>For at least two years it has been known that, in addition to shipping 100,000 AK-103 automatic rifles to Venezuela, Russia intends to build plants in that country to manufacture even more of these weapons and their cartridges. The Kremlin’s ambassador in Caracas, Vladimir Zaemskiy, told a news conference on November 30 that Russian engineers and Venezuelan construction firms are presently building AK-103 plants which, when operational, will employ more than 1,500 workers. Zaemskiy offered no completion date for the plants under construction in the central state of Aragua.
Zaemskiy added that “big contracts” were being finalized to deliver 53 “Mil” helicopters to the Venezuelan armed forces, to be used for “humanitarian missions,” of course. Between 2006 and 2008 Moscow delivered a total of 59 military helicopters to Venezuela. Russia is also providing “a complete range” of spare military parts to Venezuela, Zaemskiy confided, as well as “transferring technology and building technical maintenance centers.”
Pictured above: In Caracas Venezuelan National Guard stand outside of Banco Canarias headquarters, one of several banks closed by the Chavezista regime.
Since it is also known that Venezuela’s communist dictator Hugo Chavez is supplying the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) with surface-to-air missiles (and probably other weapons), terrorism experts are worried that some of these Russian-designed, Venezuelan-produced small arms will wind up in the hands of Colombia’s Marxist guerrillas. Incidentally, in exchange for this covert weapons channel, the Chavezista regime is also taking a “cut” from the FARC’s lucrative trade in cocaine.
“Details about Moscow’s military shipments and projects,” frets Reuters at the first link above, “have been scarce since socialist President Hugo Chavez’s government began signing military agreements with Russia back in 2001.” That year Chavez and the “ex”-communists and KGB-types who rule Russia also established a strategic partnership to oppose “unipolar US supremacy” throughout the world. Since then Venezuela, like Cuba and Nicaragua, has become an undeniable Soviet satellite in the Western Hemisphere.
Venezuela’s contract to mass-produce Russian-designed light weapons is merely the tip of the iceberg with respect to the region’s new arms race. In recent years Chavez has purchased more than US$4 billion in weapons from Russia, including 24 Sukhoi fighter jets, now in service with the Venezuelan Air Force. When Chavez returned from his ninth trip to Moscow in September of this year, he disclosed that Russia had agreed to lend his country US$2.2 billion to purchase 92 T-72 main battle tanks and an S-300 air defense system that can shoot down fighter jets and cruise missiles.
Two years ago Russia agreed to sell the same S-300 system to Iran, a close ally of Venezuela as revealed again by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s recent visit to Caracas. However, the Kremlin postponed delivering the missile interceptors to Tehran amid US and Israeli fears they will be used to defend Iran’s nuclear installations.
After Brazil, which boasts Latin America’s largest armed forces, Venezuela has moved into second place in terms of firepower and military technology. “As a result of this cooperation, Venezuela’s defense capacity has increased considerably, as well as its level of technological independence,” concluded Zaemskiy. Thus we see that Chavez, who along with Raul Castro, co-leads the region’s Red Axis, is not only “armed for bear,” he is being armed by the Bear itself, that is, the “Soviet Bear.”
Indeed, it appears that Chavez, using any pretext, such as the new Washington-Bogota military pact, is preparing to over-run anti-communist “hold-outs” like Colombia with his Soviet/Cuban-backed “Bolivarian Revolution.” Lately, the latter includes the closure and nationalization of Venezuela’s private banks. “If I need to take over all the Venezuelan banks, I’ll do it,” Chavez ranted on state television yesterday.
In a related story that will probably witness the exacerbation of tensions still further between Bogota and Caracas, last Saturday 412 Colombians were expelled from Venezuela and allegedly mistreated after the illegal gold mine where they were working was closed down. Diego Molano, director of Colombia’s agency for displaced persons, related that the group was forced to board helicopters along the Venezuela-Colombia border. “They have been expelled without the appropriate processes, without information, without telling us so that we could prepare a humane reception for these people,” elaborated Colombian Defense Minister Gabriel Silva.
In what could be perceived as a penal response, Colombian Minister of Mines and Energy Hernán Martínez announced on Thursday the temporary suspension of power supplies to Venezuela and the restriction of electricity sales to Ecuador, reportedly “to shore up reserves amid a strong summer season.” With diplomatic aplomb, Martínez denied that the decision was related to “the political situation with Venezuela.” He assured the AFP news agency that there would be a “prompt restoration of energy supply,” and insisted that “Venezuelan officials know that it is not a retaliation. We would not do it under any circumstances.”
