International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

Parallels between Charles Taylor and Hugo Chavez?

In learning that Charles Taylor was prosecuted for just for aiding and abetting war crimes perpetrated by Sierra Leone’s proxy militia, it had me wondering what it would take to indict President Chavez in relation to his questionable ties to FARC.

While it is public knowledge that Chavez and FARC express ideological solidarity towards one another, the extent of Chavez’s political involvement in Colombian affairs remains under scrutiny.

Like Taylor, Chavez has been technically democratically elected and enjoys a populist following to shield him from domestic criticism. Chavez has recently appeared in the news for attempts at peace talks with FARC but the fact remains that there are substantial accusations against Chavez for endorsing this UN-deemed terrorist group.

Following the Colombian government’s successful 2008 raid of a clandestine FARC camp on the Ecuadorian border that resulted in the assassination of a senior FARC, the authorities seized computer hard drives with files that were confirmed to be genuine by Interpol.

The files mention $300 million in FARC funding from Chavez’s regime that was ostensibly supposed to be used for the construction of a dirty bomb as well as FARC response to requests from Venezuela’s intelligence services to provide urban warfare training to pro-Chavez groups when the socialist leader was feeling vulnerable following a brief 2002 coup. Later that year, American intelligence officials released a report citing clear evidence that, “Venezuelan officials have tried to facilitate the shipment of arms to the FARC.”

Earlier this year, the US grew concerned over Chavez’s announcement of General Rangel as defense minister; a statement from the Treasury Department then said that the general “materially assisted the narcotics trafficking activities of the FARC”.

Though trafficking is out of ICC jurisdiction, Taylor has set the precedence for holding a head of state accountable for sponsoring violence. Given that diplomatic relations between Colombia and Venezuela crumbled under the Chavez-FARC allegations, it would behoove the international community to investigatively intervene. However, does the hesitancy to act protect current and potential Colombian victims when Chavez is one of the few political figures FARC pays heed to?


2 responses to “Parallels between Charles Taylor and Hugo Chavez?

  1. patrickwu October 23, 2012 at 8:45 pm

    Right now, Chavez’s relationship with the FARC is very vague. Chavez has repeatedly come out against FARC. On January 13, 2008, he asked the FARC to disarm and to stop the violent warfare. Furthermore, he has asked Colombia and other Latin American countries to politically recognize the FARC as a belligerent entity, hoping that this would compel the FARC to follow the Geneva Conventions.

    Chavez’s actions, in these respects, makes his case much more vague compared to Charles Taylor and the Revolutionary United Front. It is true that INTERPOL has found nearly guaranteed evidence that Chavez has been supporting the FARC. One of the biggest differences between the two, however, is that the FARC is not primarily financed by Hugo Chavez; the RUF, on the other hand, received substantial financial support from Charles Taylor through his blood diamonds. The differences in funding, their role in both groups, and their direct or indirect action, as in the case of Hugo Chavez, makes it hard for the international community to indict and pursue Chavez unless more evidence crops up.

  2. claudia4192s December 16, 2012 at 8:25 pm

    A quick update on this discussion. Only a couple of weeks ago, on December 9, 2012, news agencies reported the FARC’s second in command, Ivan Marques, voice his “solidarity and encouragement” towards a sick President Chavez. Chavez flew to Havana once more to undergo Cancer, this time temporarily passing on his power to the country’s vice president.

    Despite Chavez’s occasional outward expression of admonition against the FARC, the Venezuelan president’s close relationship with the organization is undeniable. Although it is true that Charles Taylor’s indictment heavily relied on the degree of Taylor’s support for the RUF, support does not only need to come through direct financial donations. Venezuela’s corruption may not be the only factor involved in the FARC’s high level of presence in the country, Chavez’ permissive attitude could also be a factor. Venezuela has become an essential path in the drug flow, primarily of cocaine, managed by the FARC from the Colombia-Venezuela border, as evidenced by this map:

    This is an additional factor to consider when thinking of a possible international condemnation of Chavez for his relationship with the FARC.

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