Fausta's blog

Faustam fortuna adiuvat
The official blog of Fausta's Blog Talk Radio show.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Venezuela shuts the border?

Here's one of the more absurd headlines that have come up during the past four days Venezuela shuts border as accusations fly.

All that Venezuela claims to have done is close its borders to commercial traffic with Colombia. The border remains as porous as any border could possibly be, particularly when it comes to the FARC's capability to move about freely.

That's exactly the opposite of what the region needs:
Venezuela closed its borders to truck traffic, halting trade between the two nations worth more than $5 billion annually. Colombian TV broadcast images of lines of 18-wheelers sitting idle next to customs posts.
The rest of the article repeats much of what I have posted about, but the interesting part is the sidebar:

A look at the military strength of U.S.-backed Colombia compared to Ecuador and Venezuela (troop strength and reservist figures include army, navy, air force personnel):

* Regular troops : 254,300

* Reservists : 61,900

* National police : 136,000 (many combat-trained and equipped).

* Hardware : 115 combat-capable aircraft, including 22 ground-attack fighters, among them Mirages and Kfirs. Four surface combat ships

* Defense budget: $5.1 billion

* Regular troops : 57,100

* Reservists : 118,000.

* Hardware : 57 combat-capable aircraft including 31 fighters, among them Mirages and Kfirs. Eight surface combat ships.

* Defense budget in 2007 : $918 million

* Regular troops : 115,000

* Reservists : 280,000 (estimated, fighting capability unknown)

* Hardware : 94 combat-capable aircraft including 68 fighter jets including Sukhois, F-16s and Mirages. Recent military purchases include 53 helicopters, two dozen SU-30 Sukhoi fighter jets and 100,000 Kalashnikov assault rifles. Six surface combat ships.

* Defense budget in 2007 : $2.56 billion

Source: International Institute for Strategic Studies, AP
On those 280,000 Venezuelan reservists, whose fighting capability is unknown, it's worth revisiting this 2006 NYT article by Simon Romero:
As dawn broke in this gritty city adorned with revolutionary graffiti and murals one day recently, about 300 residents were practicing military-style marching, strutting under the hot sun and clicking their heels in a salute to their commander. This ragtag army of nurses, students and other citizens is one of many being formed throughout Venezuela, part of President Hugo Chavez's attempt to create Latin America's largest civilian reserve force.
The article says, "The reservists in Cua, a city with 120,000 residents 24 miles south of Caracas, ranged in age from 18 to 74." They get paid $7.40, for showing up to march and do calisthenics.

Be nice to Hugo or he'll sic grandma on you.

Tempting as it might be to Hugo to start an international incident that might bring about his much-wished-for invasion by the US, Hugo can't do it alone, or by bringing grandma to do his fighting.

As I said on Monday, whether the military would go along Chavez's plan and create a Falklands Islands-like diversion from Venezuela's increasingly dire internal situation is anyone's guess. But surely it would take more than Chavez's rants to bring about an international incident.

Particularly when the Venezuelan army knows the Colombians on their own have more and better trained war-tested troops with more and better technology.

At IBD: Oil For Terror
Colombia's high commissioner for peace, Luis Restrepo, reported that Marquez said Chavez would hand FARC a "stake in oil companies" to funnel $300 million in financial support. "We already have the first 50 million and he has a schedule to complete 200 during the year," Marquez wrote. "The friend suggested working the package through the black market, to avoid problems."

So Chavez didn't just hand them cash in a black bag. More ingeniously, he "offered us a chance of a business in which we will receive a portion of oil to sell abroad, leaving us a juicy profit," the terrorist gushed. "We will receive ($300 million) to create a for-profit company for investments in Venezuela. It's likely that we will get government contracts."

In other words, Chavez was offering the FARC seed capital to ensure that its cash continued permanently — along with its efforts to topple Colombia's democracy. In light of its previously unknown bid to acquire 50 kilograms of enriched uranium for a dirty bomb, and Chavez's growing alliance with Iran, this signals big plans to expand terrorism on a global scale.
You must read it all.

