- By Joshua Keating
Joshua Keating is associate editor at Foreign Policy and the editor of the Passport blog. He has worked as a researcher, editorial assistant, and deputy Web editor since joining the FP staff in 2007. In addition to being featured in Foreign Policy, his writing has been published by the Washington Post, Newsweek International, Radio Prague, the Center for Defense Information, and Romania's Adevarul newspaper. He has appeared as a commentator on CNN International, C-Span, ABC News, Al Jazeera, NPR, BBC radio, and others. A native of Brooklyn, New York, he studied comparative politics at Oberlin College.
Not sure if Florida Representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Connie Mack’s proposal to add Venezuela to the list of countries whose travelers will require extra scrutiny to enter the United States will go anywhere, but I was interested to see the FARC-al Qaeda alliance meme (I’ve been recently informed that the proper term is "El Qaeda") being used in Congress:
For her part, Rep. Ros-Lehtinen cited DEA reports that demonstrate a Venezuelan connection in a new alliance formed between the FARC and al Qaeda, in which the oil producing nation plays the part of a “massive airport for the use of the traffickers.”
“It is no surprise that Hugo Chávez allows Venezuela to serve as a massive airport for the use of traffickers. In fact the DEA has said that all the planes captured in West Africa left from Venezuela,” Ros-Lehtinen said.
She explained that the recent arrest of three African agents of al Qaeda after a drug smuggling operation showed a new panorama of cooperation between Islamic extremist groups and those of South American narco-guerrillas.
“Groups like the FARC are finding new ways to sell drugs in Europe by means of al Qaeda in Africa. And al Qaeda is more than willing to use the drug trade to help finance its extremist agenda,” Ros-Lehtinen said.
As I wrote earlier this week, the arrest of the three Africans, whose relationship to al Qaeda is still somewhat unclear, did not show a "new panorama" of anything. The men were arrested for making a deal with a DEA agent who was posing as a representative of FARC. Unless there’s some unreported evidence, it’s far from clear the al Qaeda and FARC are actually in cahoots.
Again, I’m not saying that the potential for such a partnership isn’t there, but I wish that lawmakers would stop viewing this arrest as proof of a grand trans-Atlantic axis of evil.