.S.!
Why aren’t America’s leaders and the mainstream media ringing alarm bells about the nuclear storm brewing in South America? The terrorists are circling and our leaders are sleeping, just as the Bible said they would be.
Notice what the Prophet Isaiah wrote more than 2,500 years ago: “All ye beasts of the field, come to devour, yea, all ye beasts in the forest. His watchmen are blind: they are all ignorant, they are all dumb dogs, they cannot bark; sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber” (Isaiah 56:9-10). Ferocious beasts—some possibly armed with crude nuclear weapons—have taken root in America’s underbelly, and our leaders are sleeping when they should be barking!
For the Trumpet staff, the shameful silence of our leaders is motivating. We witness this deafening silence and are moved to act, to warn, to blow the trumpet and to support and amplify the voice of God’s watchman.
If, when you learn about the nuclear storm brewing in Venezuela or the other catastrophes building, you feel an urge to act, then you need to learn more about the work of the Philadelphia Church of God. Begin by requesting a free copy of Mystery of the Ages. Then, if you are still keen, request a visit from one of our ministers.