President Hugo Chavez on Wednesday warned Colombia not to allow a U.S. military base on its border with Venezuela, saying he would consider such an act an “aggression.”
Chavez said he would not permit Colombia’s U.S.-backed government to establish an American military base in La Guajira, a region spanning northeastern Colombia and northwestern Venezuela.
The Venezuelan leader said if Colombia allows the base, his government will revive a decades-old territorial conflict and stake a claim to the entire region.
What happens is that Chavez’s minion Correa of Ecuador has been saying that Ecuador will not renew a 10-year lease on the base in the Pacific port of Manta when it expires next year. No one is surprised at Correa’s position considering how he’s under Chavez’s orders, and how Venezuela has become the choice port of departure for the South American drug trade. After all,
Manta is the United States’ only military base in South America. Surveillance flights the United States runs from there are responsible for about 60 percent of drug interdiction in the eastern Pacific.
As Ed points out,
In 2007, the Manta base caught 200 such [drug] transports in approximately 1200 missions.
Now Chavez is saying that a US base in Colombia means war. Let’s take a look at MILITARY MIGHT IN SOUTH AMERICA
A look at the military strength of U.S.-backed Colombia compared to Ecuador and Venezuela (troop strength and reservist figures include army, navy, air force personnel):
* Regular troops : 254,300
* Reservists : 61,900
* National police : 136,000 (many combat-trained and equipped).
* Hardware : 115 combat-capable aircraft, including 22 ground-attack fighters, among them Mirages and Kfirs. Four surface combat ships
* Defense budget: $5.1 billion
* Regular troops : 57,100
* Reservists : 118,000.
* Hardware : 57 combat-capable aircraft including 31 fighters, among them Mirages and Kfirs. Eight surface combat ships.
* Defense budget in 2007 : $918 million
* Regular troops : 115,000
* Reservists : 280,000 (estimated, fighting capability unknown)
* Hardware : 94 combat-capable aircraft including 68 fighter jets including Sukhois, F-16s and Mirages. Recent military purchases include 53 helicopters, two dozen SU-30 Sukhoi fighter jets and 100,000 Kalashnikov assault rifles. Six surface combat ships.
* Defense budget in 2007 : $2.56 billion
Source: International Institute for Strategic Studies, AP
On those 280,000 Venezuelan reservists, whose fighting capability is unknown, it’s worth revisiting this 2006 NYT article by Simon Romero:
As dawn broke in this gritty city adorned with revolutionary graffiti and murals one day recently, about 300 residents were practicing military-style marching, strutting under the hot sun and clicking their heels in a salute to their commander. This ragtag army of nurses, students and other citizens is one of many being formed throughout Venezuela, part of President Hugo Chavez’s attempt to create Latin America’s largest civilian reserve force.
The article says, “The reservists in Cua, a city with 120,000 residents 24 miles south of Caracas, ranged in age from 18 to 74.” They get paid $7.40, for showing up to march and do calisthenics.
Be nice to Hugo or he’ll sic grandma on you.
And let’s not forget that last March the Venezuelan army was stopped on its way to the Colombian border by a taxi drivers’ strike in a town near the border.
Of course, he’s telling everyone who listens that an Attack by U.S. Would Cause $500 Oil.
The Washington Post has a slideshow of more of Chavez’s bluster.
In other South American news, Lima is under tight security for the Fifth EU-Latin America and Caribbean Summit, The two main topics to be discussed: fighting poverty, and climate change.