Venezuela and the Future of South AmericaBernardo Guerra Lobão | Category: Historical, Latin America, Military/LE, News, Sociological, South America, Strategies
The 56th Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez, always had a very strong lace with the communist ideals, and also, expansionism. A kind of jester, with a very provocative position against the USA and the general capitalism, he showed himself to be a very controversial and contradictory man, with ideas of dictatorship like that of Stalin. Chavez used to say that he was a Bolivarian, following the ideal of Simon Bolivar, a revolutionary leader from centuries XVIII and XIX. Bolivar was a Venezuelan military and politician leader for the independence of Latin America from the Spanish Empire in the XIX century. Chavez used its demagogy as a libertarian man. Almost two centuries after the death of Simon Bolivar, the history changed its direction, but the needs to use ancient leaders as excuse for a corrupt government is always welcome for leftist leaders, this is case in history that always repeats.
Chavez in December 2012 admitted a possible withdrawal from the government because of his disease. On September 8th, in a speech, Chavez announced his fear of being incapable of continued governing and announced his vice-president, Nicolas Maduro, as being the candidate of “chavism” in the 2013 election. Communist Chavez always had provocative ideas and many expansionist attitudes, like always supplying his army with Russian AK-47s and other military equipment, being very armed, as he said, against capitalism.
The last years were very controversial in South America, when in 2008 the Colombian leftist army called FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia), a guerrilla warfare group that committed atrocities and attacks against journalists, military, and the government, suffered a strong offensive from the government and went to Ecuador, the Colombian Army invaded the territory to capture the fugitives and it had a serious diplomatic problem. That operation was called Operacion Fenix (Phoenix Operation), and was responsible to the murder of one of the leaders, Raul Reyes. Chavez, as fast, showed a position against Colombian government and armed the frontiers, with tanks and infantry, already in place, in case of war, for a good position to invade Colombian territory. Both Ecuador and Venezuela mobilized their troops showing Colombia that it was not acceptable to invade their territory to capture a terrorist. That year the Colombian president was Alvaro Uribe. He didn’t excuse the act, and showed that it was an act of Colombia’s self defense, and not an offensive, that it just a counter strike against the guerrilla.
That time Chavez announced that it was a cowardly action for the murder of the second man on the FARC. It was just one of the innumerous times that Chavez appeared to attack other countries leaders that didn’t followed him on his journey for the leadership, a leftist leadership in South America.
Chavez, in that year, told that if Colombia invaded the Venezuelan territory it would be a declaration of war. Uribe had good relations with USA and didn’t have intentions to support a leftist government.
Chavez compared with other dictators
“He is neither a strategist nor is he schooled in the operational arts, nor is he a tactician, nor is he a general. Other than that he’s a great military man”. This quote from General Schwarzkopf about Saddam Hussein shows how Chavez leads his own nation. He many times had the Venezuelan people on his side, and all support from militaries and also militias, followed by many presidents from other countries in Latin America, and good relations with Fidel Castro. It was very dangerous for anyone against Chavez, because all media was on his side. Many university students still idealized him as a leader.
In 2005, Chavez did the biggest acquisition of weapons of the history of South America, the number is of 100,000 AK-47s and support ammunition from Russia. The idea was also feed the FARC with weapons, as they were having difficult to find right ammunition for their weapons, the difference between the Soviet 7.62x39mm and the 7.62x51mm NATO. And this acquisition was exactly when Venezuela and Colombia had their worst moment of their relationship because FARC’s leader Rodrigo Granada was hiding in Venezuela, and the Colombian Armed Forces invaded the country to get him. His idea was start a weapon factory in Venezuela, producing ammunition in the standard of the used by FARC.
Anyway, Chavez insisted that the AKs were for the regular army and the citizen’s militias, to defend the nation. This moment was good for Chavez to buy MiG29s from Russia and Super Tucanos from Brazil, as the media was focused on the rifles acquisition and the tense moment between Venezuela, Colombia and USA. Even Donald Rumsfeld was worried about the number of one hundred thousand AKs.