Into this fray strides the president of the Dominican Republic, Leonel Fernandez, who has offered to mediate the dispute between Colombia and Venezuela. On Wednesday the office of the Dominican Republic’s center-left president revealed that Fernandez accepted a request made by Colombian counterpart Alvaro Uribe at a private meeting held during the 19th Ibero-American Summit, which concluded on Tuesday in Estoril, Portugal. Fernandez later announced his decision in France, where he is on an official visit: “The Dominican Republic, due to its geographical position and its friendship with its neighbors, has been a mediator in regional conflicts on other occasions.” Whether Chavez really wants to peacefully resolve his ideological “beef” with Uribe is questionable in light of the above arms procurements from Russia.
Pictured here: Ortega waves to cadres of the ruling Sandinista National Liberation Front on November 21, the 1st anniversary of the FLSN’s “sweeping victory” in the 2008 municipal elections. The sign behind him reads “Socialist Solidarity.”
Communist Troop Movements in Central America
On a number of occasions, beginning even before the Honduran crisis, we have considered the possibility that Moscow is quietly assembling a “Red Dawn-style” military coalition in Latin America. We have examined many factors, including: 1) Russia’s first-ever, “post”-Cold War, week-long deployment of two Tu-160 strategic bombers to Venezuela in September 2008; 2) Russia’s first-ever joint naval drill with Venezuela in November 2008; 3) subsequent ports of call by the Russian Navy in Nicaragua, Cuba, and Balboa on Panama’s Pacific coast, the last necessitating a rare Soviet/Russian transiting of the Panama Canal; 4) the arrival last month of Russia’s civil defense “czar” in Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela with promises to set up an emergency situations center in each country; 5) Cuba’s three-day Bastion 2009 “strategic maneuver,” which wrapped up this past Saturday; and 6) another port of call by the Russian Navy in Cuba, slated for some time in December.
We have also awaited news of combined maneuvers among the ALBA states themselves, since Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and Bolivian counterpart Evo Morales have joined Chavez in urging the formation of an “anti-imperialist” army in Latin America. Well, just in time for the release of the Red Dawn re-make next year, troops from Venezuela and Nicaragua will hold their first-ever, two-month joint military drill in Central America next spring. In late September we blogged about a story from the Costa Rican media in which Ortega hurriedly approved the introduction of Venezuelan soldiers in his country beginning on November 1. The purpose of the foreign troop deployment in Nicaragua was not clear and, moreover, the MSM in North America did not touch the story with a ten-foot pole.
At the time even Liberal opposition leaders in Nicaragua’s National Assembly denied that the arrangement was related to the Honduran crisis. On several occasions Honduras’ interim president Roberto Micheletti has alleged that Venezuela and Nicaragua are preparing to reinstall deposed president Manuel Zelaya, a subservient pawn of Chavez, at the head of an invasion force. These are no idle accusations. Within 24 hours of Zelaya’s ouster on June 28, Chavez did in fact threaten to throw his military against Honduras on the pretext of protecting Venezuelan diplomats in the Central American country.
In spite of National Party candidate Porfirio Lobo’s election to the presidency on November 29, the Honduran crisis is still not fully resolved. The USA, Colombia, Panama, and Peru have promised to recognize President-Elect Lobo, who will take office on January 27, but the communist-led ALBA, which captured Honduras in 2008, refuses to do so. Incidentally, the fact that Lobo, a wealthy cattle rancher by occupation, is a Soviet-era graduate of Moscow’s terrorist-indoctrination center, Patrice Lumumba University, adds a twist to this story that may be addressed in another post if more information becomes available.
For his part, Zelaya remains defiant from his base of operations in the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa. Between his ouster, which was backed by his own Liberal Party, and his secretive return to Honduras on September 21, Zelaya enjoyed Ortega’s hospitality in Managua. On December 2 a majority of the Honduran Congress blocked Zelaya from serving out the final month of his term, upholding the body’s initial decision to support his removal, a decision that was condemned by the United Nations and the Organization of American States. The Honduran Congress’ latest anti-Zelaya resolution will only act as a final slap in the face to the region’s Red Axis.
All of these developments bring us full circle to a story in the December 3 edition of Caracas’ El Universal, which reports on next spring’s combined Nicaraguan-Venezuelan military drill:
The armies of Nicaragua and Venezuela will conduct military exercises aimed at training their air and naval forces, reported on Thursday official sources in Managua. The military exercises will take place in Nicaragua from May 1 to June 30, with the presence of about 30 Venezuelan soldiers and an unspecified number of ships and planes of the Venezuelan Air Force, DPA reported.
The participation of Venezuelan troops was authorized on Wednesday by the Nicaraguan parliament as required under the Constitution, said Sandinista deputy René Núñez, who is the speaker of the Chamber. Nicaragua and Venezuela strengthened their diplomatic and trade relations in 2007, after the return of Daniel Ortega to the government and the accession of the Central American country to the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA).
