Venezuela: Terrorist links at the Immigration Department
President Hugo Chávez’ administration has been linked to guerrilla
movements and terrorist activities, mainly radical Arab groups in the Middle
East. The most recent accusation comes from an investigative report conducted
for the Miami Herald by Phil Gunson, president of the Foreign Press Association
The starting point of the investigation was the appointments of Hugo Cabezas, aged 38, and Tarek el-Aissami, 28, as director and assistant director of the DIEX (Identification and Immigration Office) two months ago. According to Gunson, the appointments came as a surprise precisely because of the ties that both officers have with radical guerrilla movements at Universidad de Los Andes (ULA) and el-Aisammi’s possible ties with radical movements in the Middle East.
It is said that both Cabezas and el-Aissami have fostered the presence of urban guerrillas in cahoots with the governor of Mérida, Florencio Porras, for whom Cabezas worked as secretary until last July. Cabezas was a founder member of Utopia, an armed group that has connections with the Bolivarian Liberation Front.
El-Aissami, a Venezuelan whose father is Syrian, was president of the ULA’s students union for two years up until July this year, when he failed to get reelected. Apparently, he had managed to get members of the guerilla installed in the student residences during this time. According to Gunson, of the 1,122 people living in one of the ULA’s residences, only 387 are active students and more than 600 have nothing to do with the university.
El-Aissami had political control of the residences, which were used to hide stolen vehicles and conduct drug deals. In addition, the people living there would use balaclavas to commit crimes on the streets.
As though that were not enough, el-Aissami’s father is the head of the Venezuelan branch of the Iraqi political party Baath, while his great-uncle Shibli el-Aissami was a prominent ideologist and assistant to the party’s secretary general in Baghdad during the Saddam Hussein administration. Guson points out that Tarek el-Aissami was unwilling to give a statement to the Miami Herald.
The DIEX, the agency in charge of issuing identity cards and passports, has been put into the hands of radicals with terrorist connections precisely at a time when Venezuela is at the gates of a revocatory referendum against President Chávez and a number of deputies. It seems quite clear that the government intends to commit fraud in order to derail the referendum initiative.