President Hugo Chavez fancies himself a warrior, a Bolivarian warlord, a great Venezuelan military historian and strategist.
However, here’s the truth: Hugo Chavez has never commanded troops in actual combat anywhere.
Chavez talks a mean fight, but throughout his life has always opted for running away from the possibility of suffering a hot lead enema.
The only military adventure in which Chavez ever participated – the attempted coup against then-President Carlos Andres Perez on 4 February, 1992 – ended in failure less than 12 hours after it was launched.
And the biggest reason why it failed is that the coup’s putative chief plotter and principal leader – Lt. Col. Hugo Chavez Frias – halted his forces well out of harm’s way in Caracas and immediately started to negotiate his surrender.
Betrayal is as natural as breathing to Chavez.
However, on Friday of this week, Chavez will take his Great Leader/Warrior dog-and-pony show to the Argentine ski resort of Bariloche where the heads of state of the South American Union (Unasur) countries are meeting to discuss the new Colombia-US base rights agreement.
The Colombia-US agreement isn’t any of Unasur’s business, but Colombia’s government is willing to hear the views of Unasur’s members and present its case on why the base rights agreement is vital to Colombia’s national security.
Chavez has been beating the rhetorical drums of war loudly since the new Colombia-US base rights agreement was announced. He claims that the Colombia-US agreement is part of a US plan to invade Venezuela and seize control of its oil and gas reserves. Chavez also claims the hated gringos want to invade “Amazonia.”
Chavez has pledged to back up these crazed accusations in Bariloche with an alleged US intelligence document that will confirm the US is planning a military invasion of Venezuela.
Meanwhile, Chavez has ordered his Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro to “prepare for a permanent rupture” with Colombia. He plans to terminate bilateral trade worth $6.5 billion this year (with a $6 billion surplus favoring Colombia), and replace imports from Colombia with imports from Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Ecuador – anyone but Colombia.
Chavez also has ordered an investigation of the sources of capital used by Colombian companies in Venezuela, to determine if any Colombian drug money has snuck into Venezuela. Chavez wears hypocrisy like a second skin.
Breaking trade ties with Colombia will hurt Colombian companies of course. But Venezuelan consumers and producers will get hammered much harder.
It takes a week to import anything from Colombia in normal times, and about two months to import anything from Brazil, Argentina or Uruguay. Imports from Ecuador take even longer.
Longer import distances/times = higher transportation/freight/insurance costs = higher retail prices = screwed Venezuelan consumer.
Chavez also is threatening that a military conflict could be imminent between Venezuela and Colombia. However, it’s doubtful that Chavez actually will order his Bolivarian Armed Forces to battle Colombian troops.
First, despite the new Russian weapons acquired since 2005 at a cost of $4.4 billion (including 100,000 AK-103/104 assault rifles), the Bolivarian Armed Forces (FANB) are in dreadful operational condition. Not a single combat unit in the country is at 50% preparedness.
The commanders of the FANB excel at kissing presidential butt, but they could not win a fight with the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz.
Second, President Chavez doesn’t personally have the “cojones” to pick a fight with anyone. Chavez is a loudmouthed bullyboy who makes terrible threats from within the relative comfort of his multiple layers of security. But at heart, Chavez is a coward, and the people around him know it.
As a young cadet in the Military Academy, Chavez always flinched and backed away from his opponents in unarmed combat training exercises.
As a young Army officer already plotting to betray his elected democratic government, Chavez excelled at conspiracies but never participated in a single patrol, operation or anything that could threaten his personal safety.
We already mentioned how Chavez betrayed his comrades on 4 February 1992.
On 11 April, 2002, when the terrible magnitude of his criminal conspiracy to commit mass slaughter against unarmed civilians blew up in his face, President Chavez betrayed his closest comrades again.
While hard men like Grima Wormtongue urged unflinching armed resistance in Miraflores against the Army troops they feared were en route, Chavez ordered his senior generals, including then-CUFAN commander General Manuel Rosendo, to start negotiating his surrender immediately to the Army’s commander, General “Rapidito” (aka “Swifty”) Vasquez Velasco.
“You want me to immolate myself like that “pendejo” Allende?” Chavez is said to have shouted at Grima. “Yo no soy ningun pendejo.”
President Chavez always thinks of his own butt first, and always betrays his own people.