In spite of the reportedly low number of Venezuelan soldiers who will participate in this eight-week exercise, the fact there will be an “unspecified number of ships and planes of the Venezuelan Air Force” should cause the Honduran government some concern. At Once Upon a Time in the West we can only make predictions based on open-source information. However, it may be that under the guise of a joint drill that the armed forces of Nicaragua and Venezuela will incrementally pre-position their forces for launching an attack against the stubbornly anti-communist Hondurans. Surely it is not a coincidence that Russia is re-arming Nicaragua’s Soviet-era military even as it transforms Venezuela’s into a formidable regional force.
In a noteworthy development that could be related to the Nicaragua-Venezuela war game, President Ortega has appointed a new army chief. Like the outgoing chief of staff, General Omar Halleslevens, incoming commander of the Nicaraguan National Army, Major General Julio Aviles, is presumably a Sandinista. Aviles, whose promotion was announced at an event of the ruling Sandinista National Liberation Front, will assume his new position on February 21, 2010. Born in 1965, Aviles was only 14 years old when the Nicaraguan Revolution swept away the Somoza dynasty. He holds a degree in business administration, but that fact shouldn’t fool students of the 21st-century Red Spread in Latin America. The relatively young Aviles was formerly chief of military intelligence and counter-intelligence. He has also represented the Nicaraguan military in France and, significantly, Cuba, Ortega’s oldest regional ally.
Meanwhile, Russia is expanding its official representation in Nicaragua by opening a trade mission in Managua by direct order of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. Nicaragua is a major exporter of coffee, nuts, and tobacco to Russia, and beginning in 2010 will supply 12,000 metric tons of beef and pork products to the Eurasian country. Russia’s main exports to Nicaragua are machinery, equipment, and chemicals. Moscow’s new trade mission in Nicaragua—in addition to regular embassy staff—could conceivably offer expanded cover for Soviet subversion in Central America, as well as a hub to coordinate the political-military activities of the region’s Red Axis. Ortega’s unwavering commitment to his Soviet masters is clear from his first “post”-Cold War trip to Moscow in December 2008, as well as a missive published 26 years before that exposes the Sandinistas’ solidarity with the Soviets:
To the Central Committee of the CPSU, To the Supreme Soviet of the USSR
On behalf of the FSLN membership and the heroic people of Nicaragua the National Leadership of the Sandinista National Liberation Front and the Council of the National Reconstruction Government salute you, the glorious Soviet people, the Government and the Communist Party of the Soviet Union on the 60th anniversary of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
The great unity of the Soviet people, sealed on December 30, 1922, was an accomplishment without precedent in human history. The establishment of a state of workers and peasants enabled them to attain their most cherished and urgent social, political and economic goals.
Marking the 60th anniversary of the USSR we are fully aware of the colossal material and spiritual advances made by the Soviet people and of their great contribution to the struggle to preserve world peace, which checks the hegemonic moves of the more reactionary and militarist imperialist quarters [meaning the USA]. Equally great and effective has been the solidarity of the Soviet people with our people, the people of [Augusto] Sandino.
Paying homage to the people, the Communist Party and the Government of the Soviet Union, we want the friendship and solidarity existing between our peoples, governments and parties to develop and grow still stronger.
Patria libre o morir! [Free fatherland or death!]
DANIEL ORTEGA SAAVEDRA
Coordinator of the Council of the National Reconstruction Government
Member of the FSLN National Leadership
BAYARDO ARCE CASTANO
Coordinator of the Political Commission of the FSLN National Leadership
(60th Anniversary of the USSR: Greetings from Abroad; Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1983; pages 344-345)
Before the Nicaraguan-Venezuelan war game begins, don’t be surprised if other ALBA states like, say, Cuba, Bolivia or Ecuador, announce their participation.
Incidentally, Bolivia’s self-avowed Marxist-Leninist president Evo Morales is expected to be re-elected during that country’s December 6 poll. Even though Ecuador’s socialist president Rafael Correa was re-elected back in April, his popularity rating has slipped since then, encouraging this Chavez “mini me” to clamp down on press freedom. Reuters reports that on Tuesday Correa affirmed his support for a bill that will establish a government-controlled “watchdog” panel with powers to penalize journalists who break rules to be outlined in the tabled legislation.
This past weekend Correa, whose country holds the rotating presidency of the Union of South American Nations (Unasur), flew to Brussels to urge the European Union (EU) to reject the results of the Honduran election. Both Unasur and the EU may rightly be described as Leninist building blocks for world government.