Evidence of Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez's Islamist terror connections continues to mount, writes veteran journalist Douglas Farah. He describes a new book, El Palestino, authored by Spanish journalist Antonio Salas, which says there are six terrorist training camps around Caracas, the Venezuelan capital. Groups training at the camps include the Colombian FARC, the Spanish Basque ETA organization, and Hizballah.
In the book (currently available in Spanish), Salas says he posed as a Venezuelan Palestinian interested in jihad and was able to travel around the world. His employer, the Spanish television network Antena 3, has released some of the hidden-camera video he took while working undercover with the terrorists.
For years, there have been reports about the existence of these camps, but Salas apparently is the first person to provide video and firsthand experience training in them. According to Antena 3, Salas joined a Venezuelan "faction" of Hizballah, where he met members of other terrorist organizations like Hamas and the FARC.
"This is in keeping with Chavez's broader goals of creating an alliance of state and non-state actors to wage assymetrical warfare against the United States," Farah wrote. "Both Chavez, with the FARC, and Iran, have the same goal in this endeavor. Each of the proxies has relevant experience and resources the other does not, and both have a history of adaption and co-learning from other terrorist groups, regardless of political/theological differences."
As living conditions in Venezuela continue to deteriorate, he added, Chavez may well seek to foment crises and support armed revolution in Latin America:
"With the highest homicide rate in the hemisphere, water and electrical rationing, inflation running at more than 30 percent and his popularity in a steady decline, he is likely to be desperate for anything that can give him a boost. Iran, Cuba, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Ecuador have enormous stakes in Chavez's survival, no matter what the cost. So one can expect the region to be roiled by something he cooks up to fabricate a crisis."