Archive for April, 2010
Arturo Valenzuela, the US Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, said on 30 April that governments should not criticize the electoral candidates of other countries because it constitutes “intervention in the internal affairs” of nations.
Of course, this never applies to the US government, which routinely interferes in the internal affairs of countries everywhere in the world including Latin America.
It doesn’t matter if the White House is in Democratic or Republican hands. Former President Bill Clinton invaded Haiti, and former President George W. Bush invaded Iraq. Both invasions were officially meant to overthrow despots and create democracies.
Both countries are still basket cases, but Iraq has oil while Haiti has millions of potential “balseros” who’d be rowing to Florida right now if they could find any wood.
Before Clinton’s nation-building adventure in Haiti, there was Grenada, Panama, Nicaragua and El Salvador in the 1980s, and Chile back in 1973. But life was simpler during the Cold War.
Sure, Republican US administrations of the past 50 years historically have interfered all over the region more than the Democrats, but partisan arguments about which US political party is more guilty of interventionism in the region than the other is like debating whether the egg or the chicken came first.
The history of US relations with Latin America always has been interventionist, especially in Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean. The Monroe Doctrine, the Marines in Nicaragua and Haiti in the 1930s, Teddy Roosevelt’s decision to steal Panama from Colombia so he could build his Canal.
So it’s hilarious when Valenzuela says that countries should not interfere in the presidential elections of other countries.
Valenzuela and his colleague Dan Restrepo at the White House have done nothing but interfere in the internal electoral affairs of Honduras since former President Mel “Stetson” Zelaya was constitutionally/legally ousted by decision of the Supreme Court and Congress of Honduras.
Zelaya, with the eager assistance of President Hugo Chavez, was determined to make himself the Chavez of Honduras. Zelaya ignored the Constitution, broke the laws of Honduras and defied the Supreme Court and Congress.
Yes, Zelaya was deposed in June 2009 and Valenzuela wasn’t confirmed as assistant secretary of state for the region until November 2009. But Valenzuela has been trying to make up for lost time since then.
Valenzuela has never liked the official US Honduras “solution” – which was to support new presidential elections on schedule and forget about Stetson Mel.
Valenzuela “feels that Honduras (the institutions and leaders that booted Zelaya aka Wannabe Hugo) walked all over the Obama administration,” says a Latin American source in Washington.
“Valenzuela wants to place his mark on Honduras,” adds this source. It’s not clear what that entails.
But Valenzuela still calls the happenings in Honduras a “coup” even though the US government’s official investigation concluded that Stetson Mel was ousted democratically though he shouldn’t have been forced to leave the country.
Interesting that Valenzuela thinks the democratic institutions of Honduras walked all over the Obama administration.
President Hugo Chavez routinely walks all over the Obama administration and anyone else who stokes his thin-skinned ire, but Valenzuela and Restrepo never say anything critical about Chavez with even a little conviction.
How important is Latin America to the Obama administration?
“This is Bush redux, only worse,” says our Latin America source in Washington. “Bush never cared about Latin America, but at least his instincts were in the right place. He knew who the good and bad guys were.”
Except that Bush’s Latin America policy foundered at launch in January 2001.
But our Latin American source in Washington insists, “Seriously, the guys now running Latin America – Valenzuela and Restrepo – are a major step back in US relations with Latin America. They are clueless about what’s happening in the region, they have no political traction in the region, and they are not sufficiently high-level power players in Washington or Latin America.”
Our source in DC, who is not a US citizen and has never worked in any capacity for any US government, is very critical of Valenzuela: “Everywhere Arturo has traveled in the region, he has committed one faux pas after another, like not showing up at the swearing-in of Chile’s new President, Sebastián Piñera. Valenzuela is the wrong person for the job. There are critical issues in the region, trade, energy, Colombia, Venezuela, among others. But Valenzuela is not a diplomat and tries instead to be academic about matters of foreign policy.”
