Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
03CARACAS2865
2003-08-22 18:43:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Caracas
Cable title:  

WILL THE REAL FBL PLEASE STAND UP?

Tags:  PGOV PINR PTER VE 
pdf how-to read a cable
R 221843Z AUG 03
FM AMEMBASSY CARACAS
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 2646
INFO AMEMBASSY BOGOTA
AMEMBASSY BRASILIA
AMEMBASSY LA PAZ
AMEMBASSY LIMA
AMEMBASSY QUITO
NSC WASHDC
USCINCSO MIAMI FL
C O N F I D E N T I A L CARACAS 002865 


NSC FOR TSHANNON
USCINCSO ALSO FOR POLAD
USAID DCHA/OTI FOR RPORTER

E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/03/2013
TAGS: PGOV PINR PTER VE
SUBJECT: WILL THE REAL FBL PLEASE STAND UP?

REF: A. CARACAS 01261

B. CARACAS 02520

C. CARACAS 02233

D. CARACAS 01567

E. CARACAS 02586

Classified By: AMBASSADOR CHARLES S. SHAPIRO FOR REASONS 1.5 (B) AND (D)

-------
Summary
-------
C O N F I D E N T I A L CARACAS 002865


NSC FOR TSHANNON
USCINCSO ALSO FOR POLAD
USAID DCHA/OTI FOR RPORTER

E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/03/2013
TAGS: PGOV PINR PTER VE
SUBJECT: WILL THE REAL FBL PLEASE STAND UP?

REF: A. CARACAS 01261

B. CARACAS 02520

C. CARACAS 02233

D. CARACAS 01567

E. CARACAS 02586

Classified By: AMBASSADOR CHARLES S. SHAPIRO FOR REASONS 1.5 (B) AND (D)

--------------
Summary
--------------

1. (C) An August 8 Bolivarian Liberation Forces (FBL) press
release asserted that the group defended Venezuela's
sovereignty by attacking the Colombian National Liberation
Army (ELN) July 31. Tachira state media, ranchers, and law
enforcement officials told poloff August 5 and 6 that the
expanding FBL are mostly to blame for an increase in
kidnappings, which are becoming more violent, political, and
urban, while opposition leaders allege links between the GOV
and the FBL. Pro-GOV National Assembly Deputy Luis Tascon
denied any GOV/FBL connection to poloff August 13. End
Summary.

--------------
Where's the love? ELN Feuding with FBL
--------------


2. (C) In an August 8 press release, the Bolivarian
Liberation Forces (FBL) confirmed that its troops battled an
ELN column July 31 to "defend Venezuelan territory" in
western Apure state. They claimed the battle resulted in one
wounded FBL fighter and five ELN casualties. The FBL rejected
the allegation by unidentified military sources in an August
10 La Nacion story that "this battle is a product of a
territorial dispute (for) extortion fees from Apure, Tachira,
and Barinas ranchers." The release also claimed the ELN is
blaming their kidnappings on the FBL and making alliances
with "enemies of the Bolivarian revolutionary process," such
as Apure Governor Luis Lippa, San Cristobal Mayor William
Mendez, and Guasdualito Mayor Jesus Rojas. The accused
officials have denied the claim. Lippa told all-news channel
Globovision August 11 that he suspected the charges were
"smoke and mirrors."


3. (C) San Cristobal Police Chief Leonardo Iribarren told
poloff August 6 that terrorist groups had previously
respected each others turf as "leftist brothers," but this
respect is breaking down, largely the fault of the FBL's
"disregard for business." La Nacion newspaper president Max
Vasquez asserted the animosity springs from an increasingly
cozy FBL relationship with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of

Colombia (FARC) and FBL intrusion into the ELN's extortion,
kidnapping, and black market ventures. Vasquez claimed
Colombian groups resent the attention the FBL's increased and
sloppy kidnappings are generating. Tachira Businessman and
Democratic Coordinating Committee (DCC) leader David Rubio
told poloff August 5 that trouble has been brewing between
the ELN and FBL at least since December. The assassination of
GOV-aligned Fatherland For All (PPT) party and alleged FBL
leader Jorge Nieves April 26 was payback for cutting into the
ELN's black market gasoline trade, according to Rubio (ref
A).

