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Chavez’s Secret Nuclear Program

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez admitted last week that his government is "carrying out the first studies" of a nuclear program. He attempted to portray it as an innocuous program designed solely for peaceful purposes.

On Sept. 21, I held a briefing for journalists and regional experts where I revealed for the first time information about Chavez's nuclear program and his troubling and substantial collaboration with Iran. This research -- conducted during the past 12 months by a team of experts who analyzed sensitive material obtained from sources within the Venezuelan regime -- paints a far darker picture of Chavez's intentions.

Chávez has been developing the program for two years with the collaboration of Iran, a nuclear rogue state. In addition to showing the two states' cooperation on nuclear research, these documents suggest that Venezuela is helping Iran obtain uranium and evade international sanctions, all steps that are apparent violations of the U.N. Security Council resolutions meant to forestall Iran's illegal nuclear weapons program.

Chávez's suggestion that he is merely studying the idea of a nuclear energy program is misleading. In fact, in November 2008, Iranian and Venezuelan officials signed a secret "science and technology" agreement formalizing cooperation "in the field of nuclear technology." (The text of the agreement, available in Farsi and Spanish, is available here.) The week after the agreement was signed, Venezuela's Ministry of Energy and Petroleum prepared a presentation for the International Atomic Energy Agency documenting the establishment of a "nuclear power programme" in Venezuela. That presentation, obtained from sources within the Venezuelan government, reveals that an "Atomic Energy Committee" has been managing the nuclear program since 2007.

Roger F. Noriega was U.S. ambassador to the Organization of American States from 2001 to 2003 and U.S. assistant secretary of state for the Western Hemisphere from 2003 to 2005. He is a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and managing director of Visión Américas LLC, which represents U.S. and foreign clients.

The above article was published in foreignpolicy.com on October 5th, 2010.

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