Monday, December 13, 2010

Venezuela's Worrisome Weapons

Chavez and toy. Who'll play with it next?

The news that Venezuela has purchased at least 1,800 shoulder-fired missiles from Russia has got to be frightening for Colombia - and the rest of the world.

Colombia and Venezuela aren't likely to get in a war, and if they did then it's a good bet that the battle-hardened, U.S.-equipped Colombians would defeat Venezuela's socialist 'socialist revolutionary forces'. After all, the last time that Venezuela ordered forces to the Colombian border, many of its military vehicles couldn't move.

Much more worrying is the fact that many of those Russian SA-24 missiles are likely to leak out of Venezuelan hands - whether due to government policy of supporting Colombia's outlaw leftist guerrillas or just plain corruption. There have already been several instances of Venezuelan weapons showing up in possession of Colombia's FARC guerrillas.

Take aim.
Like the leftover guns from Central America's civil wars, these small, mobile missiles will be floating around the Americas for decades, and will inevitably fall into the hands of guerrillas, terrorists, drug cartels and anybody else with enough cash to buy one. A terrorist or joker who posted a photo of himself with one of these missiles could easily paralyze an airport. After all, suddenly the threats are realistic.

Whatever Chavez's paranoid fantasies, the U.S. - already mired down in Iraq and Afghanistan - is not going to invade one of its primary oil sources. Why has Chavez bought these missiles and billions of dollars more in weapons? To make himself feel important, to snub the nose of Uncle Sam, to feed his own paranoias, to buy the support of his military...lots of reasons, and none of them good. The best we can hope for is that all of this armament rusts in peace on Venezuelan military bases. But even then, every bolivar or ruble spent on weapons is one stolen from hungry Venezuelan children, from the people in need of housing and education, from Venezuela's parks and hospitals. It's a real unconscionable tragedy.

More tragic still, Venezuela's weapons purchases place pressure on neighbors like Colombia to stock up on their own armament, stealing from the mouths of Colombian babes, as well. And Colombian ex-President Alvaro Uribe was worried enough about Chavez's war-mongering to push for the deal giving U.S. troops use of Colombian military bases for anti-drug flights. All this on a continent with no prospects of war or sources of ethnic, religious or territorial strife.

Unfortunately, like Chavez's 100,000 AK-47s, his tanks, boats and other toys, these missile launchers are not going to be returned to sender. 

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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