--------------
The FBL's Expanding Network
--------------


4. (C) Vasquez said conflicts among terrorist groups are
inevitable as the FBL grows in strength and operational area.
He estimated the core group of 2,000 to 3,000 based in south
Tachira and west Apure states is being augmented by a new
group of at least 30 to 40 around the La Fria/La Grita area.
(Note: FBL size is wildly speculated. DAO sources have
estimates ranging from 200 to 2,000.) Machiques Mayor Alfonso
Marquez told poloff August 6 the FARC and a new FBL group are
in the early stages of partnership to transport drugs across
the border near Machiques, Zulia state. He said the FARC
established a cocaine laboratory last year on the Venezuelan
side of the border that is operated at least partially by the
FBL. He explained that Colombian military success was
beginning to force a small amount of the FARC's narcotic
refinement and production across the border.

--------------
FBL: New Kidnappers on the Block
--------------


5. (C) Vasquez said more kidnappings had occurred in Tachira
by August 4 (32) than all of 2003 (29). He claimed the FBL is
rightfully receiving the blame for the increase, adding that
troubling trends in kidnapping methods have accompanied the
new group's three year ascent:
--Political motives. The highly publicized July 25 kidnapping
of former Tachira Governor and Christian Democrat (COPEI)
leader Sergio Omar Calderon was a political, not an economic,
crime, he asserted (ref B). Vasquez said at least three other
kidnappings during the past year may also be politically
motivated because victims had political connections and owned
only small farms, not the large estate ranches that are
typical targets. He suspected a deliberate attempt to "send a
signal" that no member of old order is safe.
--Proximity to cities. Most kidnappings still occur in remote
locations, but an increasing number are occurring closer to
cities, even within city limits.
--Disguised. Dario Brillenburg was kidnapped from Zulia July
31 after his driver stopped for a police check. Terrorists
disguised as National Guardsmen beat the driver and took
Brillenburg. Police uniforms have also been used.


6. (C) Association of Tachira Ranchers (ASOGATA) President
Genaro Mendez told poloff August 6 that ranchers used to pay
extortion to a single group, but now many pay multiple groups
and still get kidnapped. Another kidnapping trend is for
common criminals to impersonate terrorist groups (Similar to
an alleged scam in Apure, ref C). The National Guard and
CICPC uncovered a ploy masterminded by a rancher's secretary
to extort 12 million Bolivars using the name of fictitious
FARC commander, according to Mendez. Police Chief Iribarren
said extortions and kidnappings were largely confined to
large ranchers out of his jurisdiction, but over the past
three years San Cristobal businesses had been increasingly
targeted with the advent of the FBL.

--------------
Alleged Links to GOV
--------------


7. (C) Vasquez and Tachira DCC leaders asserted that the GOV
has links with the FBL. They claimed, for example, that the
FBL is using a farm between Coloncito and La Tendida that is
allegedly visited by high-ranking GOV officials as a training
camp. DCC leader Jose Luis Rincon alleged that Infrastructure
Minister Diosdado Cabello purchased the farm with state funds
from Banco Industrial de Venezuela through an intermediary
two years ago. GOV-aligned National Assembly Deputy Luis
Tascon (MVR) vehemently denied any government support of the
FBL to poloff August 13. He demanded "liars trying to provoke
a coup" produce evidence of supposed FBL connections. He said
if any links exist with individual GOV officials, they are
not reflective of the GOV or President Chavez's Fifth
Republic Movement (MVR) party, which "do not recognize or
respect any irregular military group." Tascon said he could
not speak for the pro-GOV PPT party.

--------------
Comment
--------------


8. (C) Increasingly active and publicized, the FBL is making
it difficult for GOV officials to deny its existence. It is,
however, a group whose nascent and illicit character make it
difficult to define from basics as to its size to definition
of alleged links to the GOV of the FARC.
Shapiro


NNNN