This is the great Bolivarian warrior who will seek in Bariloche on Friday, 28 August to rally Unasur against the Colombia-US base rights agreement.
Will Unasur’s leaders rise to his bait?
President Rafael Correa of Ecuador and President Evo Morales of Bolivia likely will back Chavez’s play.
Correa is allied strategically and politically with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). It is public record that Correa’s government actively cooperates with the FARC, an international narco-terrorist group. Perhaps Uribe will raise this point in Bariloche.
Morales also has ties with the FARC, although not as notoriously as Correa.
President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and her sidekick Nestor, a corrupt duo who are so deep in Chavez’s pocket they can never climb out, may support Chavez too.
Uruguay’s President Tabare Vasquez seems to be leaning against Colombia on the base rights agreement, and Paraguay’s Bishop-turned-President Fernando Lugo is a dyed-in-the-wool Liberation Theologist (i.e. perfect Latin American idiot).
Peru’s President Alan Garcia will support Colombia’s sovereign right to protect its own territory.
The wild cards could be Presidents Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of Brazil and Michelle Bachelet of Chile. But maybe we’re being too optimistic.
Collectively, Unasur’s mostly leftist presidents haven’t shown much intelligence, judgment, courage and political will when it comes to defending democracy, strengthening security in South America, and confronting Chavez.
*President Chavez has an explicit strategic and political alliance with the FARC. This alliance between Chavez and a narco-terrorist group includes providing the group with cash, weapons, political support and advocacy for the alleged Bolivarian cause of the world’s largest cocaine trafficking enterprise. But no one in South America (except Colombia’s government) addresses the issue.
*The Chavez regime is actively working through indigenous groups in Peru to foster civil violence in an effort to spark a larger conflict that could overthrow that country’s elected government, but no one in South America (except Peru) addresses this issue either.
*The Chavez and Correa governments allow the FARC to base large numbers of militants in Venezuelan and Ecuadorean territory. This is public record, but no one in Unasur says anything.
*The Chavez regime allows at least nine senior FARC leaders, and several top ELN leaders, to reside permanently in Venezuela under official protection, with legal Venezuelan documents under assumed names. This is also public record, but not a peep of protest within Unasur.
*The Chavez regime intervened openly in Honduras in the months leading up to the legal ouster of former President Manuel (all hat, no cattle) Zelaya, in violation of Unasur rules (and also the norms of the Organizaton of American States in Washington, DC). However, all of Unasur’s presidents (except Colombia and Peru) embraced the grand lie that Zelaya was toppled by a military coup. Again, no one in Unasur upbraided Chavez.
*The Chavez regime has intervened often and repeatedly in the sovereign internal and electoral affairs of Bolivia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Colombia, Panama, El Salvador and Nicaragua, to name a few, but no one in Unasur (except Colombia) says “boo.”
*The Chavez regime has purchased $4.4 billion of Russian weapons since 2005, an issue which Colombian President Alvaro Uribe Velez intends to bring up at Unasur’s meeting in Bariloche.
Chavez says he will buy “‘battalions” of battle tanks and armored fighting vehicles when he visits Moscow in September – to defend Venezuela against the imminent US military invasion that will be launched from Colombian territory.
Colombia’s government and armed forces will not deliberately start a fight with Venezuela, regardless of how hard Chavez pushes to cause an “incident.”
But if a clash ever happens, it’s a safe bet that the Colombian troops will seriously kick Venezuelan butt.
Colombia has a seasoned professional army with years of combat experience, and is well equipped with everything an infantryman needs to operate effectively in battle.
No offense whatsoever is intended to the many active and retired professional Venezuelan soldiers who have befriended Caracas Gringo over the years, but the sad truth is that Chavez’s Bolivarian armed forces are not operationally ready for military conflict at any level.
In fact, this problem pre-dates Chavez’s election at the end of 1998 and has not been fixed despite the huge arms buys in recent years.
But maybe an armed confrontation in which Venezuelan troops suffer the worst is what Chavez is seeking so that he can play the role of aggrieved victim again, as he always does.
The discussion at Unasur will give some hint as to the great Bolivarian leader’s thinking.
As PMB notes, sagely, it’s always dangerous to under-estimate Chavez, but it’s also dangerous to over-estimate him.