During this decease in 2012, FARC used their official site to show all support to Chavez.
Acquiring the Russian weapons
In 2009, there was a great acquisition of weapons, to stablish the Venezuelan domination in the north of the South America. Chavez acquired lots of combat cars, around one hundred of medium tanks T-72 models, and at least thirty modern T-90, and tactical missiles. To substitute the AMX-13 and the Scorpions, Chavez bought from Russia the BMP-3 with 100mm cannon and 30mm cannon to counter armored infantry. Chavez repeatedly said that it was only for defense, trying to get the rest of the world to ignore the offensive qualities of such armament. Chavez with the persuasion, convinced Russia to sell them the SS-26 Stone (9M726) tactical missile, with capability to attack 300km (almost 187 miles).
The United States announced that the acquisitions were out of bounds, and Colombia, together with the US, decided to act against the guerrilla warfare and drug sellers in South America. Chavez all the time being arrogant and dramatic said that it was a menace against Venezuelan sovereignty.
Chavez showed all the time the need to get weapons and show its powers always showing intention only in defense of the territory. In 2012 Chavez announced interest in getting the Russian Sukhoi (Su-35S) , and the air force tested the Training Plane YAK-130 from Russia to substitute for the old US F-5.
The Future of South America
There has been a historical contest between Brazil and Argentina for the leadership of South America. In Mercosul, the two countries always seemed to dictate the rules, for both had been the most stable economic over the others. Mercosur, or Mercosul (Spanish: Mercado Común del Sur, Portuguese: Mercado Comum do Sul, Guarani: Ñemby Ñemuha, English: Southern Common Market) is an economic and political agreement among Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Venezuela; and with Bolivia as accessing member.
After Argentina’s economy had fallen, the dependence of Argentina and other countries on Brazil was visible. Venezuela in other way, was never from Mercosul, but always interested to be a part, but never was a good neighbor, so it was always hard to member Venezuela.
By the way Chavez became a very charismatic leadership for the other countries, supporting Bolivia, Honduras, Ecuador, helping economically, military and his role function became more visible than the president Kishner in Argentina.
After the death of Chavez, Venezuela was heavily armed, but without the same charismatic leadership, which has left the Venezuelan people unable to tell the future of their own country.
In the balance of power in South America we have both leaders nowadays with Dilma in Brazil, following the ex-president Lula’s politics, and Chavez in Venezuela.
Recently, in 2012 the president of Argentina Cristina Kirchner tried to make a nationalist propaganda about the Falklands Islands, and in January 2013, a letter for the English Premier, David Cameron, telling that England is supporting a colonialist police in South America. The tabloid The Guardian published the letter full of demagogy and accusing the England on being colonialist based on the resolution from the United Nations.
This is a completely fake nationalist propaganda, as Argentina has no power to face English armed forces.
English government rejected the letter and appealed for a democratic way, on being voted by the island residents the right to chose. On March 2013 a plebiscite will be done.
Kirchner’s strategy is maybe being a new leader on South America, in offset Dilma Roussef in Brazil. Both being the leaders and Argentina have a leader role player in the continent. And trying to be a syndicalist, or regionalist, or leftist leader but focused in politics for the continent to have the support of other presidents on her politics and, indirectly, leadership.
The balance of power in South America will be ragged with a full leadership of Brazil, which has always a good relation with all countries around, even USA, in North America. Cristina Kirchner showed that has no charisma, even in Argentina, that people was against a possible re-election. People in Argentina are all against a reform in legislation, and want basic democratic ideals of economy, freedom of speech. Her level of rejection is over 80% and the protests are supported by Argentines living in Washington, New York, Madrid, London and other cities over the world.
Brazil is trying to be the new one and only player in South America to have a good dialog between the South and North, and South and Europe.
In any of the situations, is good for Brazil and the USA that Hugo Chavez is gone, the other countries will follow a model of international commerce and opened market, free of demagogy, full operating in market, job offers and economic establishment, as it happened in other countries that had their dictators fell or died.