Another source, a US Republican, says that Valenzuela has the same problem that Roger Noriega experienced in his interactions with Latin American governments during the Bush administration. “Arturo is viewed as a political lightweight in the region. (Thomas A.) Shannon (the current US Ambassador to Brazil) was perceived regionally as having more credibility than either Valenzuela or Noriega.”
But Shannon was a career foreign service officer serving two presidents (Bush and Obama) who prize personal/political loyalty to the president above everything else. Shannon was never a political insider, so neither Bush nor Obama cared much for his counsel.
Why are Valenzuela and Restrepo Bush redux? “Because their top priority is to avoid the eruption of any major crises in Latin America,” says our Latin American source in DC.
But President Chavez in Venezuela won’t oblige.
Our Latin America source predicts that a major crisis will erupt in Venezuela before the next US presidential elections.
“Chavez still sits in the driver’s seat, but developments in Venezuela increasingly escape his control. And when Venezuela finally crashes, as it will beyond a doubt, the US government will be surprised and unprepared,” he says.
Rocío San Miguel, an attorney who heads the NGO Control Ciudadano para la Seguridad, la Defensa y la Fuerza Armada Nacional, says that President Hugo Chavez is committing treason against the homeland.
Ms. San Miguel says that the Venezuelan Penal Code defines five elements that, individually and certainly collectively, constitute the crime of Treason against the Homeland (Traicion a la Patria):
*Whoever attempts against the independence of the Republic.
*Whoever conspires to destroy the republican political model that constitutes the Nation.
*Whoever requests the intervention of a foreign nation in the internal political affairs of Venezuela.
*Whoever reveals political and military secrets concerning the security of Venezuela.
*Whoever hands over resources to a foreign nation that are used in ways that damage the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, its republican institutions, its citizens and which serve to destabilize the social order.
Whoever commits any one of these five elements is committing treason against the nation.
Based on these five elements contained explicitly in the Venezuelan Penal Code, President Chavez certainly is committing treason.
Cuban government officials currently occupy senior positions in the armed forces, and the ministries of defense, and interior & justice. There are Cuban nationals in the Venezuelan national intelligence services, and the recently created national police.
Cubans today are calling the shots in all of the country’s national registries, in Seniat (taxes) and Onidex (national identity, passport and migration control), in Pdvsa, Corpoelec and CANTV.
Everywhere one looks within the Bolivarian regime, Cubans are running the show behind the scenes.
President Chavez since 2000 has been giving Cuba about $5 billion a year in oil and non-oil goods including cash – about $50 billion in Venezuelan resources that constitutionally and legally belong to the Venezuelan nation – meaning the Venezuelan people – has been given away by Chavez to the Castros.
Chavez also has given away hundreds of millions of dollars more to Bolivia, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Iran.
PetroCaribe, arguably, also is illegal and unconstitutional, and it’s doubtful anyway that Venezuela ever will collect in full the billions that are owed by PetroCaribe’s financially threadbare beneficiaries.
The $28 billion in debt that the Chavez regime has contracted with China’s government also, arguably, is an illegally contracted debt.
Chavez also is forging ahead ruthlessly with an unconstitutional and illegal project to erase the democratic republican Venezuelan nation and replace it with a militarized socialist state with himself as president-in-perpetuity like his good friends the Castro brothers and Mugabe, among others.
Chavez’s project to erase the Venezuelan republican nation is so extreme that it contemplates doing away with existing territorial boundaries between states; imagine fewer states with new names.
Elected local (municipal) and regional (state) governments would disappear, replaced completely by new Bolivarian entities that would be controlled by a central commission which Chavez would chair.
The Supreme Court and the Attorney General of the Bolivarian Republic have done nothing whatsoever to stop President Chavez from committing treason against the nation. Au contraire, the Supremes and AG have supported and endorsed the president’s acts of treason.
The National Assembly also has kowtowed to all of the president’s treasonous acts.
