Caracas Gringo

'When the tree falls, the monkeys scatter'

Archive for July 2009

Hugo Chavez’s contrived tantrum

with one comment

President Hugo Chavez and his gang of Bolivarian thugs have responded like they always do to the newest smoking-gun evidence that his government sponsors narco-terrorist groups like the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

The Colombian government’s confirmation that AT-4 rockets owned by the Venezuelan army were seized in two FARC camps last year has Chavez and his homeboys in a furious uproar, shouting insults and imprecations against Bogota and Washington, DC.

Great Bolivarian minds like Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro and Interior & Justice Minister Tarek al Assaimi insist that the latest evidence confirming that Chavez and the FARC are in deep cahoots was fabricated by a vast international conspiracy aimed at making Chavez look bad – as if Venezuela’s outlaw president needs any help making himself look worse by the day.

However, why all the fuss in Caracas?

President Chavez was informed almost two months ago that the Colombian government had seized several AT-4 rockets from the FARC. This makes the Chavez government’s furious response look very contrived, perhaps deliberately.

Perhaps the Chavez regime thinks it can shout, intimidate, threaten and bluster its way out of this new scandal confirming Venezuela’s transformation into a narco-terrorist state, courtesy of President Chavez and his criminal associates. However, this scandal isn’t going away quickly.

These are the facts:

*Colombian troops seized three AT-4 rockets in October 2008 at a FARC camp in the area of La Macarena, in Meta department.

*The government of Sweden has confirmed the AT-4 rockets were sold by manufacturer Saab Bofors Dynamics to Venezuela’s Defense Ministry in 1988.

*The Swedish government has officially asked the Chavez government for an explanation. It hasn’t received any response yet.

*Colombian Foreign Minister Bermudez officially informed Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro about the captured AT-4 rockets on 2 June 2009 during a face-to-face meeting on the sidelines of the annual OAS General Assembly meeting held in San Pedro Sula, Honduras.

*At this meeting, Bermudez also gave Maduro documents captured from the FARC in which the cooperation of three senior Venezuelan government officials in procuring SAM’s and other advanced weapons for the FARC is discussed explicitly.

*The Chavez government has not responded yet to Bogota’s request for an explanation.

However, there certainly have been some curious movements recently at the highest levels of the Chavez regime’s military/political intelligence & counter-intelligence services.

For example, last week Chavez appointed Army General Miguel Rodriguez Torres as the new director of the Interior & Justice Ministry’s political police (DISIP), replacing Henry Rangel Silva, who had been its chief since June 2005. But the change of command is not the start of a shake-up at DISIP.

Rodriguez Torres already was DISIP director previously, from 2002 until June 2005, when Chavez appointed Rangel Silva to run DISIP after a major drug trafficker supposedly confined and closely guarded by Rodriguez Torres’ best agents at DISIP headquarters escaped and fled the country.

Caracas Gringo also was told today that Chavez has quietly removed Division General Hugo Carvajal from his post of director of Defense Ministry military intelligence (DGIM), which he has held since 2004. However, this report has not been confirmed yet.

The possible shake-up at DGIm and DISIP is believed to be related to the documents Bermudez gave Maduro. Reportedly, the intelligence seized from the FARC explicitly names Carvajal, Rangel Silva and also army General Cliver Alcala Cordones, who is reputed to be one of the president’s fiercest ideological followers within the army.

Carvajal and Rangel Silva were designated drug “kingpins” by the US Treasury Department in September 2008, based on evidence that they are longtime material collaborators of the FARC.

However, if the unconfirmed reports that Carvajal also is being replaced at DGIM are true, it doesn’t mean that President Chavez is launching a much-needed overhaul of DGIM and DISIP.

For starters, the president’s re-appointment of Rodriguez Torres to head DISIP clearly is a revolving-door move. By replacing Rangel Silva, and possibly Carvajal too, Chavez obviously expects the international political heat on his regime will ease up. It’s typically Venezuelan: “A trapiche viejo, cana nueva.”

But replacing Carvajal and Rangel Silva at DGIM and DISIP, respectively, doesn’t neutralize their immensely profitable criminal enterprises and their strategic alliances with the FARC, ELN and other transnational crime groups.

If anything, when they disappear from public view, Carvajal and Rangel Silva will become immensely more dangerous. Their networks inside DGIM and DISIP won’t disappear. For example, it’s a safe bet that FARC-owned cocaine shipments through Venezuela will continue to receive protection from rogue crews of DGIM and DISIP agents.

Moreover, a change of command at DGIM and DISIP doesn’t have any impact on the gangs of criminal rogues operating inside the National Guard and CICPC’s supposedly elite anti-narcotics forces.

Far from the public limelight, Carvajal and Rangel Silva also become more valuable politically as clandestine black ops assets for President Chavez.

Meanwhile, Chavez is ratcheting up his confrontation with Bogota – and with the Obama administration. So much for last April’s infamous “quiero ser your amigo” toothy-smile hugging of Chavez and President Barack Obama at the Fifth Summit of the Americas in Trinidad.

It’s hard to say which has Chavez more pissed off (or scared): the disclosure that FARC had Venezuelan-owned AT-4 rockets which clearly were supplied sy someone in the Chavez regime, or the new Colombia-US military agreement giving US counternarcotics assets the use of three Colombian air bases and two naval bases for the next decade.

However, Chavez has leveraged his latest confrontation with Bogota to revive his Russian arms purchase program, announcing dramatically via national television that he will purchase “battalions of battle tanks” that wsill be deployed along Venezuela’s border with Colombia.

Chavez doesn’t have any money right now, but he’s determined to buy up to 100 Russian-made battle tanks and 300-400 armored fighting vehicles. Chavez’s old shopping list also includes more Sukhois, SAM’s, submarines, etc. Chavez also is starting to buy some Chinese-made weapons.

But without ready cash at hand, Chavez’s only tradeable commodities are crude oil, natural gas, gold, aluminum, etc. Since 2007 Pdvsa has borrowed over $10 billion with payment pledged in oil supplies from countries like China, Japan and France. Maybe Moscow will agree to sell Chavez tanks, armored fighting vehicles and other weapons and take payment in tradeable commodities like oil and gold.

Written by Caracas Gringo

29/07/2009 at 18:25

Posted in Uncategorized

Hugo Chavez: Bad to the Bone

with one comment

President Hugo Chavez has responded to an alleged “new aggression” from Colombia by “freezing relations” indefinitely.

Chavez blasted the government of Colombian President Alvaro Uribe Velez on 28 July as “shameful…irresponsible.” Chavez said he has ordered Venezuela’s Ambassador in Bogota to return to Caracas immediately. Chavez said the entire diplomatic mission in Bogota has been ordered to return to Caracas, except for one official – the “lowest ranking” diplomat.

Chavez also declared that economic relations with Colombia will be frozen. “We’re going to substitute our imports from Colombia with imports from other sources,” Chavez threatened. Two-way trade between Venezuela and Colombia totaled over $6 billion in 2008, with the balance heavily in favor of Colombian exporters.

The alleged new aggression which Chavez protested in very harsh terms today is the Uribe government’s confirmation that Colombian troops captured several Swedish-made AT-4 shoulder-fired rockets at two FARC camps in Colombia last year. The Uribe government checked the serial numbers on the captured AT-4’s with the Swedish manufacturer, and confirmed they formed part of a shipment originally sold to Venezuela’s armed forces years ago, reportedly before 2002.

