The regime of Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro failed the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force’s (CFATF) latest mutual evaluation report, which described the country’s actions in the fight against money laundering and terrorism financing as “deficient.”
The CFATF is a multilateral institution that brings together 24 countries of the region, whose purpose is to supervise compliance with measures for the prevention of money laundering, the financing of terrorism, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
“[In Venezuela] there is no commitment in the fight against money laundering and the financing of terrorism,” Alí Daniels, director of the Venezuelan nongovernmental organization (NGO) Acceso a la Justicia, told Diálogo on October 8. “The CFATF report expressly indicates that groups classified as terrorists operate in the country, such as the National Liberation Army [ELN], and dissidents of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia [FARC], known as Nueva Marquetalia and Ejército Popular.”
For the rating measuring the effectiveness in complying with recommendations, Venezuela got the lowest scores in 10 out of 11 categories and in the remaining one it only achieved a “moderate” result. The executive summary states, for example, that Venezuela lacks a policy on the confiscation of assets and capital from organized crime.
Despite its efforts, the CFATF was unable to get Venezuela to provide any information on investigations and sanctions in specific cases of terrorism financing. Neither did the Maduro regime provided information on international cooperation plans.
“The evaluation team did not get information on interinstitutional and international cooperation, the activity of the specialized anti-terrorist services and their analysis of the current situation regarding terrorism and its financing in the country, the education and training of the officials of the competent bodies and entities in charge of identification and investigation,” the document states.
“The [Maduro] regime does not recognize that this is a problem. The first thing they have to do is to recognize that there is indeed the presence of terrorist groups in Venezuela and that they will take measures to prevent this from becoming something more serious,” Daniels said. “I don’t think that’s going to change, because it would embarrass the country.”
The Maduro regime has traditionally been sympathetic to Colombian guerrilla groups, taking on the role of accompanying the FARC in the negotiations for the peace agreement in Havana, in 2016.
Subsequently, in July 2023, it assumed the same role in the talks between the government of Gustavo Petro and the ELN. According to Rocio San Miguel, director of the Venezuelan NGO Control Ciudadano, this proximity causes the Venezuelan military to turn a “blind eye” to ELN actions in Venezuelan territory. “Tolerance to these irregular groups is a state policy. Unfortunately, I don’t believe that they will change,” Daniels added.
According to CFATF, the Venezuelan dictatorship’s lack of action against international terrorist groups contrasts with its attitude toward NGOs, which are making efforts to mitigate the effects of the humanitarian emergency on the country’s population.
The Maduro regime qualified these institutions as generally “high risk” in terms of terrorism financing. “This conclusion is not based on an in-depth study of the sector,” the report indicated.
According to Carlos Tablante, former president of the Venezuelan National Commission against the Illicit Use of Drugs (currently the National Anti-Drug Superintendence), the norms on organized crime and financing of terrorism are used by the regime to “criminalize dissidence.”
“Instead of profiling, for example, bingos and casinos and subjecting them to compliance for their economic activity […], they persecute NGOs or non-profit organizations,” he told Diálogo.
Claudia Guadamuz, representative of the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law, agreed. On August 23, she told the press that the Venezuelan regime’s measures against NGOs are “excessive and unjustified” because they are not based on a risk assessment of the sector in terms of terrorism financing.
Tablante observed that there is a similarity in the treatment of these organizations by authoritarian regimes in Latin America.
“They take these anti-money laundering regulations and instead of pursuing the criminals, the international drug trafficking bosses, they pursue civil society and community organizations that are formed as NGOs to carry out some activity to promote culture, environmental protection, or civil rights,” he said.