Update 2
Chavez's 'War' Drums
Colombia today has a superior military force, thanks in part to Mr. Chávez's purge of his own officer corp as a way to minimize risks of a coup d'etat against him. The war bluster is especially phony because Mr. Chavez is already waging his own guerrilla campaign against Colombia through his support for the FARC. The FARC's "foreign minister," Rodrigo Granda, was nabbed three years ago by bounty hunters in Caracas, where he was living comfortably, and a former Venezuelan military officer told us years ago that the army was instructed not to pursue the FARC in the Venezuelan jungle.


Share on Facebook

Labels: , , , ,


At 12:04 PM, Blogger Anthony (Los Angeles) said...

Regarding a possible dust-up between Colombia and Venezuela (I'm ignoring Ecuador; their army's chief experience is in overthrowing its own governments.), the one disadvantage Colombia faces is in fighter aircraft: most of their air hardware is in helicopters and ground-attack craft. Their one air-to-air squadron of Mirages and Kfirs isn't enough to tackle those shiny new Sukhois the Coca-paste Presidente bought from Russia. Even assuming the Venezuelan pilots are bad-to mediocre (I'm willing to bet they don't train much.), sheer numbers would be telling. Venezuela would dominate the air and cut heavily into the air-mobility advantage of the Colombian Army.

One option floated at the Weekly Standard site is to begin joint training exercises between the US Air Force and the Colombian military. Unless Hugo is higher than a kite, I doubt he'd risk losing his shiny new toys in a dogfight with the US.

In fact, I really doubt much will come of this at all, other than chest-thumping by two tinhorn caudillos (Chavez and Correa) along the border. An attack by Venezuela into Colombia would invite a visit by cruise missiles to the Presidential Palace in Caracas.

More likely is that his military will tell him "no," just as they did after the recent referendum.

At 2:09 PM, Blogger boz said...

As I commented over at my blog, Venezuela has its share of weapons and personnel that it could probably win an initial battle along the Colombian border (maybe a bit of shock and awe), but it would clearly lose a long protracted fight against Colombia.

At 10:18 AM, Blogger Kate said...

Anthony (los angeles) makes a very good point regarding Venezuelan aircraft, however, I would argue that a military force is only as good as the soldiers. Chávez can have all the toys in the world, but if Venezuela's soldiers --who have not been at war since 1823, and whose forces are experiencing deep internal divides-- cannot use them, they become worthless. Venezuela's military has not engaged in war games in ages, according to friends of mine in the country; don't forget that Colombia's military has been at war for decades, and is more than accustomed to waging war on diverse terrain, not just llanos. And, as Bush made abundantly clear, the US is standing by Colombia; I would expect that if this further escalates, technological support would be given, which could render impotent any advantage Venezuela might have in the air.

Slightly off topic: all my Venezuelan friends and relatives have made almost the identical statement. "La gente aqui no quiere oir nada del pleito con Colombia, lo que quiere es leche pues." The people of Venezuela do not want war; nor do the people of Colombia. Last-ditch attempt by Chávez and his rosca..

Who else is reminded of las Malvinas?

At 1:04 AM, Blogger Pat Patterson said...

One could only hope that Chavez would suffer the same fate as Galtieri and Viola but unfortunately I think even a catastrophic reversal might still leave Chavez hanging around like Milosovic and Saddam for years.

All Chavez has to do is to hold enough territory to deligitimize the Uribe government and provide a extralegal safe haven for FARC. And unlike the totalitarianism of Galtieri which simply and stupidly killed Argintinians Chavez has thoroughly inflitrated public institutions with believers and beneficiaries that would be loathe to toss out their sugar daddy.

What will be interesting is when the real regional power makes a decision, Brazil. It appears that Lula just like the original Lulu, Louise Brooks, will be the one with the power to open or not this particular Pandora's Box.

At 9:10 AM, Blogger Fausta said...

Pat, yours is a spot-on assessment on the situation.

And as you can see from my prior posts on Brazil, I agree that Lula plays a pivotal role in South America. Given the right conditions, Brazil has every potential to become a true giant.

At 3:49 AM, Blogger BrianFH said...

Let's get real. The Columbians would cut thru the Venuz like a red-hot knife thru butter. The Ecuador army wouldn't even be much of a distraction. We're talking real soldiers versus incompetent parade-ground incompetents. (I.e., they can't even march straight, according to local witnesses.) They'd feed Chavez to the jaguars before they exposed themselves to the Columbian buzz-saw.


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home