White House censures Venezuelan officials for "narco-terrorist" ties
Days ahead of the release of a White House report singling out Venezuela for insufficient narcotics enforcement efforts, the US Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) accused four close allies of President Hugo Chávez of assisting Colombia's FARC guerillas. "Today's action exposes four Venezuelan government officials as key facilitators of arms, security, training and other assistance in support of the FARC's operations in Venezuela," said OFAC director Adam Szubin. "OFAC will continue to aggressively target the FARC's support structures in Venezuela and throughout the region."
The four are added to the "Foreign Narcotics Kingpins" list, and face economic sanctions in the US. They are named as: Amilcar Figueroa Salazar, a member of Venezuela's delegation to the Latin American Parliament; Gen. Cliver Alcala Cordones, commander of the Venezuelan army's 4th Armored Division; Freddy Bernal Rosales, a National Assembly member and former mayor of a district of Caracas; and Ramón Madriz Moreno, an officer in the National Bolivarian Intelligence Service (SEBIN). Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro dismissed the move as "part of the agenda of permanent aggression against Venezuela." Freddy Bernal tweeted in response to the move: "If they hope to frighten me with their gringo list, now more than ever I kneel down for Chávez and the revolution." (InSight Crime, Sept. 9; BBC News, Sept. 8)
Amost simultaneously, the Justice Department announced the indictment of an accused Colombia drug lord supposed to be working with the FARC. Daniel Barrera Barrera AKA "Loco Barrera" is said to operate in the eastern part of Colombia near the Venezuelan border, and remains at large. He was indicted in Miami on cocaine-smuggling conspiracy charges. The Colombian government has offered a $2.7 million reward for information leading to his capture. In March, the Treasury Department listed Barrera Barrera as a "specially designated narcotics trafficker." His two brothers—Javier Fernandez-Barrero and Orlando Fernandez-Barrero, AKA "Los Gorditos"—are in Colombian custody and awaiting extradition to Miami. (Miami Herald, Sept. 12)
The FARC meanwhile won some very unfavorable press in Colombia Sept. 16, when one of the guerillas' improvised "cylinder bombs" or "tatucos" killed a seven-year-old girl and injured eight others, five of them minors. Fighters from the FARC's 16th Front in southwestern Cauca department apparently launched the bomb in a skirmish with government troops at El Credo vereda (hamlet), Caloto municipality, and it landed in the community's schoolhouse. (Colombia Reports, LAHT, El País, Cali, Sept. 17; DPA, Sept. 16)