Thursday, March 16, 2006

Mar 16/06 - On a military perspective of a military problem: will Chile lead?

Should we count on her experiences with the military?

PMBComment: Click here to read the full version of the 2006 posture statement of the commander of US Southern Command. It was presented to the Senate Armed Services Committee on the 14th and will be presented to the House Armed Services Committee today. It gives General Craddock's overall assessment of Latin America...from his rather unique perspective.

As my interest is focused on Venezuela, I have cut-and-pasted the section that refers to my country. The Chavez government has already responded, via its preferred US-basher - Vice President J.V. Rangel - stating that these comments are proof that the US has "militarized its foreign policy". Rangel derisively added "I am bored with all the statements coming from Washington...I do not feel like responding to them any more".


"Venezuela. Although Southern Command continues to seek opportunities to work with the Venezuelan military, our efforts have been hindered by the Government of Venezuela. Our military-to-military relations have eroded considerably over the last 12-18 months. We will continue to seek opportunities to foster partnership and cooperation with the Venezuelan military. Additionally, we will continue to invite the Venezuelan military to participate in exercises, conferences, and training events. We believe that the politicization of the Venezuelan military is threatening our long-standing, fruitful military-to-military relationship.

Another area of concern with regard to Venezuela is the government’s ongoing procurement of weapons. Their buildup of military hardware has not been a transparent process and is a destabilizing factor in a region where nations are arraying themselves to confront transnational threats, not each other. We remain unconvinced that the breadth and depth of the buildup is mandated by Venezuelan concerns for national defense."


Do keep in mind that for a long time Southcom has been rather silent on Venezuela. Even though it is obvious to the simplest of minds that what we have in Caracas is a military government, Secretary of State Powell had issued a gag order on the US military, and tried to have his diplomats ignore the fact that Venezuela's President is first-and-foremost a mid-level and mediocre military officer, surrounded first-and-foremost by mid-level, mediocre and corrupt active duty, and retired, military officers. Nothing but soldiers (actually mostly coupsters) hiding their red berets under the scalps of second-rate politicians!

As one prominent and seasoned US Senate staffer told me long ago: "Of all the things Hugo Chávez has done, the worse one is meddling with and politicizing the military. That is a very dangerous thing to do in a democracy and that alone could determine the ultimate fate of your country. This is certainly how civil strife begins; it is harder to tell how it ends". Sensible words in a city that since the April 2002 fiasco has opted to ignore the tusked elephant in the room. While Gen. Craddock's words might fuel the omnipresent paranoia in Caracas, it is clear that shedding ample light on what is going on in the Venezuela Military - militias included - is of paramount importance for Latin political analysts and even casual observers. PMB

Note: Maybe with the recently announced absorption by the OAS of the Junta Interamericana de Defensa, this deadly serious subject will receive the requisite public attention from Venezuela’s other neighbors. And while we are at it, why not expect more from Chile for example? Keep in mind the following: Chile's OAS Ambassador Tomic led this momentous initiative to bring military matters to the OAS's main table; a former Foreign and Interior Minister from Chile leads the OAS with typical decisiveness, and Chile's former Defense Minister is now running her country. All three suffered long exiles as a result of a wayward military. Is it too much to ask that they take the lead on this?