How did Swedish AT-4 rockets supposedly under tight security in Venezuelan military arsenals wind up last year in two FARC camps in Colombia?

And a related question: How did the Bolivarian Liberation Front (FBL), Venezuela’s homegrown clone of the FARC, also obtain AT-4 rockets? Photographs of a group of alleged FBL fighters armed with AK-47 assault rifles and one AT-4 rocket have been posted on Noticias24 and Noticiero Digital in the past week.

Predictably, President Chavez and his favorite radical lackeys – including Vice President Ramon Carrizalez, Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro and Interior & Justice Minister Tarek al Assaimi – have furiously dismissed the charges aired by Colombia as the baseless fabrication of an international conspiracy to attack and discredit Venezuela’s socialist Bolivarian revolution.

But the newest smoking gun evidence that Chavez is in cahoots with the narco-terrorist FARC is damning: the serial numbers on the AT-4’s seized in FARC camps by Colombian troops match exactly the serial numbers of the AT-4’s that were sold to Venezuela’s armed forces. This has been confirmed by the Swedish arms manufacturer, and the governments of Sweden and Colombia.

A plausible theory aired by some independent Venezuelan security and crime experts is that the main culprits responsible for supplying the FARC with AT’4 rockets stolen from Venezuelan army arsenals are Division General Hugo Carvajal, director of the Defense Ministry’s intelligence division (DGIM), and Division General Cliver Alcala Cordones, commander of the army’s 41st armored brigade in Valencia (Carabobo) and former commander of the 11th infantry brigade in Maracaibo (Zulia).

The US Treasury Department designated Carvajal as a drug “kingpin” in September 2008 for cooperating actively with the FARC. The evidence used to substantiate this decision came partly from documents that were extracted from laptops seized by Colombian troops on 1 March 2008 in a FARC camp in northern Ecuador where FARC No.2 chieftain Raul Reyes had been killed by a Colombian airstrike only minutes before the troops arrived in helicopters.

FARC documents extracted from Reyes’ laptops also identified General Alcala Cordones by name as a friend of the narco-terrorist group and an official liaison of the Chavez government with the FARC.

Other documents taken from Reyes’ laptop also identified then-Interior & Justice Minister Ramon Rodriguez Chacin, and general Henry Rangel Silva, then-director of the Interior & Justice Ministry’s political police (DISIP), as key contacts between President Chavez and the FARC.

Moreover, these captured FARC documents detailed explicit pledges by Carvajal and Alcala Cordones to help the FARC acquire weapons including man-portable surface-to-air missiles.

The man portable AT-4, manufactured by Saab Bofors Dynamics, is an 84 mm unguided, fin-stabilized anti-tank rocket with a shaped charge warhead and a maximum effective range of 300 meters (984.3 feet). It is effective against most armored vehicles, but not against helicopters or fixed-wing aircraft.

But the FARC is also shopping for man portable SAM’s like the Russian-made Igla, and reportedly is working through its military contacts in the Chavez regime to obtain these advanced SAM’s from state-sponsored arms suppliers in Iran or Ukraine.

But it’s not just the Venezuelan military-owned AT-4’s captured from the FARC. The smoking gun evidence that the Chavez regime is cooperating actively with the narco-terrorist FARC is piling up very impressively.

There’s not the slightest doubt that President Chavez is a strong supporter and strategic ally of the FARC.

The FARC documents extracted from Reyes’ laptops confirmed that Carvajal, Rangel Silva, and former Interior & Justice Minister Ramon Rodriguez Chacin (who also was designated a “kingpin” in September 2008), cooperated materially with senior FARC leaders, including:

*Pledging cash contributions by Chavez to the FARC of $250 million to $300 million.

*Offering to help the FARC acquire sophisticated weapons, including man portable surface to air missiles like the Russian-made 9K38 Igla, a two color infrared guided surface-to-air missile (SAM) with an operational range of 3.2 miles (5.2 km) and a flight ceiling of 11,000 feet (3.5 km).

*Offering to smuggle weapons illegally acquired by the FARC through the port of Maracaibo in Zulia.

*Providing Venezuelan documents, official security details, housing and financial support to senior FARC leaders. The Colombian government says at least nine of the FARC’s highest-rankig leaders are hiding permanently in Venezuela.

*Protecting FARC narcotics trans-shipments through Venezuelan territory.

Moreover, the US Government General Accountability Office (GAO) has just published a damning report on the growing involvement and active participation of rogue elements of key Venezuelan security entities in drug trafficking with the FARC, and with Colombian paramilitary groups and professional organized crime groups.

The report, titled “Drug Control: U.S. counternarcotics cooperation with Venezuela has declined,” was researched between August 2008 and July 2009, with visits by GAO investigators to Colombia and Venezuela. (The GAO report notes at the outset that Venezuelan authorities they met with in Venezuela did not cooperate with their investigation.) The report’s main findings include:

*The transshipment of Colombian cocaine through Venezuela increased four-fold from 2004 to 2007, from 60 mt in 2004 to about 260 mt in 2007 (17% of all cocaine produced in Colombia in 2007).

*The FARC accounts for about 60% of the cocaine shipped from Colombia to the US.

*A growing portion of the cocaine enters Venezuela on the Pan-American highway through the Cucuta/San Antonio crossing, hidden in the over $6 billion a year two-way trade characterized by a hefty and increasing surplus for Colombia. But Colombian cocaine also enters Venezuela in boats that travel down the Colombian Meta, Vichada and Guaviare Rivers until they empty into the Orinoco River in Venezuela.

*Some cocaine leaves Venezuela in commercial containers aboard ships from the ports of Maracaibo, Puerto Cabello and La Guaira. Some cocaine leaves in small fishing boats or go-fast boats which travel as far as the island of Hispaniola. Venezuela has 4,000 km of Caribbean coastline and 185 km of Atlantic Ocean coastline. However, large amounts of cocaine also leave Venezuela by air, traveling mainly to Hispaniola, but increasingly since 2004 to Central America too (Nicaragua, Honduras). In 2007 JIATF-South detected 178 suspect flights taking off from Venezuela, compared with 109 in 2004. Most of these illegal flights originated from the state of Apure.

*Most of the cocaine seized in Europe since 2004 originated from Venezuela. Cocaine seizures in West Africa totaled over 33 mt from 2005, 2007, and most of it originated from Venezuela.

*Corrupt Venezuelan National Guard and CICPV anti-drug units are actively engaged in the drug trade.

Predictably, President Chavez immediately also trashed the GAO report. Lies, all lies, thundered Chavez. Interior & Justice Minister Tarek al Assaimi called a press conference with international news media to accuse the US of being the world’s biggest drug trafficker. The minister also called attention to the alleged increase in drug seizures reported since the start of 2009 by the National Guard and CICPC.

However, foreign counter-narcotics sources who work in this region say the Interior and Justice Ministry’s numbers are inflated. CICPC sources also tell Caracas Gringo that none of the recent official drug seizures announced by Interior & Justice Minister al Assaimi have affected FARC-owned shipments through Venezuela. The GAO report also reflects international suspicions that a large portion of the drugs seized officially in Venezuela are not destroyed as claimed, but secretly are put back into the export market.