Arguably, the current National Assembly, Supreme Court and AG are aiding and abetting ongoing acts of treason by the president; hence they, also, are committing treason.
What’s to be done? Right now, nothing can be done.
“I am the state,” Chavez boasts frequently, but not idly. Chavez’s popularity may be falling, and almost three-quarters of the populace do not trust the president. But he’s still in the driver’s seat and there’s no one out there – in the regime or the opposition – with sufficient traction to replace Chavez.
It’s tempting to hope that the armed forces of Venezuela might grow a pair and discharge their constitutional obligation to defend the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela against acts of national treason, especially when the chief traitor is the president of the republic.
But the armed forces never recovered from the twin failed military coups of 1992 in which Chavez was the key player. Moreover, after 11-plus years with Chavez as president, Venezuela’s armed forces have become an essentially quadriplegic institution without a brain.
The Army of Bolivar, the air force and navy, and the National Guard have become politicized, corrupted, weak institutions commanded mostly by inept generals who long ago sold out their honor and duty to the republic in exchange for their “soles” and corruptly acquired personal wealth.
Ms. San Miguel’s argument that President Chavez is committing treason is a powerful one. But with all of Venezuela’s institutions of governance in Chavez’s pocket, it’s very unlikely that Chavez will be brought to justice.
The Chavez regime has hated and feared Ms. San Miguel for years. But after this, it’s certain that she has risen to the top of President Chavez’s enemies list. No one should be surprised if Chavez orders her arrest and imprisonment on trumped-up charges facilitated by a corrupt AG and judiciary.
The political opposition held primaries in 15 electoral circuits on 25 April to choose 22 candidates for the National Assembly elections scheduled to be held on 26 September. The electoral authorities (CNE) supervising the primaries behaved professionally and did not hinder or interfere in the process. The military forces deployed to safeguard the voting stations and ballots also comported themselves professionally. There was no reason for the CNE officials and military troops to behave poorly because President Hugo Chavez had nothing riding on the results of the opposition primaries.
In fact, letting the primaries play out peacefully was a big propaganda plus for the Chavez regime, which now can boast that the primaries show that democracy is very much alive and well in Bolivarian Venezuela. If someone criticizes the regime as undemocratic, government propaganda spinmeisters can reply that the opposition primaries prove otherwise.
A day earlier, on 24 April, the Unitary Democratic Table (Spanish acronym is “MUD”) announced after many weeks of squabbling internally that a consensus had been reached on 165 candidates who, theoretically, will campaign as a unified opposition.
The Teos and Maria Corinas of the oppo universe praised the primaries and the consensus achieved by MUD as proof that the opposition will lead a democratic renaissance in the 26 September elections, winning enough seats in the National Assembly to constitute a pluralist legislature capable of blocking the regime’s worst initiatives and working with the ruling PSUV to advance good initiatives. Not intending to rain on anyone’s parade, these optimistic assurances sound a lot like counting live chickens before any eggs have actually hatched.
It remains to be seen if MUD’s consensus candidates can stick together over the coming five months, or if the opposition will revert to its traditional disunity. It also remains to be seen whether the Chavez regime will play fair in the 26 September elections. President Chavez and his senior satraps could not be clearer on this point: The Bolivarian revolution will not admit any electoral defeats and will not stand down, no matter what. Chavez set the benchmark months ago. He said that the PSUV must win between two-thirds and three-quarters of the seats in play.
The opposition certainly has a good shot at winning a significant number of seats. Chavez’s popularity has dropped under 50% and 70% of the adult population distrusts him, according to several recent polls. However, Chavez controls all the institutions of governance in Venezuela including the CNE, Supreme Court, Attorney General and National Assembly, and he just gave the armed forces a 40% wage increase which the Communist Party of Venezuela (PCV) publicly endorsed as “justice” for the troops.
