VENEZUELA: Army chief warns of US 'war threat'

Issue 

Jim McIlroy
& Coral Wynter, Caracas

General Raul Isaias Baduel, commander-in-chief of the Venezuelan Armed Forces (FAN) and a key figure in restoring President Hugo Chavez to power after the April 2002 US-backed coup, warned that "One scenario that we cannot underestimate is that of [US] military intervention", according to the June 19 Diario Vea newspaper.

Regarding foreign intervention in Venezuela, Baduel stated that there exists "certain evidence" concerning the participation of members of the US military mission in the 2002 coup against Chavez, which established a new regime — led by the chamber of commerce head Pedro Carmona — that was welcomed by the US. The new regime, which dissolved the constitution and the pro-poor laws introduced by Chavez, was overthrown two days later in an uprising by the poor majority, supported by the majority of the armed forces — but not before Carmona was seen publicly hugging the US ambassador.

Baduel argued that part of Washington's strategy, which he claims aims at gaining control of Venezuela's sizeable oil reserves, is to brand Venezuela an "outlaw state" and a threat to the region.

Ultimas Noticias reported on June 18 that Baduel had replied to US criticism of Venezuela's purchasing of new weapons for FAN and the recently expanded army reserves. Baduel said "The country that has the protection of the biggest military capability in the world is aiming to give us a moral lecture — it would appear there is no end to the cynicism [of the US]".

Venezuelan vice-president Jose Vincente Rangel said US objections to the sale of 100,000 AK-103 rifles by Russia to Venezuela were "a type of plaintive mourning because they are losing [control of] the market". He also pointed out that the US government "has just approved US$60 billion for the war in Iraq".

General Alberto Muller Rojas, convinced of plans by the US to launch a military attack on Venezuela, said "The fundamental argument [for buying Russian guns and helicopters] is the fact that the government has an obligation to defend the sovereignty and integrity of our territory, and our national unity. The [recent] military manoeuvres that the US has carried out in the Caribbean were a demonstration of [its] aggressive attitude."

Rojas claimed the buying of new military equipment was a strategic decision in favour of Venezuela's push for a multi-polar world and against the aim of the US to strengthen its empire. He confirmed that the Chavez government would continue to consider selling its ageing US-made F-16 fighter jets, because the US is refusing to sell Venezuela equipment to help maintain them. Meanwhile, Russia has confirmed the sale of fighter planes to Venezuela. Chavez plans to visit Russia in late July to sign new agreements for technical and military cooperation between the two countries, including plans to construct a new factory to produce Kalashnikov rifles in Venezuela.

US State Department spokesperson Sean McCormack expressed Washington's hostility to this move, saying "They have bought 100,000 AK-103 rifles. Therefore, I don't see why they find it necessary to build a factory if they have arms [already]."

US-Venezuelan lawyer Eva Golinger, author of The Chavez Code, which exposes US involvement in attempts to overthrow the Chavez government, claims that a new attack against Venezuela is being pushed by a vicious media campaign "developing with a lot of strength overseas". Golinger claimed that a group of Venezuelan military officers, some retired and some still active, are involved in the plot. "This small group of [officers] are passing information to the Pentagon. It is clear that this information is also being utilised by the intelligence agency, the CIA."

FAN announced on June 16 an increase of 6000 troops for the state of Apure, near the Colombian border, because of the presence of right-wing groups. Committees are being established to devise a security plan for the Colombian border, given the presence of right-wing Colombian paramilitary groups within Venezuela. The plan includes the buying of 20 airplanes and the strengthening of units of the National Guard in the region. The plan also aims to increase the supply of petrol in the border region, and to attack the narco-traffickers.

From Green Left Weekly, July 5, 2006.
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