President Hugo Chavez has been trashing the United States and Colombia every day since the US-Colombia signed an agreement giving US military forces on counter-drug/counter-terrorist missions the right to deploy from a half-dozen Colombian army, air force and navy bases.
The president’s rants against the US and Colombia seek to position the Bolivarian revolution as a people’s socialist movement which the US is planning to invade from Colombia. According to Chavez, the US wants to seize Venezuela’s crude and gas reserves, and make Venezuela into a “Yanqui” colony which enslaves the “pueblo.”
During the 8 November edition of “Alo Presidente,” Chavez declared that the “Bolivarian armed forces, the militia, the people, students, workers and women…must waste no time preparing for war…(and) to defend the sacred, holy motherland” against the imminent US military invasion from Colombia.
It’s a given that in a clash between conventional Venezuelan and Colombian military forces, the Venezuelan side very likely would suffer the worst. Colombian troops are highly trained, motivated and experienced in combat; Venezuela’s Bolivarian military excels at parades and intimidating unarmed civilians. Colombian troops are very well-equipped; Venezuela’s Bolivarian military doesn’t have the weapons and munitions it would need in a real fight – because Chavez doesn’t trust his officers.
However, Chavez continues to attack Colombia, and clearly is trying to foster public perceptions that Venezuela is almost at the brink of a war with Colombia. Why is Chavez doing this? Four possibilities come to mind:
*Chavez is orchestrating a coup against Tachira state Governor Cesar Perez Vivas by inventing an alleged alliance between the governor and Colombian paramilitaries which seeks to destabilize Venezuela. Chavez’s efforts to frame Perez Vivas in order to justify militarizing Tachira’s state government were addressed in a previous post.
*Chavez is trying to distract attention at home from the Venezuelan economy’s worsening structural crisis. Pdvsa and the power industry have collapsed. The basic industries lie in ruins. Venezuelans face at least five years of daily power rationing combined with forced outages because the national power grid is largely rusting junk. Violent crime is wildly out of control, with the homicide rate in 2009 projected to reach almost 19,500 persons compared with some 14,000 homicides in 2008. The health care and education systems have been politicized and wrecked. The private sector has been crushed systematically, destroying over 1 million jobs in a decade. Over 1 million of the country’s best and brightest talents have emigrated since 1999.
*Chavez is seeking to destabilize Colombia’s democracy ahead of the 2010 elections. The strategic/political alliance between Chavez and the FARC/ELN is a matter of notorious public record. The Bolivarian revolution and Latin America’s largest narco-terrorist militant group have been allies since 1994, years before Chavez was first elected president at the end of 1998. Chavez has been working actively to destabilize the government of President Alvaro Uribe Velez for almost eight years. Top Chavez cronies like Ramon Rodriguez Chacin, DGIM director Hugo Carvajal and former Disip director Henry Rangel Silva have worked closely with the FARC for years. Among other “services,” Carvajal and Rangel Silva provide protection and security escorts for FARC cocaine loads transiting through Venezuela. Only a few days ago, the FARC issued a public call for all Bolivarian revolutionary forces in Colombia to unite in defense of Venezuela against the US military presence in Colombia.
*Chavez and his chief mentor Fidel are taking advantage of the US administration of President Barack Obama, which in matters of foreign policy comes off as dispersed, unfocused, indecisive and weak, to advance their revolutionary agenda in Latin America. Fidel may be in his late 80s, but he’s still at the top of his game in terms of roiling Latin America, undermining US strategic goals in the region, and running rings around US foreign policymakers. Colombia is arguably the most important strategic ally the US has in South America, followed by Peru. If the Colombian democratic forces backing Uribe Velez can be destabilized and knocked out of power, the entire Andean region would be at risk of falling into Chavez’s criminal embrace.