Caracas Gringo suspects that it doesn’t matter if the elections are held today or on 26 September. The Chavez regime may allow the opposition to gain some seats in the legislature. But the regime will make sure that its PSUV loyalists win a sufficiently large percentage of the National Assembly to guarantee that the president can continue to deepen his revolution.
Can the opposition derail any regime ideas about rigging the outcome?
Yes, possibly, provided that the opposition crafts a strong message that appeals to all voters, reaches out aggressively to poor Venezuelans who constitute about 80% of the electorate, and fields enough witnesses and poll workers to ensure that the regime cannot engage in any last minute ballot stuffing or alterations of the data in the electronic voting machines. But we’re not optimistic on all counts.
Viewed from afar, there doesn’t appear to be any rebirth of the opposition. Some new actors with leadership potential have certainly emerged, so one must not surrender all hope. However, MUD still is dominated largely by the same old tired dinosaurs that have little if any traction at all with the general populace. Folks like Ramos Allup, Barboza, Rosales, Salas Romer, Borges, Ledezma, among so many others. There isn’t a single inspirational leader in this bunch; just a lot of power-hungry professional politicos without an ice cube’s chance in hell of rebuilding Venezuela in less than 20 or 30 years even if Chavez and all his gangsters were to disappear in an instant.
A Venezuelan friend describes his country after 11-plus years of Hugo Chavez in power as resembling “…a very large red bus with 27 million passengers that has run out of gas, is rolling downhill at increasing speed in neutral gear, without brakes, with the tires coming off the wheels and with a drunk driver at the steering wheel.”
Most of the opposition’s putative leaders appear to believe that they can whittle down the Chavez regime in the 26 September elections, and create a beachhead from which to launch a successful presidential challenge against Chavez in the 2012 elections. It has been suggested from outside MUD that the opposition presidential candidate should be chosen in national primaries. That certainly would be a vast improvement over the triumvirate – Rosales,Petkoff and Borges – who decided amongst themselves that Rosales would challenge Chavez in the last presidential elections. But the next presidential elections won’t happen for another 32 months, and meanwhile the Chavez regime won’t be daydreaming in the shade.
Caracas Gringo doesn’t buy the notion that Chavez and gang will be ousted from power democratically. There won’t be a peaceful electoral resolution to the disaster that Venezuela has become under Chavez. The president and his top gangsters have warned repeatedly that the revolution won’t give up or share power. But Venezuela is going to crash hard whether or not Chavez is in power. A national crash is inevitable, unavoidable. Impossible to predict the precise timing, characteristics or forces involved in the coming crash. But the damage to Venezuela is too great, and the groups aligned within MUD have no power whatsoever to change outcomes.
President Chavez likely will determine the finale. But Venezuelans will have little say in determining the destiny of their nation. Venezuela already has new owners, and they are not Venezuelan. Chavez boasts about kicking the Gringos out of Venezuela and rescuing the nation’s sovereignty. But Chavez has literally given away Venezuela to foreign states and non-state actors that collectively and individually have no interest whatsoever in a democratic and independent Venezuela.
Cuba, Russia, China, Iran, Belarus, FARC, among others, have strong vested interests in Venezuela. The Russians want state-to-state contracts to ensure that if and when Chavez departs Miraflores, his successor cannot walk away from Venezuela’s contractual obligations to the Russian state. Ditto for Beijing, which already is reaping immense cash rewards by lending $32 billion to Venezuela’s government and getting repaid in oil at prices discounted by $20/bl and higher, and with all freight and insurance costs borne by Pdvsa, some three-quarters of which is diverted to markets other than China and resold at huge profits by CNPC, Sinopec and Petrochina.
