Posted by: bklunk | February 21, 2007

Am I Missing Something Here

President Chavez may have missed the day in IR class when they talked about asymmetical warfare, which is what is going on now in Iraq–one side using conventional, the other guerrilla or other non-conventional approaches.  Does anybody still watch The Mouse That Roared?  The 1959 film was about a small country that declared war on the US hoping to lose and then profit from reconstruction assistance.

Chavez to put subs in the Caribbean

Chavez has decided to purchase nine submarines to put in the Caribbean to counter the United States presence there.  Chavez claims that he is just preparing for an asymmetric war with the U.S. if it should ever occur.  So far, Venezuelan officials claim that they are abiding by all international and regional nonproliferation treaties. Buying weapons is nothing new to the Venezuelan leader, however this purchase will double what is currently being spent on military by the country. 

            Consequently, many will ask whether or not the submarines in the Caribbean present a threat to the U.S. and/or any allies in the region.  Some say that there is an unlikely chance that a nautical war will erupt from this; nevertheless, the massive loads of small arms that are being bought by Venezuela very well may end up in the hands of rebels and non-military individuals throughout the region—remember Columbia is just next door and claims one of the highest crime rates in the world.    

Another question that arises from this is whether or not Chavez’s actions will jeopardize trade with the U.S. The answer is we will probably see because it depends on several factors.  For one, how much of a threat the U.S. sees the build up as is a determinate of what could occur.  If our government feels endangered we will first probably ask Chavez to stop and then depending on his response subsequently take actions.  All the same, it is difficult to determine what will arise (if anything even comes of this).

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Responses

  1. Eric Jorgensen
    Blog Response #3

    It seems to me that President Chavez’ latest example of saber rattling is just that and nothing more. In other, equally cliché terms, he talks the talk, but he doesn’t — and will not — walk the walk. His rhetoric of a new, socialist “Bolivarian Republic” plays well in Cuba and at home amongst the poor who love him, but the reality of the situation somewhat constrains him in what he can actually do without crippling the Venezuelan economy.

    First of all, despite nationalization efforts in the past five years, he still needs the expertise and infrastructure of foreign corporations to extract crude oil, his country’s most precious natural resource. President Chavez forced many of the foreign oil companies to re-negotiate their contracts, but he stopped short of kicking them out of the country as a “true” socialist would.

    Second, much of the Venezuelan crude is of the extremely heavy and sulphuric. Such petroleum requires extensive refining, and not many places in the world have the ability to do so. Except, of course, for the United States. We get somewhere around 15% of our oil supply from Venezuela. If push came to shove with President Chavez, my guess is that he would bend before we would; his economy depends on the United States. That could change if China or India develop the refining capacity to handle Venezuelan crude, but the long distance ocean voyage could still muck up a new trading relationship amongst the countries. From what I understand, heavy crude like that which comes from Venezuela’s Orinoco Belt requires special oil tankers. As of right now, those specialized tankers are only capable of making the short distance trip to the United States.

    So, as it seems, Venezuela is very much dependent on the United States for its economic health. And, by extension, the fate of President Chavez is as well. Without the oil money that is currently pouring into his country, there would be no social programs with which to buy the affect of the poor, a constituency that makes up 60% of the country.

    For now, President Chavez needs the economic relationship between his country and the United States. As long as that holds true, we have nothing to worry about.

  2. I agree that Chavez probably does not have the capability to follow through with all of the threats/claims he is making. However, I do think that he is right, or at least justified, in being so worried about conflict with the United States. A simple look back at Latin/South American – United States relations shows what has happened to the governments we didn’t feel best supported our interests. Because of the coups we have supported in the past, I would guess that he expects worse than a simple request for him to stop. I’m sure that Chavez does know how dependent the Venezuelan economy is upon the United States, a fact that our government knows as well. I think that this is part of the reason he is probably so defensive towards us, because of the power it gives the United States over him.

  3. Initially I was sympathetic toward Chavez and his desire to nationalize certain industries. Though history has proven it typically unsuccessful I could at least understand some of his frustrations and where he was coming from. To have the majority of the profit from your country’s natural resources go straight out of the country would be enough to frustrate most world leaders. However, it seems to me that if Chavez was genuinely concerned with building a sustainable economy and a better life for his people he would not be stock piling weapons at this point. That is not to say that it is wrong for a country’s leader to purchase weapons for the protection of that country rather it seems to be an inopportune time to take such drastic measures. His time and money maybe better spent trying to nurture and secure much of the energy industry that he just nationalized. Buying up nine submarines when there is no immediate threat but there is a recently nationalized industry in need of funding and attention just does not seem like the actions of a leader that is primarily concerned about the welfare and quality of life of his people

  4. Chavez’s recent act of purchasing the submarines and increasing military build-up is totally unnecessary. “Having already spent $3.4 billion on Russian arms, including assault rifles and fighter jets, the Venezuelan Navy is planning to spend an additional $3 billion more to create the largest submarine fleet in the region by 2012, according to Venezuelan Navy vice Adm. Armando Laguna.” In addition, a recent Pentagon report estimated that Venezuela had spent more like $4.3 billion since 2005 alone, more than countries like Iran, Pakistan and even China. “Venezuela is also pursuing an estimated $2 billion worth of military transport ships and aircraft from Spain.” Unfortunately at poverty levels still below 50 percent, Venezuela could definitely manage those finances better. This whole build up seems to be just an “image-increaser” that President Chavez in trying to impose on his people and the international community. Although the U.S. resentment is present throughout Chavez’s administration, the notion of a formal attack on America is unlikely. Like most militaristic leaders, the expressions of military might are definitely a high priority on the agenda.


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