Caracas, February 16, 2007 (venezuelanalysis.com)— Venezuela’s Defense Minister, General Raúl Baduel said yesterday that Venezuela would strengthen national security, in reaction to a recent alleged threat from the terrorist group Al Qaeda, which said that it would target major U.S. oil suppliers. Some officials, though, both in the U.S. and in Venezuela, expressed skepticism about the threat.
Baduel warned, though, that the issue must be “treated with much care because it can also generate some disquiet in the population.” While the situation should not be dismissed, it should also not be “overestimated,” said Baduel. The Chavez government would be alert and “take action and adopt security plans that have previously been established.”
The threat to attack Canadian, Mexican, and Venezuelan oil installations was posted on the internet by a Saudi Arabian group that is said to be affiliated with Al Qaeda. AP reported that the statement said, “Cutting oil supplies to the United States, or at least curtailing it, would contribute to the ending of the American occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan.”
The statement went on to say, “In the long run, America might be able to lessen its dependence on Middle East oil and would be satisfied with oil from Canada, Mexico, Venezuela and other new customers or double its dependence on alternative energy resources; therefore, oil interests in all regions that serve the U.S. and not only in the Middle East, should be attacked.”
Reuters reports that the Canadian government is taking the threat seriously. “We take the threat seriously. We've always said that we're not immune to possibilities of terrorism,” said Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day.
The Mexican government presented itself more skeptically, saying that it saw no evidence to take the threat seriously, reported news agencies.
U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff also downplayed the threat, saying, “I don't think there's any sense that there's some specific measure that needs to be taken." Chertoff made the comment while in Mexico on official talks with the Mexican government.
However, Alberto Fernandez, the director of Public Diplomacy for the Middle East office of the U.S. State Department said on Unión Radio, a Venezuelan station, that the U.S. is willing to help Venezuela in defending itself against the Al Qeada threat.
According to Fernandez, the threat “is very serious and global. The important thing is to indicate that the U.S. willing to collaborate with Venezuela in the global fight against Al Qeada.”
“We have seen in recent years first steps of this Islamic terrorism in Latin America. It is something that is beginning, not that it has truly begun in a strong way, but it is there,” said Fernandez. He went on to say that some Al Qaeda operatives had been reportedly seen in Latin America in 2004 or 2005, “in Honduras and perhaps in Panama.”
The chair of the National Assembly’s foreign affairs commission, Saul Ortega, expressed strong doubts that the threat is real, saying that it seemed more like a “maneuver of the Central Intelligence Agency.”
According to Ortega, the supposed Al Qaeda announcement “forms part of a terrorist strategy of the U.S.” because it is preparing the ground for possible future terrorist actions in Venezuela.
Another hypothesis, said Ortega, is that if Al Qaeda were to attack Venezuelan oil installations and to cut off supply to the U.S., this could “deserve a [U.S.] military intervention in Venezuela.”
Ortega also reminded that this strategy is not new, given that just last year several media outlets suggested that Al Qaeda cells were active in the vacation island of Margarita, off of Venezuela’s coast.