Official attention in Washington, DC is focused mostly on the Mexican government’s military offensive against power drug cartels which murdered close to 8,000 people last year, and are on track to slaughter larger numbers in 2009. Mexico’s government is cooperating with the US in battling the drug cartels, and it’s costing that country dearly in deaths, property damage and lost economic output.

But official Washington doesn’t appear to be paying much attention to developments in Venezuela, where President Chavez is a publicly self-confessed political and strategic ally of the narco-terrorist FARC. However, the Chavez regime’s alliance with the FARC has direct implications for the Mexican government’s war against the drug cartels that generate about $40 billion per year of illicit drug-related “GDP” for Mexico.

President Chavez is a friend of the FARC. His most important military and security associates have confirmed links to the FARC. Organized crime gangs are operating at the highest levels of DGIM and DISIP. The anti-narcotics units of the National Guard and CICPC are also hopelessly corrupt.

It all ties together very nicely, logically even: Chavez and the FARC; the Venezuelan leader’s Bolivarian Revolution and the FARC-inspired Bolivarian Continental Coordinator (CCB); the FARC’s international drug trafficking activities and the Chavez regime’s Cuban-backed regional spread of Bolivarian revolution (i.e. social conflict, street violence, instability).

The Chavez regime stoked the political conflict which exploded in Honduras on 28 June with the legally-sanctioned removal from power of former President Manuel Zelaya. The Chavez regime deployed Bolivarian activists into Honduras long before Zelaya became president in January 2006. Chavez personally cultivated (i.e. bribed) Zelaya to join his Bolivarian cause. As the Chavez-Zelaya relationship blossomed, international drug trafficking through Honduras by illegal aircraft originating in Venezuela increased significantly. This wasn’t a coincidence. Wherever the Bolivarian revolution travels regionally, FARC drug traffickers always appear too.

Of course, the FARC already was doing business with Mexican drug cartels in the mid-1990s, about the same time that Chavez (accompanied by Rodriguez Chacin) first met with senior FARC leaders in Colombia to forge a clandestine political alliance.

However, recent reports by the Mexican government’s intelligence services confirm the widespread presence in Mexico of “Bolivarian” circles and cells, many of which are suspected of serving as links between radical Venezuelan groups, the FARC, and armed militant (i.e. Marxist guerrilla) groups and drug cartels in Mexico. These links also exist in Central America, from Panama to Guatemala.

What’s to be done about this? Nothing, it appears.

Moises Naim, the respected publisher of Foreign Policy in Washington, DC, said very recently that President Chavez has the resources to remain in power for a very long time. “Chavez pa’ rato.”

The Organization of American States won’t challenge Chavez. In fact, the OAS has been deep in Chavez’s pocket for years, thanks to geopolitical bribery schemes like Petrocaribe. (Chavez to Petrocaribe beneficiaries: “I give you cheap oil, and you kowtow to all my whims.”)

The recent performance in Honduras of OAS Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza confirms he won’t take any notice of Chavez. After all, he just declared that he has no mandate as OAS secretary general to offer any opinions about Venezuela’s internal political processes. Come again?

Some critics of Insulza explain his despicable behavior with respect to Honduras on one hand, and Venezuela on the other, as reflecting his worries about locking in Chavez’s support for his re-election to another term as OAS Secretary General.

But Caracas Gringo thinks the real reason is that somewhere in the world Insulza has an offshore bank account with a large seven- or eight-digit balance supplied by Chavez. Venezuela’s president buys his backers. Ask the Kirchners in Argentina, whose reported net wealth has ballooned to over $12 million while Argentina’s economy has tanked anew. But we digress…

Will US President Barack Obama and his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton do anything to respond to the Chavez regime’s association with the narco-terrorist FARC? We think not.

There are some hopeful hints that something might be happening. For example, the just-announced US-Colombia agreement giving US counter-narcotics assets the right to deploy for ten years from three air bases and two naval bases in Colombia. Also, the GAO’s just-published report on the sharp increase in Colombian drug trans-shipments through Venezuela.

But our gut instinct is that key Latin America advisers close to Obama in the White House are too sympathetic towards the likes of Chavez, or else too ignorant/indifferent with respect to the major regional threat which Chavez has become, to support any efforts to contain Chavez.

And then there is President Obama himself. Caracas Gringo is in the minority of those pitiyanqui voters who believe the Gringos who voted for Obama in 2008 bought themselves a pig in a poke. No point in taking this idea any further in this post, except to warn that Obama/Clinton likely don’t have the geopolitical savvy or political cojones to take on Chavez… digo yo.

Written by Caracas Gringo

28/07/2009 at 23:51

Posted in Uncategorized

Kingpins of Bolivarian Cocaine and Kidnapping

leave a comment »

In September 2008 the US Treasury Department designated three senior Venezuelan officials known to be very close to President Hugo Chavez as “kingpins” for cooperating materially with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). These officials include:

*General Hugo Carvajal, director of the Defense Ministry’s intelligence division (DGIM);

*General Henry Rangel Silva, director of the Interior & Justice Ministry’s political police (DISIP); and

*Then-Interior & Justice Minister Ramon Rodriguez Chacin, who resigned for “personal reasons” just as the OFAC decision was about to be announced in Washington, DC.

Carvajal is still running DGIM almost 11 months after OFAC’s action. President Hugo Chavez replaced Rangel Silva last week with General Miguel Rodriguez Torres, who headed DISIP from 2002 until June 2005 when Chavez appointed Rangel Silva. However, while Rangel Silva no longer directs DISIP, he remains a very high-level player in the transnational crime groups which infest the Chavez regime. In fact, now that Rangel Silva is officially out of the public eye, he looms as a far more dangerous actor in the Bolivarian criminal underworld.

Colombian and US intelligence services have confirmed hat Carvajal and Rangel Silva run their own autonomous and independent criminal enterprises at DGIM and DISIP. Their respective organized crime gangs inside DGIM and DISIP are believed to number between 12 and 20 “made” members – rogues with government security credentials who can be trusted with very sensitive black ops like guarding drug trans-shipments, kidnapping someone or carrying out a contract murder.

Carvajal and Rangel Silva frequently do freelance security work for other senior kingpins of the Chavez regime like Diosdado Cabello, Ramon Rodriguez Chacin, Jose Vicente Rangel, Ricardo Fernandez Barrueco, Pedro Luis Martin, Pedro Torres Ciliberto, etc.

However, Carvajal and Rangel Silva also are believed to independently provide a wide range of criminal services to FARC and ELN militants, civilian drug traffickers and other professional criminals, according to Colombian and US intelligence sources. These services include protecting drug trans-shipments through Venezuelan territory, providing weapons and legal citizenship and residency documents to narco-terrorists and professional criminals, drug trafficking, extortion, abductions and contract killings.

These are among the alleged criminal activities which motivated OFAC to designate them as kingpins in September 2008.

Carvajal and Rangel Silva are always ready to engage in any criminal enterprise which guarantees them a large profit. Specific examples of major crimes in which Carvajal and Rangel Silva are believed to be directly implicated include:

*The car-bomb assassination of Danilo Anderson in November 2004. Jose Vicente Rangel is believed to be one of the primary intellectual authors of this contract killing, which was set up and executed by Rangel Silva’s gang at DISIP and pinned on the Guevara brothers.

