president Says U.S. is Harboring “Terrorists” Plotting to
Citing security threats, the Venezuelan
president last week canceled a planned visit to New York.
Meanwhile U.S. intelligence officers are lobbying charges that
it is Chavez who is harboring Islamic fundamentalists in
Venezuela. We talk to Venezuelan ambassador Bernardo Alvarez.
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Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez last week called on the
United States to crack down on what he described as Cuban and
Venezuelan terrorists training in Florida to kill him.
Last week Chavez canceled a planned trip to the United
States because of security threats.
Meanwhile a recent report in US News and World Reports
tiled “Terror Close to Home” charges that Venezuela is
emerging as “a potential hub of terrorism in the Western
Hemisphere.” The article claims Chavez has provided
assistance to Islamic fundamentalists.
The magazine claims that Venezuela has given social
security-like cards to thousands of foreigners including many
from Middle Eastern nations including Syria, Pakistan, Egypt
and Lebanon. The U.S. government has warned that by giving out
these ID documents, terrorists could more easily obtain
Venezuelan passports and U.S. visas.
US News and World Reports also claims that US intelligence
officials are investigating whether a Venezuelan of Arab
descent named Hakim Mamad al Diab Fatah had ties to any of the
Sept. 11 hijackers. One official described him as a person of
The article goes on to claim close ties between Chavez’s
government and the Columbian rebel group FARC.
- Bernardo Alvarez,
Venezuela Ambassador to the U.S.
AMY GOODMAN: Welcome to Democracy Now!.
BERNARDO ALVAREZ: Good morning.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you start off telling us why
president Chavez did not come as was planned to the United
Nations to address the general assembly?
BERNARDO ALVAREZ: Well, you know, there are of
course always evaluations that the head of state, in that case
the information we have from the palace, in Venezuela, that
there were some security concerns. And that came along with
few months ago and recently there were some reports in Florida
newspapers all for former Venezuelan military and training
camps in Florida, this is what the newspapers said. I don't
know to, promote invasion to, promote any actions against
Venezuela. We have sent the U.S., ambassador that information
and we are waiting for response from the U.S. government.
If you remember few months ago there was a report that an
organization called Judicial Watch was suing the Venezuelan
government on behalf of the victims of September 11th because
they say that president Chavez has given a million dollars to
Al Qaeda. Venezuelan ambassador to India came here to the U.S.
to United Nations to Washington and even to Miami to present
the proof that we in fact gave a million dollars to the United
Nations office for the refugees.
Totally the contrary. And we also get that information to
the F.B.I. and we're still waiting for an investigation from
the F.B.I. because that was some news coming from the people
JUAN GONZALEZ: Could you give us your reaction to
these sensational charges in U.S. news and world report that
Venezuela has come in essence a hot bed for terrorists from
other parts of the world to stay in your country now.
BERNARDO ALVAREZ: When you look at the article
firsthand you think that you are probably looking at movie. I
haven't received any complain or requests of information by
the U.S. government. It's the same format that we have seen
lately, for example, margarita island being training camp for
the Al Qaeda, whatever it's like having a terrorist camp in
Cancun, Mexico. This is a resort, small island it is not
possibility whatsoever to train anybody there. There are no
military forces in Margarita Island.
The whole idea that we are able to give I.D.'s to thousand
of people from the Middle East and then they get their Visa
and come to the U.S. so you probably have to blame the U.S.
embassy in Venezuela rather than the Venezuelan government. If
you look at that there are no proof and confirmed rumors, same
story. What worries us is that they use information supposedly
coming from the U.S. officials and this is what we have said.
We are not the aggressors here we would like the U.S.
government to respond on that because they quote highly
credible sources from the political branches of the U.S.
government. We have asked through the diplomatic channels the
U.S. government to respond from that.
JUAN GONZALEZ: What about the situation right now in
Venezuela, the political situation that especially after the
Supreme Court there has ordered that the referendum, the
recall referendum petition had to be redone by getting new
signatures. What has been the situation as the opposition in
their attempt to gather new signatures for new attempt at a
BERNARDO ALVAREZ: Yes, I think in the situation
after the March, because we cannot forget that members of the
opposition we have said that there are important
non-democratic groups in the opposition. They try to stop the
country. They tried to stop oil production which is the heart
of the Venezuelan economy. And we have been recovering from
that economic damages. And we have been stabilizing the
political situation. And all we want is that all parties
should play keeping in mind constitution so there is not
constitutional way out of any political crisis in Venezuela.
Now we have an impartial electoral body. Those people looked
at the signatures and if you might see that nobody has reacted
against that. Because I mean imagine that you are going to
recall mandate of an official with signatures that weren't
collected by private firm and they were kept for I don't know,
six months. So I think this is something that is over now.
What is important we have electoral body, we have the norms
for collecting signatures and there is a constitution. If you
allow me, this is one of the points we have been discussing
with the U.S. administration because we said the referendum is
not the result of any political agreement between the
government and the opposition. The president of the Supreme
Court came to the U.S. and he said in the case that the
government and the opposition should sign a political
agreement to hold a referendum, it will be unconstitutional
because the referendum is a right of Venezuelan people to
recall the mandate of any official elected. Elected official.
So what is important now that everything is clear, we have
electoral body and there are not only they have been requests
for the recall referendum for the president but for state
governors, for members of the national assembly. This is what
democracy is about.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you very much for
joining us. Bernardo Alvarez is the Venezuelan ambassador to
the United States, again Hugo Chavez who had intended to come
to the United Nations last week did not citing security
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