Chavez Tours World to Boost Venezuela’s Profile
Ironically, Venezuela is both one of America’s largest suppliers of oil and one of its most dangerous enemies in South America.
In July, President Hugo Chavez embarked on a world tour—which included visits to Belarus, Russia, Qatar, Iran, Vietnam and Mali—aimed at garnering support for Venezuela’s bid for a seat on the United Nations Security Council. He claimed he would “very humbly, with all the humility that we feel in our hearts, contribute modestly toward the battle to free the world from the imperialist threat”—meaning America—if elected to the UN seat (San Francisco Chronicle, July 23).
In his quest for the Council seat, Chavez has much support—particularly in the Arab world. Venezuela was recently granted observer member status in the Arab League. According to Central University of Venezuela international relations professor Maria Teresa Romero, “The Arabs have appreciated Chavez’s declarations of support [in relation to recent events in the Middle East], and the Arab League has promised to lobby in behalf of Venezuela in the United Nations” (ibid.). Perhaps this has something to do with his stance on Israel: During his tour, Chavez denounced Israel’s military campaign in Lebanon as “a true genocide.”
Reports suggest that Venezuela is leading Guatemala, the U.S.-backed candidate, in the race for the Security Council seat. But even if Venezuela does not get elected to the Council, its latest military acquirements are making it an increasingly dangerous foe for the United States.
During his stop in Russia, Chavez signed military contracts worth approximately $1 billion. The deal includes the purchase of 24 of Russia’s most sophisticated fighter planes, the Su-30mk2. The Russian-made fighter jet is comparable to the U.S. f/a 18e/f Super Hornet and f-15e Strike Eagle. The Russian planes may also be equipped with Russia’s most high-tech missile, the kh-31a, can penetrate U.S. naval air defenses. Chavez claims the planes will give his nation a deterrent capability against a U.S. invasion, saying they would be able to destroy any U.S. aircraft carriers in the Caribbean.
With this arms sale, Venezuela is set to become the most militarily powerful nation in Latin America (ibid.).
Chavez has also announced that Russia will build a factory in Venezuela to produce the Kalashnikov ak-103 assault rifle. Critics suggest the rifles will end up supporting anti-American guerrillas in U.S.-allied South American countries.
Venezuela is certainly becoming a thorn in America’s side. However, the true irony in the story may not just be that America is relying on an enemy to provide its oil, but that the money Americans spend on that oil is being used to purchase weapons to threaten and oppose American influence.