*The abduction of Jorge Azpurua in April 2005. This abduction reportedly was commissioned by Fernandez Barrueco with the aim of forcing Banpro’s sale to his budding financial group.

*The assassination of Reporte Diario de la Economia’s business manager, Pierre Fould Gerges, in June 2008. Eligio Cedeno reportedly contracted the services of Rangel Silva’s “sicarios” while he was being held prisoner in DISIP headquarters. The intended target was Reporte’s publisher Tannous “Tony” Gerges, but the shooters killed Pierre Gerges in a tragic case of mistaken identity. However, Pierre’s assassination effectively silenced Reporte and destroyed Tony Gerges, who now lives in hiding and fearful that he will be assassinated at any moment.

*The abduction of German Garcia Velutini in February 2009.

Carvajal and Rangel Silva report directly to President Chavez, who holds both men in high regard. Chavez reportedly trusts them greatly because they always carry out his orders without question or delay.

Carvajal conducts permanent witch hunts looking for conspiracies inside the armed forces, and Rangel Silva runs intelligence and surveillance operations against the president’s top civilian supporters and enemies.

Carvajal and Rangel Silva also are good friends, though they graduated in different promotions of the Military Academy.

Carvajal and Rangel Silva cooperate frequently with Rodriguez Chacin on political and material issues relating to President Chavez’s strategic alliances with the FARC and ELN. But the three men are not close partners in crime.

Rodriguez Chacin is primarily a geopolitical operator whose chief interest appears to be working with the FARC to build regional networks of new armed guerrilla groups modeled on the FARC. These activities extend from Mexico to Argentina/Chile. The cooperation which Carvajal and Rangel Silva provide to Rodriguez Chacin with respect to the FARC and ELN is local, such as providing documents, security details, etc.

The drugs/weapons smuggling, extortion and kidnapping enterprises which Carvajal and Rangel Silva are running out of DGIM and DISIP appear to have been developed with the FARC, ELN and other crime groups independently of the political cooperation they provide to Rodriguez Chacin, Cabello and others in need of their black services.

Carvajal and Rangel Silva are known to be working directly with elements of the FARC’s 10th, 16th and 45th Fronts, which together have about 1,000 fighters deployed in Venezuela, mainly in Apure, Barinas, Tachira and Trujillo. Reports from those states indicate that Carvajal has particularly good ties with FARC elements (45th Front?) roaming the Tibu area.

The 10th Front is responsible for managing the FARC’s money laundering operations at Venezuelan state-owned and private financial institutions. From approximately 2003 until 1 March 2008 when FARC No. 2 chieftain Raul Reyes was killed in Ecuador by a Colombian air strike, the 10th Front was actively laundering millions of dollars through accounts with state-owned Banco Industrial de Venezuela (BIV).

The FARC severed its BIV laundering link immediately after Reyes was killed, and now reportedly launders its drug and kidnapping profits through some of the small banks owned by members of the new Bolibourgeoisie who are known to be close associates of senior figures in the Chavez regime like Public Works and Housing Minister Diosdado Cabello.

The 10th Front also ships large volumes of cocaine through Venezuela. The 16th Front handles arms smuggling relations with the groups led by Carvajal and Rangel Silva. It also smuggles cocaine through Venezuela. And the 45th Front ships tons of cocaine through Venezuela under the official protection of DGIm and DISIP security teams deployed directly by Carvajal and/or Rangel Silva.

Protecting drug trans-shipments is one of the most lucrative criminal enterprises in which Carvajal and Rangel Silva are involved. About 270 metric tons of cocaine was smuggled through Venezuela in 2007, mostly to the US and Europe. The volume dropped in 2008 to about 180 metric tons after FARC chieftain Raul Reyes and several other senior FARC leaders were killed during the first half of last year. The FARC’s losses disrupted drug shipments through Venezuela last year, but they’re recovering quickly so far in 2009.

Carvajal and Rangel Silva reportedly charge the FARC and other Colombian drug traffickers up to $1,500 per kilo to protect drug shipments transiting through Venezuelan territory by land, air or water. The FARC reportedly is responsible for about 70% of the cocaine moving through Venezuela at any time.

Based on these numbers, it can be inferred that in 2007 the roughly 189 metric tons of FARC-owned cocaine which transited through Venezuela represented potential profits of up to $283.5 million for the organized crime gangs run by Carvajal at DGIM and Rangel Silva at DISIP – assuming all of this cocaine received official protection, which is not necessarily the case.

And while 2008 was a “bad” year for the FARC’s cocaine trade through Venezuela, the potential maximum profits of the protection services provided by Carvajal and Rangel Silva were about $189 million.

Kidnapping is another lucrative sideline which Carvajal and Rangel Silva facilitate through their respective crime groups in DGIM and DISIP. The Chavez government is officially indifferent to abductions of hundreds of Venezuelans by FARC and ELN kidnap specialists, but FARC and ELN teams work with the crews of Carvajal and Rangel Silva in several ways.

For example, FARC and ELN gangs contract with Carvajal and Rangel Silva for DGIM and DISIP protection and surveillance services (they do the same with rogue elements in the National Guard and CICPC).

Also, the FARC and ELN purchase financial intelligence on potential abduction targets obtained from DISIP’s financial intelligence division and Seniat.

Members of the Carvajal and Rangel Silva crime groups, all elite members of the DGIM and DISIP, also are believed to participate directly with FARC and ELN kidnap specialists in abductions, and do contract murders.

In 2008 there were 537 reported kidnappings in Venezuela. The average ransom payment at the end of 2007 was between $300,000 and $500,000 per victim. Based on trends through June 2009, it is estimated there will be some 900 kidnappings in Venezuela this year.

The FARC and ELN are believed to be responsible for at least three-quarters of these abductions. At $500,000 per victim in 2009 (assuming some ransom inflation from 2007-2009), the potential profits to kidnapping gangs this year could be as high as $450 million.

Carvajal and Rangel Silva’s groups also participate directly in some kidnappings. For example, DGIM and DISIP commandos are believed to have participated in the groups which physically abducted Jorge Azpurua in 2005 and German Garcia Velutini in February 2009.

Written by Caracas Gringo

28/07/2009 at 16:14

Posted in Uncategorized

Bolivarian Venezuela and FARC’s Cocaine

leave a comment »

Acting on a request by Senator Richard Lugar (R-Indiana), currently the ranking minority member on the US Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee, the US Government General Accountability Office (GAO), has just published a damning report on the growing involvement and active participation of rogue elements of key Venezuelan security entities in drug trafficking with the FARC, and with Colombian paramilitary groups and professional organized crime groups.

The report, titled “Drug Control: U.S. counternarcotics cooperation with Venezuela has declined,” was researched between August 2008 and July 2009, with visits by GAO investigators to Colombia and Venezuela. (The GAO report notes at the outset that Venezuelan authorities they met with in Venezuela did not cooperate with their investigation.) The report’s main findings include:

*The transshipment of Colombian cocaine through Venezuela increased four-fold from 2004 to 2007, from 60 mt in 2004 to about 260 mt in 2007 (17% of all cocaine produced in Colombia in 2007).

*The FARC accounts for about 60% of the cocaine shipped from Colombia to the US.