Cuba is vitally interested in Venezuela’s future, with or without Chavez. If that weren’t so, there would not be over 50,000 Cubans in Venezuela today in senior positions in practically every Venezuelan government entity. Chavez said recently that the Cubans in the armed forces are there to “help” the Venezuelan military, but the president’s justification is BS. The liberating army of Bolivar today is controlled de facto by the communist army of Fidel and Raul. The Cubans aren’t going to run for cover if all hell breaks loose in Venezuela; not at all. If Chavez pulls the trigger, the Cubans will do everything in their power to mop up and remain in control of the state. And, given the corrupt nature of the Bolivarian revolution, the Cubans will find plenty of Venezuelans willing to sell out their sovereignty and independence to Havana in exchange for crumbs.
A Venezuelanm friend asks: “But surely the gringos will step in to prevent such an outcome?” Nope, there’s not a chance of that happening. There won’t be a repeat of Panama, Grenada or Haiti during the Obama administration. The current US administration has other, far more important priorities on its plate than Venezuela or Latin America.
For the second time since 11 March, General Douglas Fraser, head of the US Southern Command (Southcom) in Miami, has differed publicly with US intelligence assessments about Venezuela made by analysts who do not work at Southcom.
General Fraser said in Washington, DC on 27 April that Iran’s activities in Venezuela are diplomatic and commercial – but not military. “We see a growing Iranian interest and engagement with Venezuela. … It’s a diplomatic, it’s a commercial presence. I haven’t seen evidence of a military presence,” Fraser said.
The general’s remarks appeared to contradict an unclassified Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) report sent to Congress earlier in April. DIA is the intelligence arm of the Department of Defense (Pentagon).
The unclassified DIA report about Iran’s military capabilities (there is also a classified report) said that Islamic revolutionary Guards Corp – Qods Force (IRGC-QF) “…is well established in the Middle East and Latin America, particularly Venezuela.”
The Washington Times published a story on 21 April and included a PDF link to the unclassified report. We posted a brief item with the link to the newspaper article, and promptly received a comment from a reader in Venezuela who said that our post was garbage because the original article was published by the Washington Times, a “neo-con propaganda” outlet.
But the Pentagon to date has not denied the accuracy of the WashTimes article. It also has not denied the legitimacy of the unclassified DIA report published by the newspaper. However, General Fraser apparently disagrees with the DIA assessment.
General Fraser’s first public disagreement with another intelligence assessment about Venezuela happened on 11 March when he told US legislators that Southcom has not seen any evidence “of any specific relation that could verify that there is a direct link between the government (of Venezuela) and the terrorists.” Fraser also said that Southcom “has maintained a close monitoring of any connection with some illicit or terrorist organization in the region… (but) we’re concerned, skeptical and will continue monitoring” the situation.
The general’s remarks to US legislators caused great surprise among civilian and military intelligence professionals from the US, Colombia, Trinidad & Tobago, Spain, Brazil, the Netherlands, and France, among others. But even more surprising at the time was that General Fraser publicly contradicted Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Arturo Valenzuela, who told US legislators on 10 March that there have been some signs that Venezuela’s government is cooperating with the FARC. Valenzuela said that he could not say more at a public hearing, but he offered to speak with US legislators behind closed doors.
Then, on 12 March General Fraser clarified his remarks of 11 March at Southcom’s web site: “Yesterday I testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee and fielded a question from Senator McCain pertaining to the Government of Venezuela (GoV) facilitating contacts between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the Euskadi Ta Askatasuna or ETA (Basque Homeland and Freedom) during the planning and attempted assassination of Colombian officials, including President Uribe, during their recent visit to Spain. The Senator also asked about other activities where the GoV was engaged in enabling or supporting terrorist activity in our area of responsibility. Assistant Secretary of State Arturo Valenzuela was asked a similar question one day earlier during testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Conference on 10 March.”
“Assistant Secretary Valenzuela and I spoke this morning (12 March) on the topic of linkages between the government of Venezuela and the FARC. There is zero daylight between our two positions and we are in complete agreement: There is indeed clear and documented historical and ongoing evidence of the linkages between the Government of Venezuela and the FARC. We track this and continue to monitor the amount and level of direct support in the form of money, networks, and providing a safe haven for operations and personnel. In this view and pursuit, we are in direct alignment with our partners at the State Department and the Intelligence Community.”
