how the world sees america

General Fortifies Venezuela Against the U.S.

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CARACAS - In 2002, President Hugo Chavez left it to his comrade and friend, General Raul Baduel, to defend Venezuela against external threats – especially threats from the United States.

General Baduel did just that: he achieved legendary status within Chavez's administration in April of that year for thwarting an attempted coup, which both men claim the U.S. government had a hand in (though the U.S. denies this). Baduel says while the coup unfolded, American boats entered Venezuela's waters and U.S. helicopters ran routes in its airspace. He could monitor them "with the same radars the U.S. used to monitor drug trafficking." Baduel’s actions saved Chavez’s regime and kept him in power.

Five years later, Baduel turned against Chavez and his administration. He retired last year from his post as Defense Minister and shocked Venezuela by publicly denouncing Chavez's constitutional referendum, dubbing it another "coup" to consolidate his power and undermine democracy. But even out of military uniform and away from official rhetoric, Baduel still harbors suspicions about the role of the U.S. government in his country.

I meet retired General Baduel in his office overlooking Caracas. Gregorian chants play in the background. He offers me coffee mixed with a brown liquid poured from a plastic jug. It contains an "Amazonian elixir" made of jungle root, he says, along with grappa, whisky, sake, and three indigenous liquors. He sips it, discussing Taoism, laughing often, and flipping through books like Sun Tzu's "The Art of War."

"I myself always had a positive attitude toward the United States," he says. His father worked for the American subsidiary of Shell Oil company, which treated him fine, he says. And when, as a parachuter in the army Baduel turned to leftist politics, holding hands with Hugo Chavez in 1982 vowing to “deepen democracy” in their country, he says anti-Imperialist, anti-U.S. discussion almost never arose.

After Chavez's failed coup in 1992 (which Baduel denies any role in), army superiors wanting to cleanse Baduel of left-leaning sympathies sent him to the School of the Americas in Georgia, USA. He knew the school’s reputation for supporting various unsavory organizations throughout Latin America this past century, but says he had “a wonderful time” at Fort Benning. It was not until the 2002 coup that he changed his mind fundamentally about the U.S. government.

Fresh out of uniform, he's now free to speak for the first time. So I ask: What really are the threats facing Venezuela? How much of a role does the U.S. play in these threats? How much is just rhetoric?

He outlines four scenarios, speaking slowly, carefully, not wanting to exacerbate tensions between the U.S. and Venezuela. He implies America's potential involvement in each one with little nods, rarely words.

Baduel-Chavez.jpg
Chavez and Baduel.

Threat 1) A Fourth Generation War: This asymmetrical confrontation is fought "through the media, technology, and economic sabotage." It is a psychological war.

Threat 2) A coup, or instability leading to a coup: Though its origin would be domestic, it could be exploited by external actors, he claims, such as the U.S. in 2002.

Threat 3) Regional conflict: Foreign powers could use the presence of rebel groups hiding out in Venezuela as a pretense to initiate hostilities against Venezuela.

Threat 4) Invasion: Full scale military confrontation between two armies is possible, Baduel says, though unlikely.

Of all potential threats, Baduel says the third possibility of regional conflict looms largest, especially as the U.S. and Colombia differ with Chavez on whether or not the Colombian rebel Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) are terrorists or not.

Baduel says a huge infusion of cash from the U.S. to Colombia under "Plan Colombia" poses a threat to Venezuela. The Plan gave hundreds of millions of dollars worth of military equipment to Colombia in 1999, officially to strengthen their anti-narcotics work, but Venezuelans and others claim there's no way to ensure this money isn't being used against the FARC.

As FARC rebels seek refuge across the porous border with Venezuela, mixed messages from Chavez could lead to confrontation between the U.S.-backed Colombian military, and Venezuela's, says Baduel. "Venezuela's military is confused. So in the case they [the FARC] come to Venezuela now, what will the guidelines be for the army?" And how will Colombia and the U.S. react if Venezuela doesn’t move on the FARC?