*A growing portion of the cocaine enters Venezuela on the Pan-American highway through the Cucuta/San Antonio crossing, hidden in the over $6 billion a year two-way trade characterized by a hefty and increasing surplus for Colombia. But Colombian cocaine also enters Venezuela in boats that travel down the Colombian Meta, Vichada and Guaviare Rivers until they empty into the Orinoco River in Venezuela.

*Some cocaine leaves Venezuela in commercial containers aboard ships from the ports of Maracaibo, Puerto Cabello and La Guaira. Some cocaine leaves in small fishing boats or go-fast boats which travel as far as the island of Hispaniola. Venezuela has 4,000 km of Caribbean coastline and 185 km of Atlantic Ocean coastline. However, large amounts of cocaine also leave Venezuela by air, traveling mainly to Hispaniola, but increasingly since 2004 to Central America too (Nicaragua, Honduras). In 2007 JIATF-South detected 178 suspect flights taking off from Venezuela, compared with 109 in 2004. Most of these illegal flights originated from the state of Apure.

*Most of the cocaine seized in Europe since 2004 originated from Venezuela. Cocaine seizures in West Africa totaled over 33 mt from 2005, 2007, and most of it originated from Venezuela.

*Corrupt Venezuelan National Guard and CICPV anti-drug units are actively engaged in the drug trade.

Predictably, President Chavez immediately trashed the report. Interior & Justice Minister Tarek al Assaimi called a press conference with international news media to accuse the US of being the world’s biggest drug trafficker. The minister also called attention to the alleged increase in drug seizures reported since the start of 2009 by the National Guard and CICPC. However, foreign counter-narcotics sources who work in this region say the Interior and Justice Ministry’s numbers are inflated. The GAO report also reflects international suspicions that a large portion of the drugs seized officially in Venezuela are not destroyed as claimed, but secretly put back into the export market.

A Venezuelan CICPC counter-narcotics source also tells Caracas Gringo that many of the drug seizures reported recently involve Colombian paramilitary or criminal groups. “But the FARC’s drug shipments through Venezuela are not being touched at all,” he adds.

Written by Caracas Gringo

28/07/2009 at 16:13

Posted in Uncategorized

Bolivarian Transnational Crime Groups

with 4 comments

John Robb, who writes about guerrilla (aka militant) and transnational crime organizations at Global Guerrillas, says in his book “Brave New War”:

“The more robust, twenty-first-century model for survivability is based on the combination of guerrilla groups and transnational crime. Both have a similar set of goals – ineffectual governments to work around – and are quickly developing similar, twenty-first century networks. Especially as proxy wars proliferate, the line between the two will blur.” (P. 148-149, Brave New War)

Moises Naim’s book – Illicit: How Smugglers, Traffickers and Copycats Are Hijacking the Global Economy – shows how “globalization and unrestricted interconnectivity have led to the rise of vast global smuggling networks…(that) live in the spaces between states…simultaneously everywhere and nowhere.”

Robb’s book focuses on Islamic terrorism more than transnational crime. Certainly, there’s no mention of Venezuela or Latin America anywhere in “Brave New War – The next stage of terrorism and the end of globalization” (2007, John Wiley & Sons). But the book’s Chapter 7: “Guerrilla Entrepreneurs,” describes the seamless, inevitable, even logical fusion of guerrilla and transnational crime groups into powerful new global non-state actors capable of challenging, disrupting, destabilizing, infiltrating and ultimately gaining control over vital state institutions.

Robb, citing Naim, says that the new 21st Century model of combined (or merged) transnational crime and guerrilla groups “…make money through an arbitrage of the differences between the legal systems and the level of law enforcement of our isolated islands of sovereignty…they use the vast profits of their operations to overwhelm underpaid government employees with floods of corruption. This allows them to take control of otherwise functional states.”

It doesn’t cost a great deal of money to thoroughly corrupt a developing nation’s institutions, says Naim.

The “combination of guerrilla and transnational crime groups” described by Robb aptly describes the criminalization of the Venezuelan state during the decade that President Hugo Chavez has been in power.

Of course, the Venezuelan state already was vulnerable prey thanks to Chavez’s predecessors. Almost four decades of Accion Democratic and Copei thoroughly corrupted and ruined the Venezuelan state. When Chavez became president in 1999 he assumed control of government, judicidial and other institutions which literally were in their death throes “…como cucaracha en baile de gallinas.” Indeed, most of the Venezuelan intelligentsia, business, labor and political figures who oppose Chavez today endorsed him enthusiastically during the 1998 presidential elections, just to be rid of AD and Copei.

Chavez has burned through almost $1 trillion of oil revenues during his decade in power. At least $100 billion of that oil revenue, conservatively, has been stolen by the “global guerrillas” entrenched at the highest levels of the Chavez regime.

If this sounds like a very large number, perhaps incredibly large, consider this small snippet of the larger story:

*Arne Chacon Escamillo, co-owner of Baninvest and other financial institutions, and also the brother of Technology and Science Minister Jesse Chacon, said in June 2009 that he has $1 billion in cash in hand to purchase banks, insurance companies and other financial institutions. However, in 2002 Arne Chacon was basically penniless. Arne Chacon claims to have purchased 49% of Baninvest in 2004 with a written pledge to pay majority owner Pedro Torres Ciliberto with part of his salary and future dividends as Baninvest’s minority owner.

*Ricardo Fernandez Barrueco, a Colombian-Venezuelan “entrepreneur” who operates out of Panama, claimed a net worth of $1.6 billion in 2006. He owns several small Venezuelan banks including Banpro, which he acquired after Jorge Azpurua, the son of Banpro’s major stakeholder, was kidnapped in early 2005. Investigators confirmed that Azpurua’s abduction was related to Fernandez Barrueco’s campaign to buy Banpro.

*Arne Chacon and Fernandez Barrueco claim their respective financial groups have no ties whatsoever; different shareholders, different management teams, different sources of capital. But this claim is untrue. The small but ambitious financial groups built around Baninvest and Banpro have a common controlling silent partner: Public Works and Housing Minister Diosdado Cabello.

*Fernandez Barrueco is a silent business associate of Cabello and of Rafael Sarria, Jr., who inherited his personal seed capital and what little he knows about finance from his father. Junior is a childhood friend and lifelong confidant of Cabello. Currently he is Cabello’s most trusted financial adviser.

*Sarria’s personal net worth reportedly is on a par with that of Fernandez Barrueco, but Cabello’s net worth allegedly is much greater, in the range of $2.5 billion to $3 billion.

The group headed clandestinely by Cabello, with senior trusted associates Sarria and Fernandez Barrueco, is only one of many groups within the Chavez regime which arguably can be described as transnational organized crime groups.

Finance is the Cabello group’s core interest. Through various front-men like the putative owners of the Baninvest and Banpro groups, Cabello’s group has acquired control of at least six banks whose combined deposits account for a bit less than five percent of the financial system’s total deposits. But this group is actively shopping for more banks and insurance companies. For example, it is quietly seeking to buy Banco Venezolano de Credito.

This group is not above criminal shenanigans like the abduction of Jorge Azpurua in 2005 to force the sale of Banpro to Fernandez Barrueco. The intellectual authors of German Garcia Velutini’s abduction in February 2009 form part of this group. Panamanian police tell Caracas Gringo that Fernandez Barrueco is also implicated directly in the abduction in Panama and forced transport to Venezuela of a Venezuelan citizen, Gustavo Arraiz, who now sits in a DISIP prison cell charged in connection with the alleged Microstar fraud.