Reading between the lines of Fraser’s clarification, it was clear that Valenzuela may have engaged in a bit of diplomatic ear pulling. In the US, generals do not outrank Assistant Secretaries of State. But now Fraser has differed with a DIA assessment about Iranian military activities in Venezuela – although Fraser apparently did not say that there is no evidence of an IRGC-QF presence in other Latin American states besides Venezuela. What’s going on? We tried to answer the question in a previous post in March, but did a poor job of it. So, here goes again:
*In general, the US government is clueless about what is happening in Venezuela, particularly, and more broadly in Latin America. And this is not a recent problem. Successive US governments have never paid much attention to Latin America. The region has never been a top priority for any US administration in recent memory, but particularly so since 11 September 2001. Since 911, the main responsibility of US officials engaged in the conduct of US foreign policy towards Latin America has been to avoid at all costs the eruption of major crises in the region. The Obama White House, and before that the Bush White House, has no time or inclination to deal with any crises in Latin America.
*Since 911, US intelligence assets have shifted massively towards Iraq, Afghanistan and fighting the global war against terrorism – a global war by the only (for now) superpower state in the world against a stateless enemy. US intelligence and military assets chasing elusive Islamist terrorists around the world, and battling in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, have no time or interest in Latin America. In this global war, Africa is a much higher priority for the US intelligence establishment since 911 than is Latin America & the Caribbean. Africa is a hotbed of Islamist extremism and militant groups eager to blow up infidels everywhere. Latin America has drug cartels (Mexico) and narco-terrorist groups (FARC, etc) for whom killing is routine business, but not necessarily a religious obligation.
*The Washington-centric community of US experts on Latin America and the Caribbean, both Democrats and Republicans, is somewhat long in the tooth. Most of US experts on Latin America still active in Washington have been around since the mid-1970’s, engaged in the region since the Carter and Reagan administrations, and focused mainly on issues like Cuba, the Central American Cold War conflicts, Haiti, and the Colombian drug cartels. There are some talented young experts in the Washington policymaking community on Latin America nowadays, but even many of these younger experts will agree that Latin America simply does not command any priority in the US capital, regardless of which party holds the White House.
*The US federal government has more intelligence agencies than any other country in the world. Besides DIA, there are at least 10 other military intelligence agencies in the US military establishment. There’s also the Homeland Security Department, CIA, FBI, DEA, and the Treasury, State and Energy Departments all have their own intelligence and counterintelligence services. But more isn’t better. The vast US intelligence apparatus failed to prevent 911, and it appears that every single new attempt at airborne terrorism against the US has been stopped by passengers aboard commercial airliners who seized wannabe martyrs before they could detonate explosives.
*In Latin America particularly, US intelligence is significantly outmatched by Cuban intelligence. Cuban intelligence has been running rings around the US intelligence establishment for a half-century. Cuba’s DGI is considered one of the world’s top intelligence services. The gringos have way more money and technology, but Cuba’s DGI appears to have been spectacularly more successful in terms of recruiting spies at very senior levels of the US intelligence and diplomatic establishments. Ana Belen Montes, the DIA’s senior Cuba analyst who was recruited by DGI while still in university, spied for Havana against the US for over 16 years before she was caught. The harm she caused is on a scale with the damage wrought by the FBI’s Robert Hanssen, who spied for the Soviet Union’s KGB and its post-Soviet successor for over two decades.
*The US intelligence establishment that focuses on Cuba and Latin America has never entirely recovered from the Ana Belen Montes espionage case. It’s no small thing that the top US intelligence official responsible for Cuba was in reality Havana’s top spy inside the US intelligence/military establishments. Some people who worked closely with Belen Montes saw their careers derailed because they were unfairly tainted simply for having worked with her.
