CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY Office of Current Intelligence3
CURRENT INTELLIGENCE MEMORANDUM
SUBJECT: Terrorism in Venezuela
The Nature of the Threat
Intensive torrorist activity continues to threaton the stability of the Betancourt government, and if not soon checked could undermine democratic government in Venezuela. The terroristshreefold objective. By weakening public confidence in democratic processes, they hope to reduce popular participation in the national election, which must be held no later Secondly, they hope to provoke the government Into strongmeasures, thereby giving substance to their claim that it is dictatorial. Finally, they believe that thenability to control terrorismtempt military leaders tooup against Betancourt, which the Communists would attempt to exploit to gain Influence.
major threat is from Communistforces hoping to reshape Venezuelalines of Castro's Cuba. These forces areln the National Liberation Front (FLN)FALN, its paramilitary subsidiary. Thegroups which participate ln the FLN, mostMovement of the Revolutionary Left (MIR),terrorist activities on their own. The
FLN at times engages ln tactical alliances with rightist plotters.
terrorists are resourceful and If limited ln numbers. The FALNaximumerrorists inlsewhere in the country,in rural-based guerrilla bands. For themembors are recruited from among urban youth.
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In May and it was reported that the FALN terrorists had decided to concentrate on attacking US interests because they felt they were alienating themselves from the masses by attacking Venezuelan targets. Although there have been some attacks on bridges, on gas and oil lines, and on Venezuelan police and military personnel, theof the terrorist activities have been against American targets. They havo, however, refrained from personal violence to US officials.
Recently, however, the terrorists have turned to political targets, and oneptember attempted to breakooting of Betancourt's Democratic Action (AD) party ln Caracas held to observe thed anniversary. They exploded home-made bombs in various parts of the city, strewed tacks downtown to puncture tires, burned cars and carried out hit-and-run shootings. These incidents failed to disrupt the AD rally completely, but attendance was only about half of what had been expected.
FALN spokesmen have several times Indicated their Intention to kidnap the US Ambassador andother US Embassy personnel. There have been several reports that such acts are in fact being planned. Since July, the government has furnished special security guards for the Ambassador and senior embassy officers.
7. To date, the government's attempts to control urban violence have met with limited success. The US embassy reports that officials "from theon down" areware that this is causing increasing public exasperation and unrest in the armod forces. Rumors are widespread that thoplans to take new and strongor measures soon. It haslan to begin searches for arms and to commission andpecial police guard force. In August, Betancourt setnified police command over tbe several Independent security and police forces in Caracas. Theof this measure is as yet unclear, but it is unlikely toomplete answer.
of the difficulty is that localare far from efficient, and the courtsto nete out swift and adequate punishmentacts. Known terrorists move about theCaracas with apparent impunity, and the police
io some Instances have taken no action to repel FALN attacks. Ultimately, however, the root of the matter is that Betancourt has failed to order effective steps to be taken to curb the terrorists, partly because of electoral considerations.
the face of terrorist efforts tothe impotence of the government prior toelections, the administration ispreserve its popularity aid enhance its voter
Betancourt is ineligible forThe lineup of candidates and partiesupcoming election to choose his successor has
not yet solidified. Parties may change their nominees until one month before the election. Even when the final lineup is known, assessment of electionwill be difficult because there has been no electoral test of voter trends since8 victory. In fact, one-third of the electorate will be comprised of new voters or of old voters who,ave movedural to an urban environment and whose attitudes may have changed. It is difficult to anticipate the relative influence of such factors as party loyalties, candidateand campaign issues. Should the threeanti-Betancourt candidates Join forces for the election, the opposition would probably win thc election.
attitude of the military probablyto be the key to the survival ofgovernment. The possibility of ato prevent the president-elect from takingcannot be ruled out, althoughovelikely only in the caseandidate whosupport of the extreme left or who ls thoughttoo weak to take action against the FALN.
are several small groups ofofficers who persist in plotting againstsome from concern over theto contain the terrorists, others outpique. Responsible military leaders,recognize the need for continuing toconstitution and to serve loyally undergovernment,
domestic policy is to walk
a narrow line. He must attempt to contain terrorist activities without exposing his government to the charge that he is using unduly repressive measures. He must be sufficiently forceful in his dealings with the FALN to retain the confidence of the people and the loyalty of the military. Above all, as he sees it, he mustree election late3 and turn the government over to electedin