Terrorist Violence in Venezuela linked to drug lord Alvaro Uribe

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Lorent Saleh carrying a weapon. Courtesy of El Tiempo

Venezuelan authorities have revealed in recent weeks a series of videos which show how extremist right wing groups in that country were planning to carry out terrorist acts to destabilize the Bolivarian Revolution.

This material demonstrates the support of former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe Velez as well as other senators and military personnel of that country to these extremist groups as well as it highlights that these right wing actors also seek to extend their reach against countries with progressive governments in Latin America, being Ecuador their closest target, a country that in recent weeks has also experienced a number of violent acts by right wing groups.

One of those involved in Venezuela is Antonio Ledezma, the opposition Mayor of Distrito Capital (the capital of the country), one of the leaders of “The Way Out” operation which sought to violently overthrow Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, causing the death of at least 43 people across the country in recent months.

The Minister of Interior, Justice and Peace of Venezuela, Miguel Rodriguez Torres, has made public four videos since September 15 to this date where three young Venezuelans explain their violent plans through videoconferencing. Lorent Saleh, a member of Operación Libertad (Operation Freedom), an extremist right wing group which operates under the guise of a non-governmental organization (NGO) stands out among these youths. Saleh was deported to Venezuela last September 4 by Colombian authorities after being in that country for months.

In these videos, Lorent Saleh explained that he had secured 10 snipers, who were each going to be paid a high amount of dollars to carry out assassinations in Caracas and other states with the aim of blaming the Venezuelan government for these deaths.

It is presumed that the snipers would act in a similar way than those hired guns recruited by the coup-plotters who opened fire against Chavez supporters and opposition marches during the rallies leading to the coup against President Hugo Chavez in April 2002. Those killings served as an excuse for the military high command to revolt accusing the president of causing these deaths.

One of the videos shows that the leader of Operation Freedom was planning the selective assassination of 20 targets (people) within 48 hours, in line with the directives of Henry López Sisco, former commissioner of the defunct national security police of Venezuela DISIP (Spanish acronym), and of Nestor Gonzalez Gonzalez, military coup-plotter (April 2002), after a meeting in Costa Rica.

The aim of this plot was to murder those who, according to them, mobilized Chavez supporters to the streets in defense of their rights and against the barricades set in some parts of the country from February to May of this year.

In one of the videos, Lorent Saleh states that the set objectives had been proposed after they realized that they would not be able to assassinate Jose Vielma Mora, the governor of Tachira (state bordering Colombia where the “guarimbas”1 had been organized), or Diosdado Cabello, the president of the National Assembly of Venezuela.

Another video shows that the plans for San Cristobal, the capital city of the state of Tachira included the blowing up of the premises of an insurance company, a parking lot with heavy fuel carrying vehicles, the gubernatorial building and a state financial institution.

Links to Alvaro Uribe and some Colombian sectors

Some of the videos obtained from Lorent Saleh originated from the city of Bucaramanga, Colombia, in which it is noted that “meetings were conducted with Colombian military personnel to plan terrorist acts in Venezuela which were later analyzed in Bogota between Saleh, Uribe, other senators and individuals involved in these plans.”

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Drug lord Alvaro Uribe and Lorent Saleh

Saleh also affirmed that through these groups he was able to secure passports of Colombian and other nationalities “to get people out of the country” (Colombia), in order to place them in Venezuela.

This young man also stated that the actions had been delayed to allow for the presidential elections in Colombia, conducted between this past May and June, to be completed because according to Saleh “it would not be the same to carry out (these actions) with (Juan Manuel) Santos (as President) than with (Oscar Ivan) Zuluaga” the candidate supported by Uribe. Saleh is also seen clearly expressing how much easier it would be to work from Colombia if Uribe were in command.

According to the newspaper El Tiempo, some of the photographs released by this written media show Lorent Saleh and Gabriel Valles (another individual present in the videos) carrying weapons and army fatigue uniforms, only permitted to be worn by the armed forces of that country, which brings to the table the question of what contacts these individuals had within the Colombian army that enabled them access to these items.

Similarly, at the time of Saleh’s deportation in early September, Colombian senators Jose Gaviria, Mauricio Lizcano along with Alvaro Uribe, who can be seen in pictures with Saleh, criticized the decision of the Colombian authorities and of that country’s President Juan Manuel Santos, who was accused of conspiring with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

However, Saleh’s ties are not confined to his known relations with Colombian politicians, but he has also been involved in scandals for his participation in meetings with Colombian Neo-Nazi groups such as the Alianza Nacionalista por la Libertad (Nationalist Alliance for Freedom) and Tercera Fuerza (Third Force).

Saleh, the weakest link in the chain

The reaction of like-minded Colombian and Venezuelan political actors to the deportation of Saleh and his associates was swift as they immediately expressed solidarity with these men, who are now charged with conspiracy.

However, as days pass and more evidence comes to light, these incriminated individuals are finding themselves abandoned, to the extent that any right wing actor in both countries have refrained from uttering another word on this matter, denying even any links with these men, accusing them of being violent and of being on the wrong side of the “democratic plans” of the Venezuelan opposition.

Currently, Lorent Saleh and Gabriel Valle, deported from Colombia as well as Ronny Navarro, have been accused by the Public Prosecutor’s Office of Venezuela of conspiring to incite rebellion, which can cost them from 12 to 24 years in prison. Nevertheless, the Venezuelan authorities remain alert to destabilization plans, not only against Venezuela but against all of Latin America. Plans in which these young people are just the weakest link in the chain, a link that is currently serving as a scapegoat for whom would surely had supported violence if these plans had not been discovered in time.

  • The so-called guarimbas are a form of violent protest, characterized by small groups of people who block streets with barricades. This method has been used by the Venezuelan opposition on several occasions, the most recent one being during the first half of this year, which caused dozens of deaths.