It was Obama himself who noted soon after his election that Chavez is providing support to the narco-terrorist group FARC in neighboring Colombia. FARC has conducted a reign of terror in Colombia and also plays a major role in funneling drugs to the United States. In the past decade since coming to power, Chavez has obstructed all U.S. efforts to fight drug traffickers, banned overflights by Drug Enforcement Agency aircraft and provided safe haven for FARC leaders. According to U.S. News and World Report, "It is no coincidence that during Chavez's presidency, Venezuela has turned into a major conduit for the transshipment of cocaine. Despite FARC's killing of thousands of civilians and its continued holding of 700 hostages, among them Venezuelans, the oil-rich Chavez government confessed its direct support for and solidarity with the region's most notorious terrorist group."
Chavez is mimicking his hero Castro in other ways. In his jails you can find people whose only crime was to oppose the regime. Humberto Quintero was arrested in 2005 for capturing a senior FARC leader. Francisco Uson was sentenced to five and a half years for making public comments about human rights violations in Venezuela. Opposition television stations have lost their licenses, and opposition newspapers have been closed.
Chavez is also leading, directing and encouraging state-sponsored harassment of Venezuela's tiny Jewish community. Venezuela has a 200-year history of benevolent treatment of its Jewish minority. Chavez has changed all that and aroused real fear. Synagogues have been attacked, desecrated and vandalized, their buildings spray painted with epithets like "Death to Israel. Get out Jews." Half the Jewish population has fled since Chavez came to power.
During the war between Israel and Hamas last year, government media outlets maintained a steady campaign of vituperation against Israel and against the Jews of Venezuela. A government newspaper suggested confiscating the property of Venezuelan Jews who supported Israel and distributing it to Palestinians, denouncing Venezuelan Jews in public, and boycotting Jewish-owned businesses. The Cardinal of Venezuela, Jorge Urosa, has been outspoken on behalf of Venezuela's Jews, as was the Papal Nuncio, who last year had a hand grenade lobbed onto his property for his trouble.
All of that should have been in President Obama's mind before he extended that friendly grin and handshake. It's not that he endangered national security. Rather, he diminished his own moral standing and, by extension, ours.
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