Venezuela fears military aggression from the USA
By Gaither Stewart
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Oct 18, 2007, 00:19

BUENOS AIRES -- Europeans and North Americans tend to think of Latin America as a distant, rather mysterious and miserable continent, somewhere �down there,� inhabited by child-like peoples who spend their time in siesta and song. The most common image is of an uncertain place that for some reason is meaningless in the rest of the world.

The reality is that Latin America�s big cities like Sao Paolo and Lima, Buenos Aires and Caracas, are inhabited by many quite normal people who get up early each morning, send the children off to school, take the subway to work, watch TV or go the cinema evenings and go shopping on weekends.

Intellectually, one knows that Latin America is far from one indistinct continent of Spanish or Portuguese speakers or of unidentifiable peoples of indistinguishable origins. As viewed from the southernmost country of this huge continent, quotidian activities across the thousands of miles to the north look normal in the very differences and varieties of the peoples and nations that make it up. With a population of nearly 600 million peoples, Latin America is an integral part of world society no less than North Carolina or Bavaria or Tuscany.

The Venezuela headline I started out with may cause some readers to scratch their heads, mutter a word of understanding and write it off, tsk tsk, like, let�s say, just more of incomprehensible Latin American politics, caudillos and revolutions. The reality is that hundreds of millions of Latin Americans, those normal people going about living their everyday lives, understand perfectly well why Venezuelan President Hugo Ch�vez has bought air defense systems from Russia and China. They sympathize with his claims that defense measures are necessary to protect Venezuela�s oil and to repel military attacks by the USA. Other Latin Americans understand why people in Venezuela in the north part of the continent of South America, eight hours flight north from Buenos Aires, are in these days fearful of military aggression by the USA.

Exaggerated? The news that during his recent tour in Iran and Russia President Hugo Ch�vez bought air defense systems to protect Venezuela�s national interests against what he labels �the inevitable� North American aggression surprises few thinking Latin Americans. And why should it be an exaggeration? After Washington has thus far done everything possible except direct military intervention to overthrow Ch�vez, (the military intervention it has resorted to many times in Mexico, as it did in Cuba, as it did in Nicaragua, as it did in Guatemala and Panama and in much of Central America, as it did in tiny Grenada, as it did indirectly in Chile and Argentina, as it did . . . well, there is no need to list them all!) Ch�vez�s defensive measures seem predictable and understandable. There is also broad understanding as to why, besides technological purchases from Russia and Byelorussia, Ch�vez also signed an accord with China for the purchase of similar technology.

�This equipment can detect long distance threats so that we can react in time,� points out the Venezuelan news agency, Agencia Bolivariana de Noticias. Ch�vez affirms that the country is obligated to arm itself against the �inevitable attack from the USA,� recalling (again perfectly understandable since the �inevitable� happened in Iraq!) that Venezuela holds the major oil reserves in the Western Hemisphere.

�The Pentagon will do their business and we�ll do ours,� Ch�vez said in a public speech, explaining that it would take several years to complete the defense system, which also involves Chinese and Russian airplanes that are to arrive soon in Venezuela.

Military rearmament of Venezuela has been one of Ch�vez�s principle objectives in recent years. In Moscow last June, he bought nine attack submarines making Venezuela the country with the biggest submarine fleet in South America. The year before, he spent $3 billion for helicopters, Russian fighter-bombers and Kalazhnikov automatic rifles, the latter to be also produced in Venezuela, while today Russian military experts are reportedly training Venezuelans.

Venezuela�s military agreements are not limited to Russia, Byelorussia and China. Also countries with close relations with Washington such as Spain and Brazil are selling military equipment to oil rich Venezuela, despite US protests and the arms embargo it has imposed on Venezuela. Spain sold Ch�vez patrol boats and airplanes. Brazil is to deliver 48 aircraft for patrolling Venezuelan border areas.

Since the USA controls the technology of military equipment used in the latter countries and there is always doubt about their final delivery, Ch�vez has concentrated on upgrading his alliances with America�s rivals, which reject Washington�s embargo. Arms purchased in those countries rely on Russian military technology and are free of White House pressures.

Before Ch�vez came to power in 2002, Venezuela was aligned with the USA and invested little in defense. Now Ch�vez views with suspicious eyes the military might of Venezuela�s neighbor, Colombia, armed to the teeth during the last eight years by the USA. Most certainly centuries of US intervention throughout Latin America, from Mexico and Cuba to Argentina and Chile justify Ch�vez�s fears of aggression from Washington.

