allegedly supporting a Marxist Colombian guerrilla group would make
Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez more popular and diminish U.S.
standing in Latin America, warns a report released Monday and prepared
by the Republican staff of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
lawmakers, including Florida Republican Reps. Connie Mack and Ileana
Ros-Lehtinen, have called on the Bush administration to designate
Venezuela a state sponsor of terrorism, following revelations that
Chávez may have been closer to the guerrilla group known as the FARC
than previously reported.
The State Department has not ruled out
a possible terrorist designation, saying it would carefully investigate
the contents of several computers belonging to slain rebel leader Raúl
Reyes before making a determination. This raises the possibility of
broad, Iran-like sanctions against Venezuela, a top exporter of oil to
the the United States. Washington considers the Revolutionary Armed
Forces of Colombia, known by the Spanish acronym FARC, a terrorist
says it would be counterproductive to sanction Venezuela without
regional support — something the text admits would be difficult to
The report "strongly cautions that policymakers must be wary of the implications
of poorly thought-out sanctions which might isolate the United States."
Venezuela is found to be complicit, the U.S. would be wise to allow for
the regional dynamic to take its course," the report says. 'If the
U.S. reacts too strongly, attention will go from Venezuela's
transgressions to yet another example of `American intervention' and
Colombian security forces seized the
computers after bombing and then swooping into a FARC camp in Ecuador
and retrieving the body of Reyes. The March 1 incident triggered
diplomatic tensions with neighboring Venezuela and Ecuador.
garner more regional support and pressure Venezuela, the report
recommends releasing all the computer information. "Once the nature of
FARC activities and the alleged relationships of some countries with
the FARC are verified and exposed, it will be difficult for the
complicit countries to continue to support the FARC through action or
The report was prepared by Carl Meacham, an aide on
Latin American issues to Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), the ranking
member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Meacham traveled to
Ecuador and Colombia to meet with officials on March 18-19.
The report also recommends the administration act carefully
so as not to "impinge U.S. commercial prospects in Venezuela" and not
label countries as terrorist backers "simply because they are carrying
out their perceived national interest in maintaining relations with
Full Senate Report: Playing with Fire: Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela