United States Senate
Washington, November 5, 2003
For several years, the Venezuelan government has been following with increased concern, the unfolding of a media campaign in the Colombian and opposition-controlled Venezuelan press that is directed against the reputation and standing of my country, my government and that of President Hugo Chavez Frias.
This campaign has manipulated and misrepresented facts and has created false impressions and negative opinions about Venezuela. My country has been falsely accused of sheltering terrorist activities against Colombia in our territory, of supporting Colombian guerillas, and, by innuendo, it has even been suggested that there is some form of alliance between the Venezuelan government and Colombian subversives.
None of these allegations, innuendos, or suggestions are true or supported by credible evidence. To the contrary, it is our view that this campaign is a product of collaboration between the Venezuelan opposition and those who oppose the Venezuelan government’s reform efforts and seek to preserve the social and economic status quo.
We are aware of certain specific allegations that have been made against our country in this regard, and, in response, have investigated them in detail. Conscious that this manipulation of information has significantly affected my country and has affected its relations with other countries, I would like to share with you the results of our investigation. I extend to you an invitation to sit down with us to discuss your concerns in detail so that we may address those issues on a basis of fact rather than innuendo. We are confident that through this process, you would conclude, as have we, through a detailed investigation, that there is no merit to these allegations.
Under these circumstances, we would urge you to not include SEC. 687 in the Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill (HR2800). As drafted, this language contains serious intimations that suggest that the Venezuelan government could be “assisting, harboring, or providing sanctuary for Colombian terrorist organizations.” Implicit in this language is a viewpoint that affects our standing with the United States, and it is a position that has been shaped without any dialogue between us and without any formal investigation. We ask that you support our efforts to have this language withdrawn. We owe it to both of our countries to fully discuss these matters in detail prior to singling out Venezuela as a possible terrorist supporter. It has always been my understanding that the United States stands on the principle that accusations should not be made prior to testing and validation of the underlying facts. Inclusion of the section at this time would violate that principle.
Venezuela has a long border (2019 kilometers) with Colombia; it is in Venezuela’s very best interest to protect the integrity of its border and our government is committed to doing so. Our government is committed to keeping out of Venezuela drugs and armed irregulars of all persuasions that might come in through border encroachment. We are committed to distancing ourselves from terrorist operations. Venezuela has worked in good faith to try to assist in the resolution of the conflict in Colombia. Nevertheless, our country has been subjected to a campaign that has purposefully sought to malign the reputation of the Venezuelan government. Venezuela favors a political and negotiated solution to the Colombian internal conflict. We emphatically condemn terrorist actions carried out by FARC. Venezuela is emphatic in our denial that there is a guerrilla presence in Venezuelan territory. In fact, of the bordering nations Venezuela historically has been the most adversely affected by the internal conflict in Colombia – in terms of injuries and deaths sustained by Venezuelan soldiers in border conflicts at the hands of Colombian guerillas and related kidnapping and injuries to Venezuelan citizenry.
I would like to mention that the government I represent has asked in many opportunities to the U.S. authorities, for any information or evidence on this subject. Until now, we have not received any. Recently, in light of the accusations published in an article of the magazine U.S. News & World Report, the Venezuelan authorities requested an explanation to the United States authorities about the supposed official sources mentioned by the journalist, without obtaining an answer. We have also requested the assistance of the Committee of Foreign Relations of the United States Senate to investigate this case.
Likewise, in light of this campaign of disrepute, is important to remind the public opinion that Venezuela, among other actions, legally handed over to Colombia, 19 Colombian guerrilla members requested by its authorities. In November 2002, the Venezuela authorities captured and gave to the United States one of the ten most wanted criminals of the FBI.
Venezuela has been signing and ratifying all the international legal instruments against terrorism, and recently the Venezuelan National Assembly promulgated the approving law on the Interamerican Convention against Terrorism, which its waiting for the ratification of other countries, among them, the United States.
Such deliberate accusations concern us, since they cause discomfort and dissatisfaction in our Armed Forces, constituted by man and women who follow the Constitution and are compromised with the democratic system. Every time that, without any evidence, and in specially in occasion of the pre-electoral atmosphere in Venezuela, these accusations are made, they are perceived by the Armed Forces as a offense to the Venezuelan nation, and the citizens who live in our border, who are true victims of the spilling of violence from Colombia.
I would like to close by taking this opportunity to renew with you the assurances of my highest consideration and, again, would welcome the opportunity to discuss these issues with you at your convenience. My representative will be calling your staff to arrange such a meeting at your earliest convenience.
Bernardo Álvarez Herrera