Two other transnational crime groups operating at senior levels of the Chavez regime are headed by (1) General Hugo Carvajal, director of the Defense Ministry’s intelligence division (DGIM) since 2004, and (2) General Henry Rangel Silva, who was director of the Interior & Justice Ministry’s political police (DISIP) from 2005 until last week when President Chavez replaced him with General Miguel Rodriguez Torres, who served as DISIP’s director from 2002 until June 2005.

Rangel Silva was replaced as DISIP’s director just last week after Colombia’s government confirmed the seizure of several Swedish-made AT-4 man portable rockets in 2008 at two FARC camps in Colombia. The Swedish manufacturer confirmed from the serial numbers that the AT-4’s recovered in the FARC camps in Colombia were part of a shipment sold to Venezuela’s armed forces years ago, before 2002.

Colombia’s government is certain the AT-4’s were supplied to the FARC via DGIM director Carvajal. It’s unclear how Rangel Silva was involved, but he also is a longtime strategic and business associate of the FARC and ELN. In fact, DISIP sources claim that immediately after new DISIP Director Rodriguez Torres took control last week, he discovered two individuals being held in prison cells at DISIP headquarters who had been reported by their families as kidnapped.

In September 2008, the US Treasury Department’s office of foreign assets control (OFAC) designated Carvajal and Rangel Silva as “kingpins” – material collaborators of the FARC, which the US has officially designated a narco-terrorist group. The evidence used by OFAC to substantiate its decision included numerous documents extracted from laptops seized on 1 March 2008 in a camp in northern Ecuador where FARC No. 2 chieftain Raul Reyes was killed by a Colombian air strike.

These captured FARC documents confirmed that Carvajal, Rangel Silva, and former Interior & Justice Minister Ramon Rodriguez Chacin (who also was designated a “kingpin” in September 2008), cooperated actively with senior FARC leaders, including:

*Pledging cash contributions by Chavez to the FARC of $250 million to $300 million (Rodriguez Chacin).

*Offering to help the FARC acquire sophisticated weapons including man portable surface to air missiles like the Russian-made 9K38 Igla, a two color infrared guided surface-to-air missile (SAM) with an operational range of 3.2 miles (5.2 km) and a flight ceiling of 11,000 feet (3.5 km).

*Offering to smuggle weapons illegally acquired by the FARC through the port of Maracaibo in Zulia.

*Providing Venezuelan documents, official security details, housing and financial support to senior FARC leaders. The Colombian government says at least nine of the FARC’s highest-rankig leaders are hiding permanently in Venezuela.

*Protecting FARC narcotics trans-shipments through Venezuelan territory.

But OFAC’s explanation barely scratched the surface of the criminal activities in which the groups headed by Carvajal and Rangel Silva are involved.

Select DGIM and DISIP officials who report directly to the directors of both intelligence & counter-intelligence entities (meaning Carvajal and Rangel Silva) cooperate actively with the FARC and ELN on a daily basis, particularly in the states which share borders with Colombia to ensure that FARC and ELN forces residing permanently in Venezuela are not molested.

Army and National Guard forces deployed in Venezuela’s border states also are under longstanding presidential orders (since 1999) to cooperate with the FARC and ELN. This is a matter of public record contained in news reports going back to 2000 by Venezuelan dailies like El Universal and El Nacional. These news reports are based on critical letters and official army intelligence documents penned by senior Venezuelan army officers like Division General Nestor Gonzalez Gonzalez and Division General Manuel Rosendo.

The FARC’s 10th, 16th and 45th Fronts are permanently based in Venezuelan territory, mainly in the states of Apure and Barinas. The small city of Guasdualito in Apure, just across the border from Colombia’s Arauca department, is 100% FARC country.

Practically all of the illegal suspected drug flights which US counternarcotics teams have detected originating from inside Venezuela between 2004 and 2008 took off from clandestine landing strips in Apure.

These three Fronts are the FARC’s main narcotics/weapons smuggling and money laundering operations on the Colombian-Venezuelan border. Together, these FARC Fronts account for over 70% of the cocaine smuggled through Venezuela to the United States, European Union and, increasingly, to parts of Western Africa and the Middle East.

Overall, these FARC Fronts have about 1,000 fighters permanently deployed inside Venezuela, including many who are highly specialized and proficient in the evil business of kidnapping.

The Chavez regime’s warm relations with the FARC and ELN have made it extraordinarily easy since 2002 for these narco-terrorist groups to move their assembly-line kidnapping operations into Venezuela. A total of 537 people were kidnapped in Venezuela in 2008, and trends so far in 2009 suggest about 900 abductions may occur this year.

The FARC is responsible for the majority of these kidnappings, followed by the ELN, and other organized crime groups operating inside the National Guard, CICPC, and other police entities throughout Venezuela.

However, there are also criminal kidnapping groups working clandestinely inside otherwise reputable private security services companies that work for some of the country’s largest banks and industrial/commercial groups.

Moreover, the surge in kidnappings which has vaulted Venezuela since 2004 ahead of Colombia, Brazil and Mexico in terms of abductions per capita coincides with alarming precision with President Chavez’s decision to appoint General Carvajal to head DGIM and General Rangel Silva to head DISIP in 2004-2005.

Written by Caracas Gringo

28/07/2009 at 14:40

Posted in Uncategorized

Hugo in Honduras

with 5 comments

President Hugo Chavez is responsible for the political crisis in Honduras.

But Chavez had lots of help.

The United States has misjudged, under-estimated and generally dropped the ball on Hugo Chavez for over a decade.

Chavez also bought off the Organization of American States years ago. PetroCaribe turned the small Caribbean states (i.e. Caricom) into Chavez’s obedient puppies at the OAS.

Current OAS Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza is so firmly aligned with Chavez that somewhere in the world he must have a Bolivarian bank account.

Until he was sidelined by the US, Insulza’s behavior was so aggressive, arrogant and biased against the new democratically appointed interim government in Tegucigalpa that his marching orders must have been coming from Chavez.

Individually, the democracies of Latin America have stayed quiet while Chavez intruded into the sovereign affairs of many countries including Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Paraguay and Peru, among others.

Cheap Venezuelan oil apparently has transformed all democratic governments from Washington, DC to Tierra del Fuego into round-heeled whores.

Of course, there are some notable exceptions, like Colombia, Peru, Panama and Honduras.

Colombia’s democracy has been under permanent attack by Chavez since he assumed the presidency of Venezuela at the start of 1999.

Chavez has been a strategic/political ally of the FARC since a few months after he was released from Yare prison in 1994 by President Rafael Caldera. The alliance was made at Chavez’s meetings with FARC leaders in Colombia in 1994-1995 – at least four years before he was elected president of Venezuela. Ramon Rodriguez Chacin accompanied Chavez at those meetings with FARC leaders. This is public record.

Since 1999, the Chavez government’s never-admitted official policy has been to allow the FARC and ELN free transit and indefinite residence in Venezuelan territory. Chavez changed longstanding rules of engagement whereby Venezuelan Army units patrolling the border with Colombia were under orders to interdict and expel all irregular Colombian forces detected inside Venezuela.

This is public record, as every Venezuelan Army officer who commanded troops on the border from 1999-2002 will confirm. It didn’t matter from 2003 onwards, since Chavez had purged the Army sufficiently to assure an obedient officer corps.

