The pro-Chavez organization called Bolivarian Circles (Circulos Bolivarianos) (1999-August 2003) [VEN41970.E]

In addition to the information found in VEN38673.E of 15 May 2002 and an Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) report of 30 April 2002 at, please refer to the attached Latinamerica Press article for background information about the Bolivarian Circles.

According to an August 2002 report, the Directorate of Intelligence and Prevention Services (DISIP) and the Scientific, Penal and Criminal Investigations Corps (CICPC) stated that members have broken away from the Bolivarian Circles to form "at least a dozen radical, armed groups, which are often opposed to certain government policies" (El Nacional 18 Aug. 2002). A CICPC representative noted that although President Chavez was responsible for organizing these Circles, he was now unable to control the emerging armed factions (ibid.). Quoting the "army's leading dissident," General Enrique Medina Gomez, the Economist reported in October 2002 that about 2,000 to 3,000 members of the Bolivarian Circles were armed (12 Oct. 2002).

Recent reports about the Bolivarian Circles continue to demonstrate conflicting viewpoints about the nature of these groups; proponents have noted that the Circles are civilian organizations whose "basic goal is to foster and encourage culture, equality, and social justice" (Notimex 28 July 2003), while critics contend that the Bolivarian Circles are a cover for paramilitary activities and that they are linked to Colombian subversive groups (El Universal 28 Apr. 2003; El Espectador 10 Aug. 2003; El Diario de Hoy 20 Aug. 2003).

According to Rodrigo Chaves, coordinator of the Bolivarian Circles, the Circles are rank and file groups that support the president's "peaceful and democratic revolution" and have expanded their operations nationally and internationally (Notimex 28 July 2003). Moreover, Chaves noted that the Circles "are making progress even though the private media and the government's opposition 'have tried to stigmatize them' by accusing them of being true 'circles of terror'" (ibid.).

El Universal stated in April 2003 that a secret Colombian security forces report contained information about a joint Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, FARC) and Bolivarian Liberation Forces (Fuerzas Bolivarianos de Liberacion, FBL) training centre in Zulia state that had been instructing "commanders" of Bolivarian Circles on techniques used to organize covert urban operations (28 Apr. 2003). Reportedly, these commanders develop into members of the FBL and the Bolivarian Liberation Army (Ejercito Bolivariano de Liberacion, EBL) whose numbers are estimated to be around 200 and who have apparently been involved in confrontations with the Colombian United Self-Defence groups (El Universal 28 Apr. 2003). In a 10 August 2003 interview with former Venezuelan Infantry Lieutenant Moises Roberto Boyer Riobueno, El Espectador reported that the Bolivarian Circles serve as a "front for Colombian subversive groups." According to his testimony, Boyer witnessed FARC members training members of the Bolivarian Circles and stated that these training operations took place in the states of Zulia and Miranda, especially at a ranch named San Francisco in Manchiques (El Espectador 10 Aug. 2003).

In a August 2003 article, retired Venezuelan Rear Admiral Carlos Molina Tamayo stated that the Bolivarian Circles are identical to the Cuban Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR), noting that the Circles' main job is "to keep all National Guard personnel and all organizations under control by means of espionage and extortion" (El Diario de Hoy 20 Aug. 2003). Moreover, Tamayo claimed that the Circles are "shock troops that are also used to wreak terror" as members have reportedly attacked journalists and store owners (ibid.).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


El Diario de Hoy [San Salvador]. 20 August 2003. Alejandro Miranda. "Retired Venezuelan Admiral in Exile Claims Chavez Helps Salvadoran Communists." (FBIS-LAT-2003-0822 25 Aug. 2003/Dialog)

The Economist [London]. 12 October 2002. "A Tragic and Dangerous Stalemate." (NEXIS)

El Espectador [Bogota]. 10 August 2003. "Former Soldier Reveals Venezuelan Ties to Colombian Guerrillas." (FBIS-LAT-2003-0810 12 Aug. 2003/Dialog)

El Nacional [Caracas]. 18 August 2002. "Venezuela: Disip, Police Detectives Report 'at Least' 12 New Armed Groups." (BBC Monitoring 20 Aug. 2002/NEXIS)

Notimex [Mexico City]. 28 July 2003. "Venezuela: Bolivarian Circles Coordinator Says Movement Growing At Home, Abroad." (FBIS-LAT-2003-0728 29 July 2003/Dialog)

El Universal [Caracas]. 28 April 2003. Roberto Giusti. "Further on 'Confidential' Report on Colombian Guerrilla Operations in Zulia." (FBIS-LAT-2003-0429 1 May 2003/Dialog)


Latinamerica Press [Lima]. 3 June 2002. Mike Ceasar. "Venezuela: Bolivarian Circles Spark Debate." (NEXIS)

Additional Sources Consulted

IRB databases

World News Connection/Dialog

Internet sites:

Country Reports 2002

Freedom House

Human Rights Watch

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