*Cuba’s DGI owns Venezuela. Today there are upwards of 50,000 Cubans in Venezuela on official missions, by the Chavez regime’s own estimates. Cuban nationals are operating today at senior levels in the armed forces, Defense Ministry, Interior and Justice Ministry, Public Works Ministry, Seniat and Onidex, the national registry, the seaports and customs, the new national police and the new Bolivarian intelligence service (Sebin), the energy, planning/finance, and education ministries, CANTV, Corpoelec, Pdvsa, etc. Caracas Gringo’s contacts within the defense ministry claim that DGI has its own offices in Venezuela with over 600 agents engaged permanently in intelligence and counter-intelligence activities.
*The gringo military mission years ago got booted from its decades-old digs in Fort Tiuna, but the Cubans, and more recently Russians, Belarusians and Chinese, have growing access to the Bolivarian armed forces. Is there a permanent US intelligence presence in Venezuela? In 2009 we were told by a US official in Washington, DC that the law enforcement (FBI/DEA) and intelligence (CIA) offices of the US embassy in Caracas were grossly understaffed.
*No offense intended, but Southcom has always been a military command in quest of a grand mission in Latin America. There’s no action in Southcom’s area of responsibility, and there never has been any. There’s drug trafficking, humanitarian aid, military exchanges. But there are no real conflicts or critical threats to US national security in Southcom’s area. Caracas Gringo has spoken over the years with many US military officers who spent time deployed with Southcom, all of them highly motivated professionals who excelled at their jobs. These officers say that Southcom never has been held in high priority by the Pentagon, and that no one seeking advancement in a professional military career wants to spend much time there. In fact, we’re told that increasingly posts once held by military personnel at Southcom are now held by civilian hires. It’s also a fact that Southcom’s intelligence analysts are not allowed to engage foreign nationals personally. Why? Those are the rules, a source tells Caracas Gringo. Good enough, but how does an effective intelligence analyst obtain intelligence if he/she cannot engage personally with foreign nationals?
*In Caracas Gringo’s experience, over 90% of the generals appointed to command Southcom have literally no experience or even knowledge of the region. They spend 2-3 years at their commands, and acquire their “knowledge” from briefings imparted by experts within their command. But at bottom they know as much about Latin America as, say, Hugo Chavez knows about Baltimore. It also appears that Southcom’s intelligence analysts operate independently of other US intelligence services, which is hardly surprising given the substantial number of US intelligence agencies out there doing their own thing. Is Southcom’s intelligence output less accurate or credible than what is generated at DIA or CIA? Not necessarily. But Southcom certainly does not have the resources, global range and intelligence assets that one finds at DIA or CIA.
General Fraser appears to be basing his remarks about Venezuela on the intelligence generated by Southcom. But Southcom’s intelligence may be limited by some of the factors mentioned above. It’s possible that Fraser also is being misquoted by the Washington defense press corps; if so, not talking to the press would seem a wise course of action for any general. Unfortunately, too many US generals seem to become entranced, or entrapped, by politics.
There’s more to this story, but this post is too long by far….
Caracas Gringo has been on a lengthy hiatus from blogging that lasted longer than expected due to an unfortunate encounter with a speeding pickup truck. The pickup was the victor in that encounter. But since yerba mala nunca muere, we expect to be around for a long time – certainly long after Hugo Chavez and his thugs are sent packing.
The Washington Times reports that Iran “is increasing its paramilitary Qods force operatives in Venezuela while covertly continuing supplies of weapons and explosives to Taliban and other insurgents in Afghanistan and Iraq, according to the Pentagon’s first report to Congress on Tehran’s military. The report on Iranian military power provides new details on the group known formally as the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF), the Islamist shock troops deployed around the world to advance Iranian interests. The unit is aligned with terrorists in Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel, North Africa and Latin America, and the report warns that U.S. forces are likely to battle the Iranian paramilitaries in the future.”