Leadership: Venezuela Dumbs Down for the Boss


March31, 2006: Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez has been quietly replacing senior military leaders with men committed to his "Bolivarian" notions of social revolution. That is, men who will be loyal to him. Just how far down the chain-of-command this goes is unclear. It's probable that all flag officer (generals and admirals) slots will, sooner or later, be filled by pro-Chavez personnel, but the reshuffling of lower ranking posts will probably be less dramatic, if only because junior officers can keep a lower profile. As military readiness already seems to be deteriorating, the overall effect of this "purge" will probably be to reduce further the capabilities and professionalism of the armed forces. Oddly, while intended to insure the loyalty of the armed forces to the regime, eroding professionalism is one important way to promote political activity by military forces. Loyalties are known to shift among unhappy generals.

The reduction in readiness is already affecting Venezuela's maritime forces. Reportedly the Coast Guard and Navy have been forced to cut back on maintenance and repair of vessels and installations. The Coast Guard has actually laid up some vessels and seems to have abandoned some small stations. Aside from an attempt to buy some high end equipment to demonstrate, most of the billions that Chavez is spend on procurement is not going to the regular forces, but to various "regime protection" forces, such as the "Bolivarian Militia."

Chavez' fierce anti-Americanism seems to have led him into a "strange bedfellows" situation with regard to the war on Islamic terrorists. Apparently fearing that any incidents of Islamic violence against Americans or American interests in Venezuela might provide the U.S. with a pretext for military action against his regime, Chavez' secret police seem to be keeping rather close tabs on the activities of Islamic organizations in the country.

Meanwhile, Chavez - and his buddy Evo Morales in Bolivia - are likely to be seriously disappointed over their efforts to cozy up to China, which they perceive as a Revolutionary anti-American power. Pragmatically comparing the "pros" of lending support to the quasi-fascistic/semi-communist regimes in both Venezuela and Bolivia, the Chinese leadership has decided that maintaining good relations with the U.S., the coutnry's largest trading partner, are a lot more important that pretending to be revolutionaries.


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