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Editorial Commentary / Opinion




Caracas Gringo : Hugo Chavez’s contrived tantrum



President Hugo Chavez and his gang of Bolivarian thugs have responded like they always do to the newest smoking-gun evidence that his government sponsors narco-terrorist groups like the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

The Colombian government’s confirmation that AT-4 rockets owned by the Venezuelan army were seized in two FARC camps last year has Chavez and his homeboys in a furious uproar, shouting insults and imprecations against Bogota and Washington, DC.

Great Bolivarian minds like Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro and Interior & Justice Minister Tarek al Assaimi insist that the latest evidence confirming that Chavez and the FARC are in deep cahoots was fabricated by a vast international conspiracy aimed at making Chavez look bad – as if Venezuela’s outlaw president needs any help making himself look worse by the day.

However, why all the fuss in Caracas?

President Chavez was informed almost two months ago that the Colombian government had seized several AT-4 rockets from the FARC. This makes the Chavez government’s furious response look very contrived, perhaps deliberately.

Perhaps the Chavez regime thinks it can shout, intimidate, threaten and bluster its way out of this new scandal confirming Venezuela’s transformation into a narco-terrorist state, courtesy of President Chavez and his criminal associates. However, this scandal isn’t going away quickly.

These are the facts:

*Colombian troops seized three AT-4 rockets in October 2008 at a FARC camp in the area of La Macarena, in Meta department.

*The government of Sweden has confirmed the AT-4 rockets were sold by manufacturer Saab Bofors Dynamics to Venezuela’s Defense Ministry in 1988.

*The Swedish government has officially asked the Chavez government for an explanation. It hasn’t received any response yet.

*Colombian Foreign Minister Bermudez officially informed Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro about the captured AT-4 rockets on 2 June 2009 during a face-to-face meeting on the sidelines of the annual OAS General Assembly meeting held in San Pedro Sula, Honduras.

*At this meeting, Bermudez also gave Maduro documents captured from the FARC in which the cooperation of three senior Venezuelan government officials in procuring SAM’s and other advanced weapons for the FARC is discussed explicitly.

*The Chavez government has not responded yet to Bogota’s request for an explanation.

However, there certainly have been some curious movements recently at the highest levels of the Chavez regime’s military/political intelligence & counter-intelligence services.

For example, last week Chavez appointed Army General Miguel Rodriguez Torres as the new director of the Interior & Justice Ministry’s political police (DISIP), replacing Henry Rangel Silva, who had been its chief since June 2005. But the change of command is not the start of a shake-up at DISIP.

Rodriguez Torres already was DISIP director previously, from 2002 until June 2005, when Chavez appointed Rangel Silva to run DISIP after a major drug trafficker supposedly confined and closely guarded by Rodriguez Torres’ best agents at DISIP headquarters escaped and fled the country.

Caracas Gringo also was told today that Chavez has quietly removed Division General Hugo Carvajal from his post of director of Defense Ministry military intelligence (DGIM), which he has held since 2004. However, this report has not been confirmed yet.

The possible shake-up at DGIm and DISIP is believed to be related to the documents Bermudez gave Maduro. Reportedly, the intelligence seized from the FARC explicitly names Carvajal, Rangel Silva and also army General Cliver Alcala Cordones, who is reputed to be one of the president’s fiercest ideological followers within the army.

Carvajal and Rangel Silva were designated drug “kingpins” by the US Treasury Department in September 2008, based on evidence that they are longtime material collaborators of the FARC.

However, if the unconfirmed reports that Carvajal also is being replaced at DGIM are true, it doesn’t mean that President Chavez is launching a much-needed overhaul of DGIM and DISIP.

For starters, the president’s re-appointment of Rodriguez Torres to head DISIP clearly is a revolving-door move. By replacing Rangel Silva, and possibly Carvajal too, Chavez obviously expects the international political heat on his regime will ease up. It’s typically Venezuelan: “A trapiche viejo, cana nueva.”

But replacing Carvajal and Rangel Silva at DGIM and DISIP, respectively, doesn’t neutralize their immensely profitable criminal enterprises and their strategic alliances with the FARC, ELN and other transnational crime groups.

If anything, when they disappear from public view, Carvajal and Rangel Silva will become immensely more dangerous. Their networks inside DGIM and DISIP won’t disappear. For example, it’s a safe bet that FARC-owned cocaine shipments through Venezuela will continue to receive protection from rogue crews of DGIM and DISIP agents.

Moreover, a change of command at DGIM and DISIP doesn’t have any impact on the gangs of criminal rogues operating inside the National Guard and CICPC’s supposedly elite anti-narcotics forces.

Far from the public limelight, Carvajal and Rangel Silva also become more valuable politically as clandestine black ops assets for President Chavez.

Meanwhile, Chavez is ratcheting up his confrontation with Bogota – and with the Obama administration. So much for last April’s infamous “quiero ser your amigo” toothy-smile hugging of Chavez and President Barack Obama at the Fifth Summit of the Americas in Trinidad.

It’s hard to say which has Chavez more pissed off (or scared): the disclosure that FARC had Venezuelan-owned AT-4 rockets which clearly were supplied sy someone in the Chavez regime, or the new Colombia-US military agreement giving US counternarcotics assets the use of three Colombian air bases and two naval bases for the next decade.

However, Chavez has leveraged his latest confrontation with Bogota to revive his Russian arms purchase program, announcing dramatically via national television that he will purchase “battalions of battle tanks” that wsill be deployed along Venezuela’s border with Colombia.

Chavez doesn’t have any money right now, but he’s determined to buy up to 100 Russian-made battle tanks and 300-400 armored fighting vehicles. Chavez’s old shopping list also includes more Sukhois, SAM’s, submarines, etc. Chavez also is starting to buy some Chinese-made weapons.

But without ready cash at hand, Chavez’s only tradeable commodities are crude oil, natural gas, gold, aluminum, etc. Since 2007 Pdvsa has borrowed over $10 billion with payment pledged in oil supplies from countries like China, Japan and France. Maybe Moscow will agree to sell Chavez tanks, armored fighting vehicles and other weapons and take payment in tradeable commodities like oil and gold.



Caracas Gringo is the pseudonymous of a Midwest Yankee who has lived and worked in Latin America over 38 years. Petroleumworld does not necessarily share these views.

Editor's Note: This commentary was originally published by Caracas Gringo blog on 07/29/2009. Petroleumworld reprint this article in the interest of our readers .

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Petroleumworld News 08/03/09

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