In Colombia, GOP Rep. Mack calls on Obama to put Venezuela on terror list

Rep. Connie Mack (R-Fla.), in Bogota on Saturday, called for the Obama administration to designate Venezuela as a state sponsor of terrorism.

Mack was one of eight lawmakers in Colombia for the swearing in of the country's new president, Juan Manuel Santos. He met with departing President Alvaro Uribe and held a press conference in Bogota to detail his efforts to have Colombia's neighbor placed on the terror list.

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"I think the time is now to put him on that list," Mack told The Hill by phone from Colombia, saying that President Hugo Chavez supported the FARC rebels in Colombia and was aligned with Iran and Syria.

Mack said the White House is aware of his effort, and added he'd talked with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as well. 

"The response I get is, 'We'll look into it' or 'The timing's just not right,'" he said. Still, he said he hoped the White House would "act quickly" to put Venezuela on the list.

"All that I can do is continue to push, try to build consensus with other members," Mack said, adding that he's never before seen such bipartisan agreement "that Hugo Chavez is a force in Latin America that's on the side of evil and is determined to destroy freedom and democracy in Venezuela and encourage other countries to do the same."

Venezuela cut off ties with Colombia late last month after Colombia presented evidence at the Organization of American States of 87 alleged FARC guerrilla camps running out of Venezuela. The FARC rebels are designated as a terrorist organization by the United States.

Shortly afterward Chavez threatened to cut off oil supplies to the United States if Colombia commits "armed aggression" against Venezuela. "We wouldn't send one more drop" of oil to the U.S., which is the top buyer of oil from Venezuela, Chavez said.

Mack said he's been lobbying since 2008 to beef up strategic reserves to the extent that the U.S. would not depend on Venezuelan oil, and told The Hill that it should be the United States that tells Venezuela it won't buy oil.

Mack said Uribe, who leaves office with an 80 percent approval rating, told him that "he is bound and determined to continue to point out that Hugo Chavez continues to support terrorist organizations." Santos, who served as Uribe's defense minister, is expected to continue Uribe's hard-line fight against the FARC.

The lawmakers plan to be back in Washington next week for the mid-recess session to consider the $26 billion state-aid legislation.