The threat of military force, according to international law, in an act of war. The Venezuelan president is posturing, but the U.S. has mobilized forces and resources in Colombia—to which President Chávez claims to be reacting. Eva Golinger, a journalist and lawyer heavily focused on Venezuela, says the October 30th U.S-Colombia agreement “basically converting Colombia into one giant U.S. military base in South America” (4:49):
The Obama Administration and the Colombian government signed an agreement allowing for the U.S. to expand access to military bases in a “private, low-key ceremony” that infuriated Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, the Associated Press reported less than two weeks ago.
They reported Mr. Chávez’s concern is that the ten-year counterinsurgency deal “would make Colombia a base for asserting U.S. power in South America”. The deal, U.S. officials say, will not increase U.S. presence of armed forces and—nearly twice that amount of—corporations contracted by the U.S. government.
Mr. Chávez has said “that U.S. access to the Colombian bases poses a direct threat to his oil-exporting country”, al Jazeera reports.
Violence on the Venezuela-Colombia border has escalated over the last months, as has demonization from the U.S. since Venezuela began to make efforts toward abandoning the acceptance of U.S. dollars for its oil.
The Daily Telegraph reported of this violence as Mr. Chávez recently voiced a preparation for war after recent violence:
Four men on motorcycles shot and killed two Venezuelan National Guard troops at a checkpoint near the border in Venezuela’s western Tachira state last week, prompting Chávez’s government to temporarily close some border crossings.
And last month, Venezuelan authorities arrested at least 10 people in Tachira alleging involvement in paramilitary groups. The bullet-ridden bodies of 11 men, nine of them Colombians, were also found last month in Tachira after being abducted from a soccer field
The violence prompted Venezuela to send 15,000 soldiers to the border with Colombia on Thursday. Officials said the build-up was necessary to increase security along the border.
“Let’s not waste a day on our main aim: to prepare for war and to help the people prepare for war, because it is everyone’s responsibility,” Mr. Chávez told military officers during his weekly television and radio program.
“Students, revolutionaries, workers, women: all are ready to defend this sacred homeland called Venezuela,” he continued, adding: “The best way to avoid war is preparing for it.”
Last week, Humberto Márquez, reporting at Inter Press Service, wrote of Colombian paramilitary factions in Western Venezuela “aggravating” diplomacy:
The sense of alarm has even reached their big neighbour, Brazil, where Marco Aurelio García, President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s foreign policy adviser, said “It would be a good thing for Venezuela and Colombia to agree on a system of joint surveillance of their common border, and I would not exclude a non-aggression pact,” for which Brazil could provide assistance through “technical means,” such as surveillance aircraft….
For nearly half a century, Colombia has been caught up in a civil war that frequently spills over its borders. Guerrilla movements in remote rural areas took up arms in 1964, and far-right paramilitary death squads with ties to the drug trade have been active since the 1980s.
Since 2000, Colombia—the main source of drugs to the U.S. market—has received heavy U.S. military aid as well as advisers and contractors, to fight drug trafficking and the insurgent groups, through Plan Colombia.
Former Colombian president Ernesto Samper (1994-1998) warned that there was a “pre-war situation” with Venezuela because of President Álvaro Uribe’s poor handling of the new military agreement with Washington….
Lula’s adviser García said the Brazilian government “does not see the accord as appropriate. We cannot keep Colombia from reaching its own decisions, but what are needed are guarantees that no imbalance will be generated in the region.”…
Since July, Chávez ordered restrictions of trade and other economic activities with Colombia, and the border bridges over the Táchira river, joining the Colombian city of Cúcuta and the Venezuelan towns of San Antonio and Ureña have been the scenario of frequent protests by truckers, local merchants, shop workers and people who depend on petty contraband for a living.
Last weekend, paramilitary supporters handed out leaflets urging businesses in Ureña and San Antonio to close their doors in protest against the restrictions on cross-border traffic imposed by authorities in Venezuela. The leaflets also included death threats against some people in the area. Ten of the pamphleteers were arrested by the Venezuelan National Guard.
Colombian President Alvaro Uribe “reacted angrily” to the mobilization of Venezuelan troops and the rhetoric of Mr. Chávez, calling on the U.N. to investigate, the Daily Telegraph reports. A statement from the Foreign Ministry of Venezuela responded his reaction was “immoral” and “showed the hypocrisy of the Colombian oligarchy”.
Some facts via Reuters:
- Venezuela and Colombia share a 1,375-mile (2,200-km) border and a volatile history. After both were freed from the Spanish by Venezuelan liberator Simon Bolivar in the 19th century, the two countries were the center of a short-lived nation known as Gran Colombia that also included Ecuador and Panama.
- Colombia’s four-decade-old guerrilla conflict has for years spilled over the Venezuelan border, where kidnappings, contraband and drug trafficking are common. Mr. Chávez’s ideological closeness to Colombian FARC Marxist rebels has led Washington and Bogota to accuse him of supporting the guerrillas. Mr. Chávez denies providing arms or logistical support to the rebels.
- When Mr. Chavez recalled his diplomats from Colombia in July, it was the third such measure since 2005 when tensions ran high over the arrest in Caracas of a FARC guerrilla leader in a Colombian-led police operation.
- The two countries raised the specter of war in March 2008 after a Colombian bombing raid on a guerrilla camp in Ecuador brought troop movements from Quito and Caracas. Mr. Chavez cut diplomatic relations with Bogota and threatened to stop cross-border trade.
Manuel Rosales, primary opposition presidential candidate to Mr. Chávez in 2006, is in Venezuelan custody for allegedly offering a $25 million bounty to 2,500 paramilitary operants to kill Mr. Chávez, al Jazeera reported—adding that, however, “he himself would not give the money directly”.
Begs the questions: (a) True or false?; (b) If true, who are Mr. Rosales benefactors?
Stephen Webster at The Raw Story adds:
During the summer of 2009, Venezuela bought billions of dollars’ worth of sophisticated fighter jets and tanks from its military ally Russia.
Venezuela’s closest allies, Ecuador and Bolivia, back that stance.
“As long as there are uniformed foreigners in a South American country, it’s difficult for us to think there can be peace,” Bolivian President Evo Morales reportedly said in August.
A conventional war between Venezuela and Colombia would, as Mr. Chávez said in his address, “extend throughout the whole continent”.
Such a troop mobilization from Venezuela with its president’s rhetoric and continued defiance against the U.S. and dollar hegemony coincide with the unprecedented circumstances of a tail-spinning U.S. dollar and the over-extension of U.S military might with liabilities far exceeding its assets.
Military conflict between the two countries would become a proxy war between: the ‘West’-aided Colombia; and a Russia, the Organization of Oil Exporting Countries—or ‘OPEC‘—and possibly China-aided Venezuela. The West would crumble, making such a World War III hypothetical, improbable.
Whatever the reason stated by the Obama Administration for its latest agreement with Colombia, it’s self-defeating. Unless, of course, that is the reason.