Two leaders of Spain’s Basque separatist group hiding out in Venezuela allegedly receive salaries from state entities, marking the latest accusations that the Venezuelan government aids and abets terrorist organizations.
According to Spanish news agency El Confidencial, Xabier Arruti Imaz — an alleged leader of Spain’s Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA) separatist group — is on the payroll of Gas Comunal SA, a subsidiary of Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA.
El Confidencial reportedly accessed records from Venezuela’s social security institute which show that Arruti receives a salary worth around $1,860 dollars a month (more than double the minimum wage) despite not having any experience working in the oil industry. Arruti has also reportedly served as a representative of Venezuela’s official socialist party (PSUV) in the northwest state of Falcon and owns a restaurant on Venezuela’s Caribbean Coast.
Jose Arturo Cubillas Fontan — another ETA leader who fled to Venezuela in the 1980s — is also allegedly on the government’s payroll, receiving a salary from Venezuela’s state food company, reported El Confidencial. Cubillas, who is wanted in Spain on terrorism charges, has reportedly served as a contact between the ETA and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrilla group. Cubillas received around $1,025 dollars a month in 2014 from the state food company, according to the social security records accessed by El Confidencial.
Recent attention to the presence of ETA members in Venezuela is due to media reports that surfaced in February stating that ETA leader Ignacio de Juana Chaos — who fled Northern Ireland in 2010 while appealing an extradition order — lives in northern Venezuela and is allowed to move freely around the country.
InSight Crime Analysis
Venezuela has long been accused of financing and supporting terrorist and criminal groups. Perhaps most notable is the Venezuelan government’s links with Colombia’s FARC guerrillas, who have used the neighboring country as a refuge. Indeed, Venezuelan officials have repeatedly been accused by the US government of helping the FARC to traffic cocaine and of providing the group with weapons.
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Colombia’s National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrillas have also used Venezuela to regroup and escape pressure from Colombian security forces. Additionally, past reports have alleged that the Venezuelan government has aided the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.
As for the ETA, Venezuela has reportedly served as one of the most important sanctuaries for the group since it was founded in the late 1950s. Currently there are an estimated 40 ETA members residing in the country.