Venezuela has said it will not extradite Arturo Cubillas, an
alleged top militant of the separatist group ETA. Spanish
authorities today moved toward an official request, which Hugo
Chavez is unlikely to support.
A standoff between Spain and Venezuela is heating up as Spanish
authorities move toward requesting the extradition of an alleged ETA
member working within the government of President Hugo Chavez.
Venezuela said last week it would not extradite Arturo Cubillas,
the Basque separatist group's alleged top militant in Latin America,
because local law does not allow extraditions of citizens. A
Spaniard, Mr. Cubillas became a naturalized citizen in 1993.
But the decision of Spain's prosecutor general to ask today for
the National Court to request the extradition underscores how
authorities are under pressure to act more forcefully against Mr.
Chavez. His defiance and ongoing refusal to cooperate with Spanish
authorities could ultimately trigger a powerful reaction from Europe
and the United States, including labeling the country a state
sponsor of terrorism, analysts say.
"If [the Spanish government] wanted to, it could pressure Europe
and its allies, including the US, to include Venezuela in the list
of state sponsors of terrorism," says Oscar Elia, an ETA expert with
the Madrid-based Strategic Studies Group who has written extensively
about the Basque group. "This could blow over if Chavez was more
helpful, but he doesn't even deny it. Instead he is defiant and
Chavez stonewalls investigation
The Spanish investigation, which dates to 2008, produced an
indictment in February alleging use of Venezuela as a training
ground for militants with ETA and Revolutionary Armed Forces of
Colombia (FARC). Both groups are labeled terrorist organizations by
the European Union and the United States.
The case "demonstrates Venezuelan governmental cooperation in the
illicit collaboration" of the two groups, which included explosive-
handling, intelligence sharing, and surface-to-air missile-training
seminars, the indictment said.
After months of stonewalling, Chavez on Oct. 11 opened a separate
case in Venezuela to investigate the allegations against Mr.
Cubillas. But he also dismissed them as fabrications orchestrated to
discredit his government. "Foolish words fall on deaf ears," he
Chavez is not new to accusations of harboring and abetting
terrorist groups. Colombia has accused him of arming, financially
aiding, and protecting FARC guerrillas. Washington has also on
several occasions voiced its suspicions and warned Chavez, but he
has always denied having anything more than ideological sympathies,
and no Western court case has challenged that.
"The ties between the FARC and ETA in Venezuela are increasingly
evident. But for Chavez it's a question of image," says Mr. Elia.
"He has taken over Cuba's role as the main exporter of revolutions
and he wants to uphold that, but this is serious because it involves
aiding international terrorism. …