Editorial: Venezuela a Terrorism Sponsor?

November 26, 2018 at 5:40 AM
The Trump administration has spent the last two years making up for two full terms of the Obama administration’s naive optimism in Venezuela. Trump officials have named Venezuela as one of three Latin American totalitarian regimes; sanctioned Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro, his wife, and others in his inner circle; called on the regime to release its political prisoners and hold free and fair elections; and authorized sanctions on its gold sector. 
Now the administration is reportedly considering another option: designating Venezuela as a state sponsor of terrorism. The designation has been used by successive administrations to call out regimes that repeatedly support international terrorism—directly funding terror groups, providing terrorists with safe haven, or turning a blind eye to terror activities. In some cases, like that of Iran, terror support is open and aggressive. In Venezuela’s case it is less transparent but no less real. 
The Venezuelan dictatorship’s economy and health system have imploded. Millions have fled amid a spiraling humanitarian crisis. Maduro, like his predecessor Hugo Chávez, has continued allowing terror groups to operate there while the country descends into chaos. Much of this has come in the form of narcoterrorism, in which the proceeds from drug trafficking are used to bolster terror activities. Involvement in drug trafficking appears routine for officials in Caracas: Venezuela’s own former vice president Tareck El Aissami is a designated drug trafficking kingpin and is suspected of terror ties. 
The State Department has said in its yearly terror reports that Venezuela is not cooperating fully with U.S. counterrorism efforts. Indeed, as noted by Florida senator Marco Rubio, Venezuela has turned a blind eye to senior government officials who were sanctioned by the U.S. for aiding in the drug trafficking activities of the FARC. State Department officials have also said that Venezuela’s porous border with Colombia creates a “permissive environment” for terror groups. That includes the FARC and the National Liberation Army (ELN). Even if Venezuela has lost the resources it had under Chávez—resources that very likely bolstered its alliance with Iran—it still has property to lend to terrorists looking for safe haven. Venezuela’s ties to Hezbollah, which uses Latin America as a funding base, are also well-documented. El Aissami, for instance, is suspected of issuing passports to members of the Iran proxy. 
Designating Venezuela a sponsor of terrorism is the next logical step in the Trump administrations’ sanctions regime. It will force those companies that have chosen to continue doing business in Venezuela to finally reckon with the nature of the regime and consider whether it’s worth the reputational risk to maintain economic ties. It could allow for a range of new sanctions as well as restrictions on U.S. assistance to Venezuela—though the administration could still use waivers to ensure continued humanitarian aid to the Venezuelan people. 
The designation is no substitute for the only policy guaranteed to bring the Maduro regime down: a full embargo on oil. And it’s true that successive U.S. administrations have used the designation inconsistently: Why, for example, is Russia not on the list?But the point of classifying states as terrorism sponsors isn’t simply to classify rogue regimes correctly. The state sponsor designation is a political and diplomatic tool intended to impair a malign government. If there’s a good reason the U.S. shouldn’t use that tool against Nicholás Mauro’s Venezuela, we haven’t heard it.

Source: https://www.weeklystandard.com/the-editors/should-trump-designate-nicolas-maduros-venezuela-as-a-terrorism-sponsor


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