Emperor Chav

Mon, Mar 10, 2008

Madam, - Latin America rarely attracts even a second Editorial in The Irish Times and I therefore regret, as a specialist in Latin American defence and author of several books on the subject, to beg to differ with your statement (and most of the perceived wisdom) that "neither the Venezuelan nor the Ecuadorian armies are any match for Colombia's larger and more experienced force" (March 5th).

"Larger", certainly (approximately 250,000 against a combined Venezuela-Ecuadorian force of about 175,000). "More experienced", yes. Ecuador has an ongoing history of sporadic frontier conflict with Peru, which robbed it of 60 per cent of its territory in a war of naked aggression in 1941; and, as you point out, Colombia has suffered from many years of internal turmoil, in addition to being the only Latin American country to participate in the Korean War.

But the Colombians have no main battle tanks (Venezuela has at least 80, and about 120 lighter tanks, while Ecuador has approximately 100 of the latter). They have no heavy artillery pieces, against Venezuela's 20-plus and Ecuador's 40 or so, in each case supplemented by about 20 multiple rocket-launchers. There are Colombian major surface naval combat vessels against eight Venezuelan and two Ecuadorian; two Colombian submarines against a similar number each for Venezuela and Ecuador (though Ecuador's are currently undergoing modernisation in Chile and Venezuela is shopping for up to nine more). And there are between 20 and 30 Colombian combat aircraft against 60-plus Venezuelan and 20-plus Ecuadorian.

Chávez of Venezuela, with his avowed project of creating a "Bolivarian Republic" (for which read "empire") embracing Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia and possibly Peru, with himself as president-for-Life (or "emperor") follows in the depressingly long line of megalomaniac Latin American despots. He is all the more dangerous because of his country's vast oil riches and his friendship with Iran - which, apart from a shared (and in both cases largely justified) loathing of the United States, is transparently aimed also at sharing Iranian nuclear weapon and missile technology.

The threat to the hemispheric and even world peace and stability should not be underestimated. - Yours, etc,

Well, things have cooled down a bit now....

Last Updated: 10/03/2008 06:47
Venezuela restores Colombia relations

Venezuela will immediately restore diplomacy with Colombia, the government said today after this week's resolution of a regional dispute.

A Colombian raid on a guerrilla camp in Ecuador last week sparked the region's worst diplomatic crisis in years, with Venezuela and Ecuador sending troops to their borders with Colombia, their US-backed neighbour.

Leftist Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez cut ties with Colombia, but after a handshake at a regional summit on Friday, Mr Chavez promised to quickly withdraw the 10 army battalions he had sent to the border and normalise relations.

Colombia's March 1st raid on a Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or Farc, rebel camp killed over 20 fighters including the rebels' second in command, Raul Reyes.

The attack came just days after the Farc released four lawmakers they had held hostage for years in a deal negotiated by Chavez, who has good relations with the guerrillas.

The foreign ministry said yesterday that Venezuela would send diplomats back to Bogota immediately and was ready to receive Colombian diplomats "as soon as possible".

Relations are still delicate between Colombia's pro-Washington government and left-wing nationalists in Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia.

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