The FARC’s 10th, 16th and 45th Fronts have been based permanently in Venezuelan territory since 2003-2004, in a broad arc running from Apure and Bolivar states through the Andean states, Barinas and Zulia.

The three fronts have between 500-600 fighters hiding permanently in Venezuela. They launch cross-border attacks into Colombia with some frequency, using hit-and-run ambush tactics to kill Colombian police and troops.

But increasingly, these FARC fronts focus on their lucrative criminal enterprises including drug trafficking, kidnapping in Venezuela, and money laundering.

The FARC reportedly owns close to three-quarters of the cocaine trans-shipped through Venezuela.

Many FARC and ELN cells specialized in kidnapping currently already are active throughout Venezuela, and their numbers are growing. Last year 537 kidnappings were reported officially, compared with 382 in 2007, 232 in 2006, and 206 in 2005.

Based on trends in the first half of the year, between 800 and 900 kidnappings are likely in 2009, according to CICPC and GAES sources. The average ransom payment in 2008 was $500,000. Conservatively, kidnapping is a $400 million per year business in Venezuela.

The kidnapping business also drives a profitable search-and-recovery industry worth potentially about $100 million a year which is centered in the anti-kidnapping experts of the CICPC, GAES and GAULA across the border in Colombia.

The FARC is believed to be responsible for about 60-70% of the kidnappings reported in Venezuela. The ELN has a “market share” of 10-15%, with the rest split among the Bolivarian Liberation Front (FBL), a native (Bolivarian) clone of the FARC, and organized crime groups.

Rogue Venezuelan military, National Guard and police personnel frequently are implicated in abductions in which FARC or ELN members are also involved.

In September 2008 the US Treasury designated the directors of the Defense Ministry’s intelligence division (DGIM) and the Interior & Justice Ministry’s political police (DISIP), General Hugo Carvajal and General Henry Rangel Silva, respectively, as active material collaborators of the FARC.

At the same time, the US Treasury also designated former Interior & Justice Minister Ramon Rodriguez Chacin as an active material collaborator of the FARC.

The evidence used by the US government to designate Carvajal, Rangel Silva and Rodriguez Chacin as FARC collaborators was taken mainly from the laptops Colombian troops seized on 1 March 2008 in the FARC base camp where FARC No. 2 chieftain Raul Reyes was killed by a Colombian air strike.

According to the US Treasury Department, the three Venezuelan officials, all top associates of President Hugo Chavez, were actively cooperating with the FARC in many areas including: offering up to $300 million in cash assistance which President Chavez planned to give the FARC; helping the FARC smuggle weapons including surface-to-air man-portable missiles through Venezuelan ports and cross-country to Colombia; protecting cocaine trans-shipments through Venezuela; providing legal Venezuelan citizenship documents to FARC and ELN members; and supplying FARC and ELN members in Venezuela with official security details and housing.

Separately, Colombia’s government confirmed that nine senior FARC leaders are currently hiding in Venezuela.

Elements of DGIM and DISIP also are actively associated with FARC and ELN teams involved in abductions, according to CICIPC and GAES sources.

Rodriguez Chacin says his main interest nowadays is cattle ranching. Not so.

Rodriguez Chacin has been President Chavez’s chief personal liaison with the FARC since the 1990s. But his responsibilities have expanded greatly in the past decade.

Today Rodriguez Chacin is President Chavez’s chief contact with the FARC not only in Venezuela and Colombia, but throughout all of Latin America.

The twin “footprints” of the FARC and Rodriguez Chacin have been found by the intelligence services of a half-dozen Latin American countries – including Brazil and Mexico – in places like Ecuador, Bolivia, Paraguay, Peru, Panama, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala and Mexico.

And in many places, those “footprints” appear to come accompanied over time with an increase in internal social/political instability and increased criminal activities like drug trafficking. But perhaps it’s all coincidental.

Chavez supported the violence in Bolivia led by Evo Morales in 2002. He supported Cristina Kirchner’s election in 2004 with at least $5 million in illegal cash contributions shipped via Pdvsa.

Chavez interfered repeatedly in Ecuador’s and Peru’s presidential elections. He helped Daniel Ortega engineer an election fraud in Nicaragua, and gave tens of millions of dollars to the FMLN in El Salvador to help Mauricio Funes get elected president.

Chavez also gave millions of dollars to the failed presidential campaign of Panama’s Balbina Herrera, the candidate of the incumbent PRD socialist party,who lost to millionaire businessman Ricardo Martinelli.

Chavez’s prints were all over the recent “indigenous” violence in Peru.

And his prints were all over Manuel Zelaya’s illegal attempt in Honduras to force a popular referendum aimed at convening a constituent assembly. The promised pay-off for Zelaya was indefinite re-election and millions of dollars in cheap oil and other Bolivarian aid which, firstly, would make Zelaya a very wealthy man.

Chavez has been promoting instability regionally for years. At home, Chavez has been systematically destroying democracy and the rule of law.

But everyone has looked away for a decade – the US under successive democratic and republican administrations, the OAS, even the countries where Chavez’s intervention has been most unwelcome.

Then Honduras happened.

By luck or design, President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recovered quickly after what appeared initially to be an uneven response.

Of course, OAS Secretary General Insulza’s stupidity gave Clinton the perfect segue to ask President Oscar Arias of Costa Rica to mediate talks between the ousted Zelaya and interim President Roberto Micheleti.

Chavez is in a rage. His first attempt to forcibly return Zelaya to Tegucigalpa endangered the lives of Argentina’s Cristina Kirchner and President Rafael Correa of Ecuador, since they were aboard the Venezuelan-owned aircraft (Citgo) carrying Zelaya.

Chavez has suspended oil shipments under Petrocaribe until Zelaya is restored to power – 20,000 b/d, says Energy Minister Rafael Ramirez. But Honduras only received about 3,400 b/d in 2008, so the 20,000 b/d figure probably is inflated considerably.

Chavez stopped short of booting Honduras out of the ALBA. Maybe he wants to give Micheleti a chance to reconsider? Not likely.

Zelaya has declared he will show up when least expected somewhere in Honduras. Chavez says he won’t cease his efforts to reinstate Zelaya.

Fidel Castro warns that if the “coup” in Honduras it not reversed, other governments in the region are at risk of a coup – but he doesn’t name them.

But with Costa Rica’s Arias now mediating, the process could take months.

Bad news for Zelaya since Honduras is scheduled to hold presidential elections in November 2009, and Micheleti already has declared he will not be a candidate.

Bad news also for Chavez since the issue of Zelaya’s return to power becomes moot after November’s presidential elections – unless he decides to declare those elections illegitimate and continue his silly charade as the new paladin of regional democracy. There’s a precedent he could take to the OAS: Haiti’s elections after Jean Bertrand Aristide was ousted.

Meanwhile, what of the OAS and its hapless Secretary General, Insulza?

In Honduras he was following Chavez’s orders blindly. A review of his actions and statements throughout the crisis leaves no room for even the smallest doubt.

Chavez owned up on one of his endless broadcasts on Honduras since Zelaya’s expulsion by the army on 28 June 2009 that he orchestrated and directed the events which placed Zelaya, Insulza, Kirchner and Correa in two Venezuelan-owned aircraft in the sky over Tegucigalpa.

