Otto J. Reich's Perspective:
The world has witnessed, through the eyes of courageous videographers and journalists, how Bashar al-Assad mercilessly targets Syrian women, children and other civilians for annihilation.
Assad’s Russian-made tanks and weapons have been seen obliterating entire neighborhoods and towns.
|Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is shown here on a 2009 visit to Syria.
But we know little about the enablers who provide Assad the weapons, the ammunition and the fuel that facilitates the Syrian genocide.
Recently, US Secretary of State Clinton pointed to the Russians as the source of some of the weapons. International intelligence has exposed the fundamentalist Iranian regime as a provider of arms and ammunition.
Now we have evidence that Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez has been sending millions of gallons of diesel fuel to his good friend al-Assad, whom he calls a “humanist” and a “brother.” Venezuelan state-owned ships have been transporting hundreds of thousands of barrels of diesel fuel to the ruthless Syrian Army. Assad’s killers move around the country assassinating civilians in vehicles fueled by Chavez.
At this very moment the Venezuelan oil carrier “Negra Hipolita” is being loaded in Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela, with more than 9 million gallons of ultra-low sulphur diesel bound for Syria’s port of Banias.
Soon this fuel will move the tanks and artillery that will pulverize innocent beings, adding to the 12,000 already cold-bloodedly exterminated by Assad “the Humanist.”
Chavez uses his own vessels because no self-respecting international shipping firm will transport fuel to Assad’s killing machine. There is another advantage, however: since he controls the entire voyage, from dock to dock, Chavez may be sending Assad military materiel hidden in the ships.
Just this month Chavez boasted that Venezuela is manufacturing thousands of the latest model of the iconic Russian AK-47 assault rifle, the AK-103.
Where are those weapons going?
Could it be that Chavez’s ships (that, incidentally, also call on U.S. ports carrying oil) are additionally transporting narcotics?
Narcotics trafficking has reached the highest levels of Chavez’s government; for example, Venezuela’s top military officer and Defense Minister, Henry Rangel Silva, has been designated as a Drug Kingpin by the US Department of Treasury, as have six other key generals and civilian officials of the government.
Western intelligence sources point to Chavez’ brother, Adan, the governor of the state of Barinas, as the head of the government-sponsored drug cartel in Venezuela.
Washington sources speculate that Adan Chavez is close to being designated by Treasury as the next Venezuelan drug-kingpin.
Chavez’s support for Assad comes as no surprise to anyone who knows his malevolent friends. Chavez sends 110,000 barrels of oil a day to the Fidel and Raul Castro dictatorship in Cuba, allowing the two communist dinosaurs to live like millionaires while their people starve; Chavez has hosted his “true brother,” Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, numerous times and signed many “cooperation” agreements, the secret provisions of which are known only to them.
US Intelligence officials have testified to the presence of Iranian Special Forces (al Quds) coming to and through Venezuela on their way to other countries in Latin America.
Chavez’s “best friends” are a who’s who of anti-American tyrants, including Russia’s autocratic Vladimir Putin and Belarus’ Alexander Lukashenko, known for his repressive tactics as “the last dictator of Europe.”
Chavez has also hailed Zimbabwe’s despotic Robert Mugabe, Bolivia’s President (and concurrently leader of the coca growers union) Evo Morales, and Ecuador’s abusive Rafael Correa.
Chavez’s affection for murderers is not limited to rulers. He has defended Uganda’s former dictator Idi Amin and the notorious “Carlos The Jackal,” currently serving a life sentence in France for murders committed in 1975, calling Carlos “not a terrorist” but a “key revolutionary fighter.”
Chavez's support for Assad follows his defense of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. Now that Assad is emulating Gaddafi by exterminating his own people, Chavez accuses Washington of fomenting the protests in Syria as a pretext for a Libya-style operation.
“Now some supposed political protest movements have begun (in Syria), a few deaths . . . and now they are accusing the president of killing his people and later the [Americans] will come to bomb the people to save them,” Chavez said in a televised speech, referring to Assad as our “brother . . . a humanist, doctor, educated in London, in no way an extremist; he is a man of great human sensitivity.”
Chavez’s material support of Assad cannot be tolerated by the West. On June 19 a Russian ship to Syria was stopped mid voyage when its insurance policy was cancelled.
It was found that to be carrying attack helicopters and weapons to Syria in violation of EU sanctions. Chavez’s fuel aid to Assad is just as lethal to the people of Syria. Why is it not in violation of EU sanctions?
Cancelling the Russian vessel’s insurance was the moral thing to do. The same should be done with Venezuela’s oil carriers. Without Chavez’s diesel Assad’s tanks and artillery will fall silent, and the people of Syria will remember who was on their side in their moment of need.
Otto J. Reich is a former U.S. assistant secretary of state for the western hemisphere, U.S. ambassador to Venezuela and senior staff member of the National Security Council. He is a consultant in Washington.
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