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Hugo Chávez: A Fascist Fox in the Latin American Democratic Coop

By Gustavo Coronel

February 11, 2006 | In a manner highly reminiscent of early Castro's Cuba and the Ortega brothers' Nicaragua, except with much more money at his disposal, Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chávez has rapidly turned his country into a militaristic society in the worst tradition of Peru's Velasco Alvarado, Uganda's Idi Amin or Iraq's Sadam Hussein. The parallelism between Chávez and Hussein is remarkable, although Chávez has not yet reached Hussein's level of despotism or initiated a war with neighbors. As it happened in the Iraq of Hussein, the increasingly authoritarian rule of Chávez is evolving from a one party state into a one man's rule characterized by personality cult, socialism and significant attempts at exporting revolution. One of the most striking features of the Chávez regime is the use of both active and retired military officers in his bureaucratic structure. No less than eighty military officers have taken active part in the high levels of the Chávez regime. Today, seven of his ministers are active military officers, ten are members of the National Assembly, nine are governors, twenty-three are vice-ministers or high-level bureaucrats and twelve are ambassadors. Military officers control the Tax agency, the political and state police forces, food imports and distribution, significant portions of the petroleum industry, the Land Institute promoting land invasions and, even, the Geriatric Institute. Army General Rafael Oropeza, the Minister of Feeding, is the supreme authority behind the distribution of subsidized food through government-controlled outlets, handling some US$2 billion per year. In the tradition of the military, these officers carry out their duties with total discretionary power, without accountability of any kind. This has already generated a level of government corruption never seen before in Venezuela.

Although precise money amounts are not available and, although the regime itself might not know the true extent of their financial commitments, Venezuela is already one of the top Latin American buyers of military equipment. During the last two or three years the Chávez regime has actually bought (or tried to buy) military equipment valued at more than US$3 billion from Russia and Spain and some US$500 million from the U.S. (declassified documents). If attempts at buying planes from Brazil and submarines from European countries are included, the amount of military purchases by Chávez could reach US$5 billion within the next two years. A report in Defense Industry Daily for November 22, 2005 mentions that Venezuela "has adopted a military modernization program that could be worth as much as US$30.7 billion through 2012, which could make the country the leading arms buyer in the region."

This buying spree by Chávez is encountering determined opposition from the U.S. on the grounds that it involves a security risk to the hemisphere. A report by Reuters, 01-25-2006, mentions that the U.S. government has blocked the sale of Spanish military transport and maritime reconnaissance aircraft to Venezuela, since they carry U.S. components, in particular the engines and avionics. To replace U.S. components in the aircraft, ads the report, would require "creating a new plane from zero. Not only would the aircraft's wing have to be modified to adapt it to the conditions of the new engine, but the technical language of the aircraft- everything relating to radar, positioning and its defensive system- would have to be modified as well." This move by the U.S. threatens with making the transaction impossible. Chávez is indignant about this move and has said: "What would happen if tomorrow I were to say that no (oil supply) ship leaves for the United States?" We also wonder.

Similar problems are emerging (Reuters, 01-21-2006) in relation with the proposed sale to Chávez of four missile frigates from Spain and with the sale of 20 Brazilian Super Tucano planes from Embraer, a light attack aircraft useful in jungle warfare or for multiple other purposes. Still more complications might arise in the case of the three submarines being actively sought by Vice-Admiral Laguna-Laguna of the Venezuelan Navy in France, Russia, Germany and Italy at a cost of some US$1.5 billion. Russia could remain the only option open to Chávez for this acquisition but this equipment might not be to the liking of the Venezuelan military. The attitude of the U.S. may have generated the accusation of espionage made by Chávez against the U.S. embassy in Caracas, one that has already resulted in diplomatic personnel from both countries being asked to leave.

Another clear sign of increasing militarism on the part of Chávez is the recent start-up of a manufacturing plant (reported in Panorama Castrense, website of the Ministry of Defense, February 7, 2006) to make the so-called Zamorana 9mm semi-automatic handgun, named in honor of one of Chávez's idols, a man who promoted a XIX century war against the whites and oligarchs that left the country in ruins. The report states that this event is part of the philosophy of the government "to convert the military industrial sector in promoter of the XXI century socialism," whatever this means. Among the attendees to this ceremony were the members of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice and the Comptroller General, all of whom received a free handgun.

Last January 16th a Workshop on the Revolution (also reported in Panorama Castrense, January 20, 2006) was given to the new officers of the armed forces. The report on this meeting is an excellent illustration of the degree of personality cult Chávez has imposed on the country: "President Chávez delivered a superb lecture in which he combined, clearly and broadly, as he invariably does, anecdotes, history, reflections, criticism and recommendations for the future leaders of the revolution which is under way in the country. He mentioned its accomplishments successes, objectives . . . in special, the giving of land to the peasants, free education and health, the recovery of the oil, free food and the intervention of the state in favor of the weak and against the abuses of the strong. He added: The revolution is marching and is inevitable, going beyond the borders of Venezuela. It involves a radical structural change . . . you are the guardians of the revolution." This kind of talk to the armed forces not only contains abundant lies but also openly violates the Organic Law of the Armed Forces and the non-political atmosphere that should prevail in the activities of the military. This type of abuse, however, has become an everyday occurrence in the Venezuela of Hugo Chávez.

Steven Dudley has revealed still another sign of the fascist, militaristic trend that has overtaken Chávez's Venezuela ("Report alleges rebels trained in Venezuela," The Miami Herald, October 23, 2005). He quotes an Ecuadorian military intelligence report to the effect that "leftists from Ecuador and seven other Latin American nations received guerrilla training in Venezuela from backers of Hugo Chávez." The story originally appeared in Ecuadorian newspaper El Comercio and is considered highly reliable. According to the report: "The revolutionary Bolivarian movement . . . is formalizing its process of consolidation in Latin America . . . to organize paramilitary political forces that reach power." The training took place in several places in Venezuela including Fuerte Tiuna, the main military base located in Caracas, where the headquarters of the Ministry of Defense is located and where Chávez maintains an office.

In the realm of international relations it has been increasingly notorious the alignment of Chavez with the rogue regime of Iran. In a recent voting at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Venezuela, Cuba and Syria were the only governments siding with Iran and its pretenses to build a nuclear capability that could endanger world peace, given the anti-Semitic nature of the Iranian regime and the extreme fundamentalism that animates the new president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. 27 countries voted to refer Iran to the Security Council of the United Nations while Ahmadinejad said, "The Board of Governors of the IAEA is controlled by western politicians."

It is already obvious to a majority of world leaders that Hugo Chávez is not a threat to Venezuela alone. He has also become a regional and a global threat. He has abandoned his duties as president of Venezuela to become a member of a group that is trying to install a dictatorship of the mediocre in our planet.

If we leave him.

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