|The case against Chavez
By Ryan Thompson
When it comes to oil exports, Chavez knows that the United States is dependent on Venezuela and he is not afraid to use his leverage. Venezuela currently provides 15 percent of the United States crude oil. If Chavez would stop oil exports to the United States or sell less overall, the American economy would be seriously affected. Chavez has threatened to end oil exports to the United States on several occasions, and has bluffed so far, but could act at any moment.
Chavez has been the leading price hawk in OPEC. His support of high oil prices angers Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, two nations who want to increase production, but are blocked by OPEC regulations calling for unanimous support. By preventing voting against an increase in production, he is forcing the price of oil higher and higher as the demand also increases. The government-owned oil company can produce more oil at any time, but Chavez has refused again and again to raise output. Because the actions of Chavez, Americans are paying higher prices at the pumps.
With the revenues from oil, Chavez has embarked on a rearmament program that has begun to cause instability in the region. Small arms purchases have been made by Chavez's military since he came to power, but two agreements have forced the issue to the forefront. First, Russia sold over 100,000 AK-47 assault rifles to Venezuela. This might not sound very significant, but Venezuela's neighbors think otherwise. Columbia fears that these rifles will fall into the hands of FARC, a Colombia leftist insurgent group aided by Chavez. The Colombians have FARC on the run, thanks to American military aid, but the insurgents could be strengthened by these rifles.
Secondly, a Russian deal to sell 50 MiG-29 fighters to Venezuela has outraged its neighbors. Defense analysts fear this purchase could start an arms race in South America as nations want fighters to counter those of Chavez. Columbia has already stated it will seek American F-16 fighters armed with the latest version of the AIM-120 AMRAAM and AIM-9 Sidewinder air to air missiles. Seeing how the American government has continuously helped Colombia over the past decade, the donation of 50 F-16 fighters along with crew training to Colombian airman will likely occur if Chavez purchases the MiGs.
Along with rearming his military, Chavez has decided to become friendly with many of our enemies. One of Chavez's best friends, Fidel Castro serves as his inspiration. Since Chavez took power in 1999, relations between Cuba and Venezuela have become closer along with their antagonism towards the United States. Both nations claim that the United States is plotting to overthrow their governments and replace them with American friendly ones. The de facto alliance between Cuba and Venezuela also complicates the War on Drugs. Both nations serve as transhipment points for drugs entering the United States, and both encourage it. Lastly, Castro and Chavez want to cause a democratic socialist revolution throughout the region. The alliance between Castro and Chavez is not good for anyone in the Western Hemisphere.
In addition to Chavez's friendship with Castro, he also befriends our terrorist enemies. Chavez in 2000 was the first leader to visit Saddam Hussein after the 1991 Gulf War. In March of 2005, Chavez hosted several high ranking Iranian officials including President Mohammad Khatami. During the visit, Chavez took the opportunity to chastise the United States and Europe for wanting to attack Iran and claimed that Iran was a nation supporting peace. Clearly Chavez does not support peace, but supports the enemies of freedom.
As long as Hugo Chavez serves as President of Venezuela and keeps winning fake elections, the security of the Western Hemisphere will be in doubt. The United States should seek ways short of a full scale military action by our military to remove Chavez and restore democracy to the nation. Funding pro-democracy groups inside of Venezuela and neighboring countries serves as the best route right now, but military action will be necessary if these options fail. The security of the entire hemisphere is at stake here.
(c) 2005 Ryan Thompson
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