Divide and rule

The old policy of divide and rule still holds for neocon world strategy planners in Washington. Yet, slowly, cautiously, Latin America is developing in unifying directions, today making it harder for Washington to get a handle on. Skeptics scoff at the Common Market of the South, Mercosur, which was constituted in 1991. Nonetheless optimists see it as the nucleus of a Latin American Common Market, today including Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay, while Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Peru and Ecuador are associate members. Now, despite Ch�vez�s charges that the Mercosur is �old, created by and for free market elites and not the peoples,� rich Venezuela and its controversial president want to join for real.

For example, the integration of Argentina and Venezuela continues at a rapid pace. Last August Argentina�s President Kirchner and his wife, Cristina, a candidate in upcoming presidential elections, made a state visit to Venezuela. Ch�vez returned the visit to Buenos Aires to coincide with the announcement of a new loan of $1 billion to Argentina in the form of the purchase of Argentine bonds at market interest rates. Venezuela�s investments in Argentina will thus total $5.2 billion, enabling Argentina to avoid loans from US-controlled international organizations

Ch�vez is not only joining Mercosur. He wants to inject new life into the struggling union. His aim is to construct a solid political block of Latin American nations to give the continent a real say-so in the world at large. Other Mercosur leaders, especially less politically ambitious leaders than the Venezuelan president, look askance at Ch�vez. His demagogic methods are irritating and worrisome to friends and foes alike. Yet, Mercosur cannot exist without Venezuela on whose oil much of the economic development of Latin America depends.

In Buenos Aires, Washington is not on the lips of people everyday. Yet, the USA continues to be the big outside player. Many Latin American capitalists inside American Trojan horses resting comfortably in each Latin American country are among the traditional entrepreneurial elite that Ch�vez and more and more Latin Americans detest.

A growing part of the continent today has rejected traditional US hegemony. That more autonomous part of Latin America favors striking out on new paths as Asian economies have done. Ch�vez�s Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua and, of course, ever active Cuba combine with that new spirit, with that new air, of aspirations for economic independence aimed at modifying familiar old Washington images of an acquiescent Latin America servile to US interests.

If Asia has already made its way without the West, uncontrolled and uncontrollable by Europe or the USA, Washington seems to have done everything in its power to use up its former credits and influence in the Middle East as it has long done in Latin America.

While Washington continues with its NAFTA strategy, much of Latin America appears nearly ready to make its declaration of independence from Big Brother USA. Not unimportant, Ch�vez�s policies are determined also by the antagonism between him and the administration of George W. Bush, whom he labels �the greatest menace to the world.�

Russia considers Venezuela a natural trading partner and has come out in support of Venezuela internationally, for example in the United Nations. Venezuela, in turn, supports the Russian project for the construction of an 8000-kilometer pipe line through Latin American for its natural gas. Putin says that private Russian companies are ready to invest billions n Venezuela. Ch�vez expects Russia to invest in $20 billion pipelines to connect Venezuela with the Caribbean coast. Russia�s LUKoil and Gazprom energy giants are in Venezuela to conduct explorations of oil deposits on land and sea in a country that Ch�vez claims has greater reserves than Saudi Arabia. In the energy sector, Russia and Venezuela are destined to play major roles in future world development.

While Washington continues to plot and finagle to overthrow Hugo Ch�vez in favor of their men, the old elite of Venezuela, Latin America is looking toward new frontiers. No longer are the USA and Europe the preferred partners. A far-sighted, though still controversial, Hugo Ch�vez is leading the way toward the Arab world, Russia, China, even tiny Vietnam.

In Peru, by way of example of the devastating effects of continuous US intervention in Latin America, anti-government forces march in the streets of the huge city of Lima. Peruvians demand salary increases, recognition of labor rights and the defense of indigenous peoples. Above all they are protesting against the Free Trade Agreement with the United States, which permits the sale of subsidized US agricultural products on the national market, thus undermining the local market for the poor rural population.

Like the protesters in Peru engaged in resistance, more and more people south of the border understand that the glamorous ringing �globalization� in practice means the further impoverishment of the already poor, part of the so-called New World Order.

Gaither Stewart is originally from Asheville, NC. After studies at the University of California at Berkeley and other American universities, he has lived his adult life abroad, in Germany and Italy, alternated with residences in The Netherlands, France, Mexico, Argentina and Russia. After a career in journalism as Italian correspondent for the Rotterdam newspaper, Algemeen Dagblad, and contributor to media in various European countries, he writes fiction full-time. His books, "Icy Current Compulsive Course, To Be A Stranger" and "Once In Berlin" are published by Wind River Press. His new novel, "Asheville," is published by He lives with his wife, Milena, in Rome, Italy. E-mail:

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