President Hugo Chávez at a military parade in Caracas, April 13, 2005.
Photo: Reuters/Jorge Silva
Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez announced preparations for a “war of resistance” against a potential U.S. invasion during his weekly broadcast on March 25.
The U.S. government has repeatedly denied Chávez’s claims of a U.S. plan to remove him from power. But the U.S. Navy held warship exercises in the Caribbean throughout May, including an aircraft carrier strike group with four ships, a 60-plane air wing and 6,500 sailors. One of the ports the fleet will call upon is Curacao, located 40 miles off the coast of Venezuela.
These exercises are a manifestation of the threats against the government of Venezuela. “If I was sitting in the Venezuela[n] capital looking at this American task force, the message I would be getting is America still is not so distracted by Iraq that it is unable to enforce its interests in the Caribbean,” said Loren Thompson of the Lexington Institute, a right-wing think tank, in reference to the U.S. naval exercises.
On April 1, Venezuela’s military began training exercises of their own called “Operation Integral Defense Patriot Navy.” These exercises, which will continue until June 15, are designed to protect the coastline. Vice Admiral Armando Laguna said Venezuela’s navy “is prepared to be alert for all those operations” that threaten Venezuela.
Mounting threats against Venezuela
The threat against Venezuela is real and grows by the day. The U.S. government, colluding with the South American country’s ruling class, has backed several attempts to overthrow Chávez since his 1998 election and to destroy the Bolivarian revolution. Time and again, the people have risen to defend the president and their country. In the process, they have fractured the rightist opposition and strengthened the popular movement in support of Chávez.
The more Chávez advances anti-imperialist policies and moves in the direction of socialist revolution, the more the U.S. government demonizes him as a “destabilizing force” in the region. The Pentagon even compares Chávez to Hitler. U.S. defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld said on February 2, “We’ve got Chávez in Venezuela with a lot of oil money. He’s a person who was elected legally just as Adolf Hitler was elected legally.”
On the same day, U.S. national intelligence director John Negroponte, testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee, noted Venezuela’s strengthening “economic, military, [and] diplomatic ties” with North Korea and Iran.
Both North Korea and Iran are on the Bush administration’s “axis of evil” list. Their respective nuclear-energy programs are high on the list of Washington’s concerns. As U.S. imperialist policies aim towards achieving global domination, Chávez is developing a wide network of ties—among the socialist countries and around the world—to counter Washington’s attempts to isolate the Bolivarian revolution.
In early February, Chávez expelled a U.S. Embassy naval attaché from Venezuela for passing intelligence to the Pentagon. Chávez claims he has evidence that John Correa, a U.S. Navy commander, met with a group of Venezuelan military officials to pass secret information to Washington in support of a new coup attempt.
“We warn the imperial government of the United States that if their military attachés in Venezuela continue to do what this captain has been doing, they will be detained, and the next step would be to withdraw the whole so-called military mission of the United States.” Chávez also called for the maximum 30 years of imprisonment against Venezuelans found conspiring with Correa.
Preparing to face invasion
Venezuela’s “Operation Integral Defense Patriot Navy” is a program of training exercises designed to defend Venezuela’s coastline. It started with seminars and strategic planning exercises. The program involved 10,000 active military personnel and 3,500 civilians and reservists, 23 ships and patrol boats and two army helicopters. It included maneuvers with F-16 planes, ships and helicopters.
Key to these military defense plans has been the attempt to modernize and maintain the regular armed forces. Venezuela recently purchased 12 military planes from Spain despite U.S. attempts to halt the sale because the planes include U.S. parts and technology.
The United States has never condoned any country acquiring technology to defend themselves against U.S. domination, especially when that country is a threat to their imperialist aims.
Venezuela has also concluded an arms deal with Russia. In late February, three transport helicopters arrived, which are the first of 15 under two contracts. They also signed a contract for 100,000 Russian-made Kalashnikov rifles—a deal that also drew sharp criticism from the U.S. State Department. Imperialist propagandists claimed the guns could fall into the hands of leftist rebels in Colombia.
“We are not buying weaponry for export,” said Venezuela’s defense minister Orlando Maniglia. “We are buying material that can help us in the day-to-day war: the war against drug trafficking, fighting illegal activities on the sea and protecting the country’s borders.”
President Chávez says the assault rifles are needed to defend against a possible U.S. invasion.
Venezuela’s military manuals date back to WWII. Chávez’s goal is to update them to include the experiences of the revolutionary heroes who once liberated the country from Spanish rule—as well as “what we invent.”
A people’s army
The significance of that statement refers to a range of measures that go beyond traditional military exercises and planning. Chávez has advanced a number of measures that involve the broad masses of Venezuela’s poor and working people in the defense of the country.
In the fall of 2005, Chávez announced the creation of a “Territorial Guard,” a neighborhood-based militia designed to defend the country. These units are not part of the Venezuelan military’s chain of command, reporting directly to the office of the president.
Since then, 2 million civilians have signed up to train with the Territorial Guard. A March 6 BBC report describes the training of the reserve guard, including instruction on tunnel building “like the Vietcong used in Vietnam,” camouflage, and homemade weaponry like knives and slingshots. “Anything will do, as long as it harms the enemy,” said Rear Admiral Luis Cabrera Aguirre, a retired officer training the guards.
“A whole cross-section of society, including housewives and pensioners, have come forward to serve in the territorial guard,” the BBC article reports.
“We’re going to be a country of soldiers,” unemployed worker Roberto Salazar told an April 19 Associated Press reporter. Salazar was participating in weekly training exercises for the reserve force.
Articles may be reprinted with credit to Socialism and Liberation magazine.