South America Looks Away as Chavez Rearms

December 20th, 2010 at 11:59 pm | 10 Comments |

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It seems that very little one hears from Venezuela, the Latin American pariah state, will raise eyebrows in a world grown accustomed to the bombastic rhetoric of its socialist president.  However, the recent revelations from cables leaked by Wikileaks to El País, the Spanish newspaper, bring to light some unsettling developments that may force the South American community to rethink its position toward its oil rich neighbor.

The cables reveal that Hugo Chavez has successfully secured one hundred man-portable anti-aircraft missiles as well as one hundred Igla missiles, one TOR M-1 air defense system, and an unknown amount of S-300 missiles – all from Russia.  The man-portable anti-aircraft missiles are particularly concerning should they fall into the hands of a group like the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia (FARC).  The anti-aircraft missiles have been described by the US as “one of the deadliest portable air defense systems ever made,” and with a “range of 2.5-4 miles, the Blackhawks operating in Colombia would be an easy target.”

These revelations are of particular concern in the context of Chavez’s increasingly weak position.  His social program continues to fail and the economy continues to languish, even while the rest of the continent has enjoyed almost unprecedented growth.  Next year his party will have a minority in congress, and Chavez’s own election, held in 2012, may be at risk.

The gravest concern is what Chavez may do to remain in power should his Bolivarian revolution continue to crumble around him.  He has been known to create crises to boost his popularity in the past, and armed conflict, most likely within his own state or with Colombia, is a real threat.  The South American continent has been one of the more stable regions on the globe for the past several decades, and the need to increase arms is not apparent in the absence of belligerent neighbors.

Faced with the prospect of a desperate leader lashing out in a last effort to cling to power, it may be time for the region to rethink its strategy of largely ignoring the Venezuelan problem in order to avoid a threat to the rapid growth and consolidation of democracies in the region.  The cables reveal that at least one leader has made such an effort, albeit not publicly.  In 2009, President Calderón of Mexico pressed the then Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair for the US to lean on Brazil to take steps to restrain Chavez, who according to Calderon, “is active everywhere, even in Mexico.”

South American leaders must be aware of the consequences of an increasingly armed and potentially unstable Venezuela in the region.  They should take all of the necessary steps to prevent conflict, and avoid a situation where the US, unable to engage the greater South American community, may fall back on supplying weapons to Colombia to balance against Venezuelan arming.  The specter of a major armed conflict between the two states could undermine two decades of growth and stabilization, and compromise what looks to be a bright future for the continent.  If the continent desires to continue on its current path, the time has come where it must actively defend what has been built.  Although this does not imply a direct confrontation, the community must begin to build a framework for dealing with destabilizing threats.

Recent Posts by Daniela Chacón Arias



10 Comments so far ↓

  • Churl

    If the other South American countries are insufficiently worried about Chavez to do anything about him, why should we worry?

  • Nanotek

    churl,

    I think he invited Iran to install their missiles, which can reach the tip of Florida.
    http://modernsurvivalblog.com/current-events-economics-politics/ahmadinejad-chavez-missiles-us-threat/

  • Churl

    Nanotek, does anyone seriously expect that Chavez would fire missiles at the US? Even Hugo knows that popping a missile into the Everglades would cause him trouble far out of proportion to the fun he might have launching his rockets.

  • Nanotek

    “Nanotek, does anyone seriously expect that Chavez would fire missiles at the US? ”

    oh no … didn’t mean that … that he invited Iran really seems strange

  • sinz54

    Churl: Nanotek, does anyone seriously expect that Chavez would fire missiles at the US?
    Do you know the definition of the word “deterrent”?

    Chavez’s possession of a long-range strike capability is intended to deter the U.S. from doing anything to thwart his actions.

    Besides, while liberals have never admitted it, most of the world still respects naked military power. Marxist regimes like Chavez’s have nothing else to offer anyway except the ability to launch military aggressions against their neighbors.

  • tommybones

    I wonder if the author of this article is one of the media members funded by the U.S. government?

    Via wikileaks (thank God for them!):

    A substantial portion of the more than 1600 State Department documents Wikileaks has published during the past two weeks refer to the ongoing efforts of US diplomacy to isolate and counter the Venezuelan government.

    Since Hugo Chavez won the presidency for the first time in 1998, Washington has engaged in numerous efforts to overthrow him, including a failed coup d’etat in April 2002, an oil industry strike that same year, worldwide media campaigns and varios electoral interventions. The State Department has also used its funding agencies, USAID and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), to channel millions of dollars annually to anti-Chavez NGOs, political parties, journalists and media organizations in Venezuela, who have been working to undermine the Chavez administration and force him from power. When these interventionist policies have been denounced by the Chavez government and others, Washington has repeatedly denied any efforts to isolate or act against the Venezuelan head of state.

  • tommybones

    Chavez is arming! Perhaps we should invade!!! My God, are these clowns kidding? Only in America are select sovereign nations not allowed to arm themselves, even as we spend more on arms than the rest of the world combined. Brilliant!

  • xiamenb2c04

    There are always problems there.

  • KBKY

    Tommybones brings up a wikileak which, once again, needlessly releases secret documents describing something everyone already knew. Were you really surprised that the US has used its funding, resources, and agencies to try and manipulate foreign opinion and policy in our favor? Countries do it all the time and, yes, sometimes to the US as well.

  • Nanotek

    “Tommybones brings up a wikileak which, once again, needlessly releases secret documents describing something everyone already knew. ”

    how could they be secret then?