Chavez as it was supposed did a self coup d’état, when his party did a change in the constitution by the Supreme Justice Tribunal and the very utopist idea of the endless Bolivarian revolution, as it was not in constitution, the contradictory text the legal procedure was in 30 days have another election, but as controversial, he assumed the presidency not being present, illegally. For the perpetuation of the Bolivarian Revolution, the “chavism” wrests the constitution. For the Chavez’s followers, no other name can be their leader; it was the communist image of Lenin. This Schrõdinger’s experiment doesn’t work on the Bolivarian Venezuela.
Hail the Cuban medicine
The political maneuver was very intense, when he did the changing of constitution to be in power, assuming the position illegally just because he was the only one who ruled the country, Chavez left Venezuela to Cuba because of his biggest allied and icon. Cuban medicine was really efficient when could put the second deceased on presidency in less than one decade.
Not being ironic, his followers cannot expect that the only reason of Chavez have gone to Cuba was thrust it’s medicine.
When people were expecting news from Chavez, the USA didn’t manifest still in public, but communist Chavez has been a barrier for any good interaction between the North and South America.
The end of the Drama
The drama over the health of Hugo Chavez made his followers live a tense moment, this transition of government, the self coup d’état, in truth this is just another political maneuver to keep the popularity, like occurred in Cuba with Fidel Castro, this will keep the Bolivarian movement focused on Chavez’s decease and the Chavez’s opposition will be only in supporting actor, as the villain.
Communist Chavez left the world being watched by everybody in a place that he was supported by all the citizens, this time, the left movement cannot was it was sabotage as every communist that died before.
After the Death of communist Chavez, the leftist presidents from South America went all to the burial of Chavez and it’s not exactly being in intention of provide solemnity, it’s another maneuver for the test of power between the South American countries.
Kirchner’s intention of the Great Argentina is still alive, the Falklands are being the point of her politics. By the way, Paraguay a week before Chavez’s death, showed interest on destabilizing the balance of power on his favor, better saying, against Brazil’s favor. In 2012 Brazil demoralized Paraguay being in favor of removal from Mercosul after the president’s impeachment and in the Agata Operation, a military operation in frontier of Paraguay to combat on local guerrilla and drug traffic from Paraguay to Brazil.
Before Chavez’s death Paraguay showed his face on being a candidate on leftist popularity when he requested all the trophies from the War Against Paraguay in XIX century, when Brazil won the war. After two centuries was very demagogic the request exactly when the whole world was expecting Chavez’s destiny.
Another figure was Morales, the coca farmer that became president in Bolivia was always the right arm of Chavez, being schemers together on many political actions, include the nationalization of Brazilian oil in Bolivia.
Venezuela on the vacuum
As with every dictatorship, when a dictator dies, a vacuum is established and all the future is uncertain. It was in Iraq before, was in Palestine, in Cuba is being a completely expectation and now in Venezuela.
All the Venezuelan citizens are shocked; the Bolivarians pro-Chavez are adrift, not believing on a near future. Re-democratization will be hard when a exceeded ideology is on people’s reality, they can only see a figure and cannot ratiocinate on what is right, or at least good by the whole country. Even the vice-president is not trustable as Chavez was. Chavez was a figure, and the only real character.
By the way, the opposition is shocked because Chavez’s popularity made the country live a reality, even not accepted, continuum, and they cannot imagine a place that they will have to live. An uncertain future is worrying the whole population and this twilight is now the opportunity of North America negotiates a good promise for Venezuela. Obama showed interest on negotiation and the new election, but this time the whole population is in doubt.
The new scenario is uncertain on a near future, but the real time for re-open for the world, as Chavez did a great job putting Venezuela on international media, now many countries have the interest to negotiate or keeping negotiating on. It’s time for a very exact politician.
Bernardo Guerra Lobão is a an International Relations Analyst and specialist on terrorism, international security and defense, new wars and strategy. He is based out of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.