Insulza’s primary responsibility, as OAS Secretary General, was to prevent the political theatrics which Chavez manufactured; instead, Insulza did exactly what Chavez dictated. He needs Chavez’s support to be re-elected for another five-term earning a six-figure salary in dollars for doing nothing.

But Secretary of State Clinton reportedly has already informed the government of Chile that the Obama administration will not support Insulza’s re-election. Insulza says the reports are inaccurate. Hopefully, Insulza is mistaken.

Insulza is easily the worst OAS Secretary General in memory. Insulza’s actions aggravated the crisis in Honduras and increased international polarization, when common sense should have prevailed from the start.

What next? Insulza and the OAS have been excluded. Clinton saw to that by inserting Arias personally as the only US-backed mediator in solving the crisis in Honduras.

Arias drew a line of demarcation immediately: Let Central Americans solve their own problems with each other without any external interference. Posted: No Trespassing! The warning applies to Chavez far more than the US or anyone else, as it rightly should.

Will Chavez desist? Micheleti warned that the first foiled attempt to return Zelaya to Honduran territory was so that he could immediately invite Venezuela and other ALBA countries to send troops to Honduras.

But this would entail great risk for Chavez. His Bolivarian army doesn’t have the capability to deploy to Honduras, and any military action by Chavez would be condemned immediately by the US and other governments in the region.

Nicaragua doesn’t have the troops to join any Chavez-led military adventurism against the new Honduran government. El Salvador’s conservative military leaders would flatly refuse orders from President Funes.

Cuba won’t openly place troops in Honduras either, especially not after Insulza greased the wheels in the OAS to invite Cuba, suspended in 1962, to return if it promises to play by OAS democratic rules.

Has Chavez finally reached his high-water mark in Honduras? This is impossible to predict.

The democratic institutions of Honduras stopped Zelaya and Chavez in their tracks. But Honduras could well be the exception to the rule.

Chavez will do whatever he must to remain in power indefinitely. His heroes include Fidel Castro and Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe.

Chavez helped Ortega commit electoral fraud in Nicaragua. He will do the same, if necessary, for Morales in Bolivia and Correa in Ecuador.

Chavez won’t back down. The nature of his Bolivarian revolution allows for no respite – ever. The process always advances, democratically and violently, always together in pursuit of a single goal: power by any means.

If Chavez can’t return Zelaya to power, he will seek ways to destabilize Honduras’ next government.

Written by Caracas Gringo

13/07/2009 at 17:23

Posted in Uncategorized

Honduras-Nicaragua conflict unlikely

with 2 comments

President Roberto Micheleti of Honduras warned on 5 July that Nicaragua is deploying troops to its border with Honduras. President Daniel Ortega promptly denied the charge.

But President Hugo Chavez’s week-old threat of Venezuelan military intervention in Honduras still hangs in the background.

A friend calls and asks, “Could Chavez deploy his Sukhois to Honduras?”

Since Mel Zelaya was sent packing a week ago for repeatedly defying the Constitution, Supreme Court and Congress of Honduras, the world’s Spanish-language news media has buzzed with expert political commentary about the political crisis in Honduras.

But we haven’t seen any military experts talking about the risks of an armed confrontation between the armed forces of Honduras and other Latin American countries.

What are the risks of an armed confrontation between Honduras and other countries? Can Chavez make good on his threats of military intervention in Honduras to restore Zelaya to power?

Geographically, the governments of Nicaragua and El Salvador could deploy troops into Honduras.

But as much as Chavez may be working behind the scenes to persuade Ortega and El Salvador’s President Mauricio Funes to intervene, it won’t happen.

Ortega is Chavez’s paid lackey, but Nicaragua’s Sandinista military commanders will not obey Ortega’s orders to cross the border into Honduras.

El Salvador’s Funes is FMLN, but so far he hasn’t joined the braying pack of chavista extremists which include Ortega, Evo Morales of Bolivia and Rafael Correa of Ecuador.

And Funes knows that El Salvador’s US-trained military commanders definitely will reject even the slightest hint by Funes that they should “support” Zelaya’s return to power in Tegucigalpa.

But what of Micheletti’s warning of Nicaraguan troops “massing” at the border?

It’s likely that Nicaragua’s military is reinforcing its border with Honduras, as the military in Honduras already have done.

But Nicaragua’s armed forces have less than 20,000 active personnel, about the same as the armed forces of Honduras.

On paper, Nicaragua has more armored fighting vehicles than Honduras, including 31 operational Soviet-made T-55 battle tanks. The air force of Honduras has more combat aircraft – including 11 F-5’s and half a squadron of Brazilian Tucano trainers – than Nicaragua.

However, 20-plus years of post-Cold War budget cutbacks have hollowed out Nicaragua’s armed forces – and the armed forces of Honduras – to the point where their main activities include border security, drug interdiction and other internal security activities in support of civilian law enforcement – like battling the powerful Maras or gangs which infest Central America.

Military commanders in both countries likely will do everything in their power to avoid cross-border clashes.

The militaries of Honduras and Nicaragua are roughly even on paper in terms of reported active-duty personnel, but both have major staffing, equipment and armament deficiencies.

From a military perspective, whether in Managua or Tegucigalpa, the crisis is political and internal to Honduras.

The national security and territorial integrity of the other Central American countries are not threatened by the political crisis in Honduras, so there is no need whatsoever for the armed forces of these countries to mobilize units against Honduras.

Nicaragua’s military commanders know this, irrespective of their allegedly Sandinista ideology.

If Chavez decides in one of his mad moments to order his Sukhois or other Venezuelan military assets to Honduras, it would constitute an overt act of war by Venezuela against Honduras and would confirm what everyone already knows: that Chavez is directly involved in the political crisis playing out in Tegucigalpa.

But Chavez doesn’t have the air refueling capability to fly his Sukhois to Honduras and back. The Sukhois would be forced to refuel, say, at air bases in Nicaragua or El Salvador.

For all his bluster, Ortega doesn’t want to get sucked into a regional conflict created by Chavez. And Funes certainly won’t dance to Chavez’s tune. Funes is a socialist, but he isn’t stupid.

He won’t give El Salvador’s conservative forces, which include the armed forces, an excuse to impeach and remove him from the presidency for illegally and unconstitutionally starting a war with a neighboring country by sending Salvadoran troops into that country.

However, Chavez and his pal Ortega do have the capability to deploy paid political agitators on the ground in Honduras.

The Chavez regime has been in Honduras since before Zelaya was elected president at the end of 2005, funding and organizing Bolivarian groups in that country, including activists trained in the instigation of violent street protests.

President Micheletti claims that his new government’s security forces already have arrested numerous Nicaraguan nationals in poor sections of Tegucigalpa and other cities in the act of trying to instigate violent street protests.

Dozens of civilians who tried to enter Honduras from Nicaragua overland during the past week also have been turned back at the border by Honduran troops at reinforced border crossings.

Several thousand Zelaya supporters have massed at the international airport in Tegucigalpa. Clashes are already erupting. The potential of increased violence today and in coming days is significant and growing.

But the chances of military clashes between Honduras and its neighbors would appear to be practically nil – por ahora, anyway.

Written by Caracas Gringo

05/07/2009 at 18:21

Posted in Uncategorized

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 279 other followers