Opinion: Chavez’s Bolivarian Alliance Social Movements, A Front for Terrorism?

In March of 2011, and in response to President Obama’s trip through Latin America, President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela visited Cochabamba, Bolivia. During a large rally held with ideological ally Evo Morales, both presidents called for the reinforcing of the social movements as a mechanism to strengthen the Bolivarian Alliance of the Americas (ALBA).  

The ALBA, for those who don’t know, is President Chávez’s plan for a regional confederation of Latin American countries to counter the power of the United States

According to the ALBA’s website, the organizational structure for this confederation consists of a presidential council, with four technical councils: social, economic, political, and social movements.  

Narciso Isa Conde, president of the Bolivarian Continental Movement (formerly CCB), one of the ALBA social movements stated, “The ALBA assertively created its Council of Social Movements with the same ranking (within the hierarchy) as the council of ministers. That demonstrates an integration project that goes beyond simply the state or commerce." 

"That is very positive and the MCB should give support and seek participation in the Council of Social Movements and in extra-governmental projects supported by the ALBA," he continued. "While more support and participation the people give to the ALBA, much better will that formidable integration mechanism be.”

Yet what is Isa Conde’s MCB, that it is seeking leadership in the yet-to-be-formed Council of Social Movements? E-mails obtained from the computer of FARC commander Raúl Reyes after he was killed shine light on this Bolivarian Social Movement. 

According to the e-mails, the MCB was originally the idea of well known FARC leader Iván Márquez. Márquez stated that the FARC could use the MCB (then CCB) as cover to open an office in Caracas, ostensibly to liaise with President Chávez and other revolutionaries present in Caracas. 

President Chávez has made no secret of his relationship with Márquez, and even hosted him very publicly in Miraflores, the Venezuelan equivalent of the White House. Márquez bragged that the office would be “a space for engagement between leaders, promoters and organizers of the Latin American left, including insurgent groups, to combat neo-liberalism and forge an interaction of the ideological principals of Marxism-Bolivarianism.”  

The office set up by the CCB in Caracas is located in the Tacagua building of Parque Central, where there are many Venezuelan government offices and think tanks and near the ALBA Hotel, a Hilton seized by the Bolivarians for public functions.

Of the many activities of the MCB, one is the periodic hosting of what they call the “Bolivarian Congress of the People.” The First Continental Bolivarian Congress took place in Caracas in August 2005.  There, according to Márquez, FARC rebels had the opportunity to meet with two Australian arms dealers in the CCB offices in Tacagua. 

The Second Continental Bolivarian Congress was organized in Quito, Ecuador, in February 2008. The event kicked off with a video-taped message from Reyes, the FARC leader. According to reports from Ecuadorian Intelligence passed to the Spanish Intelligence services, two important ETA leaders were also present at this event. Walter Wendelin and Inaki Gil de San Vicente, leaders of the Basque terrorist group’s Latin America wing, Askapena, used the conference to hold side meetings with FARC leaders also present (including, allegedly, Márquez). 

In addition, Peruvian Roque González la Rosa, who had served time in a Peruvian prison for his support to the MRTA, a Peruvian terrorist organization, was allegedly there. 

Roque was re-arrested by the Peruvian police upon returning from the Congress to Perú, along with 15 other travelers, for providing material support to the FARC, allegedly facilitating a payment from a source in Caracas for 10 people to visit the Congress. 

Five Mexican participants to the meeting were killed, along with Reyes, after having traveled from the Congress to Reyes’ FARC base in the Ecuadorian jungle – where it was bombed by the Colombian military.

Isa Conde freely admits to being a friend to the FARC. He says he has traveled many times to visit the FARC in Colombia, and agrees that the FARC is an active member of the MCB. The fact that Chávez and the Bolivarian Alliance (ALBA) continue to engage and actively support the FARC is no longer even a thinly veiled secret. 

Why this is permitted is baffling enough. However, to allow Chávez to use social movements as a cover to facilitate the interaction of groups such as ETA, MRTA and FARC terrorists cannot be allowed. 

The Obama administration should begin to take a harder look at the ALBA infrastructure that Chávez is setting up across the continent. As a first step, the Bolivarian Continental Movement (and all its members) should be placed on OFAC. 

To allow terrorists to freely hold court so close to the United States is unacceptable. To do so under the cover of “social justice” should offend our humanitarian spirit. It is high time that those who still defend Chávez’s antics to take a hard look at what he is really up to – they may be surprised by what they find out.

Joel D. Hirst is an International Affairs Fellow in Residence at the Council of Foreign Relations. You can reach him at jhirst@cfr.org, www.twitter.com/joelhirst, and www.joelhirst.com.

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