Venezuela is on edge now, more than it's ever been, and Baduel says Chavez is purposely making things worse. "I feel that the intention of Chavez with this [confrontational tone with Colombia and the U.S.] is to try to provoke action and conflict. He wants to reinvent himself after losing [the referendum in] 2007….He is very irresponsible to do this for the sake of [his] personal interests."

In the past few days, Chavez has unleashed a war of words against Colombia and its American supporters, exacerbating the tensions.

With chants in the background, sipping his tea, Baduel says these tensions must be relaxed. Slowly he says, "I choose my words with care."

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Comments (66)

Vic van Meter:

Hey Toro! I didn't hear about Chavez putting the same defeated reform back on the ballot again. Are you serious? If he keeps this up, he's likely to start doing himself harm as he displays his hunger for power.

A bit like Bush's signing statements have shown him as power-hungry and turned off a good deal of Americans (or those that distrust power centralized so heavily in one person), if Chavez keeps this up, won't he foment resentment in his own country? I can't see any way he can win presenting the same reform again.

ff:

Francisco Toro FTW.

F. Toro:


Well, Vohs, those are not questions I can answer in 200 words on a comments thread. But I've been writing about this stuff on my blog (Caracas Chronicles - google it) for a long time. I think the first step is to understand the underlying causes of Venezuela's dysfunction, which have everything to do with the way torrents of oil money distort the political system.

My view is that there is much more continuity between the "B.C" era and the "C." era than people usually realize. The way money, power and influence flow through the society is, to my mind, mostly unchanged: oil pours out of the country, dollars pour in, a small governing elite controls the distribution of those dollars and doles them out with a view to maintaining itself in power. The second the dollars start to dry up, the whole thing falls apart.

The bare outlines of Venezuela's political economy really haven't changed since 1918, let alone 1998.

I do have some ideas for how you change that, but this is really not the place for that debate. Send me an email and I'll send you some links.

David Vohs:

To F. Toro; I am interested to hear what your vision for your country is? Was it fine the way it was B.C.? How would you propose to fix the problems that you face? It is obvious to any visitor to Caracas that the wealth wasn't re-invested in maintenence or infrastructure since the city was built,how would you address that? What kind of positive ideas do you have about poverty,crime,food security,etc?
As to Chavez's talk about trying again; you have a healthy set of rules in place for contsitutional reforms and elections, talk all he wants, if he violates them he will have to face the music. At least you don't have 'signing statements' to contend with!

Amar C. Bakshi:

Hi TomL, I take your point well, and do not mean to do that at all. I shall remove both comments for now so as not to cast that impression. I saw the comment above mine and it was very bigoted and did not deserve a response.

Sher Ahmed Khan:

The Generals are on thier heels by some kind of phsycology in defense of the large and expensive institution they command to take cxharges and do all the International shopping for thier country and control the 'collective'[revenue taxes excise customs duties ETC., govt and the 'cooperative' construction health social security corporate management ETC.,govt ...
Chaves however has the revolution that is only alternative for Washiongton that seems hasnt confessed in that part of the world about its Harvard Manufactured The World Economy having collapsed long ago...US Advisor Christopher hill was going N Korea and interviewed by CBNS where he announced '"US/Nkorea do have a issue about Nuclear Weapons but besides that we can talk on various affairs. " a part of it is confusing because Nkorea already promised halting nuclear tests and cooperated with China's intermediation. However it was a good vote from The White House and relations improve that way!
however im sure US supports a Global Economy because it hasnt travelled much into where its big investors have zoomed in there is no cause for countries that US Professors cannot otherwise advise now!
The game is too big for a General to overtake Chaves in Latin America who has bonded his nation and continenbt to the Great thought process of modren Global Economy and a sincere revolution...

Hump:

Americans don't care about Chavez.

T.C.:

Bohdan Szejner...you remind me of the Israelis and Russian Jews. You come to a foreign country, displace the people, steal their resources and then get POed when they want a piece of their fair share. People like you make me sick. I bet you are a strong supporter of Israel too. Figures.

JOJO
THAT is a anti-semite statement!!!!! Are YOU ant-semite?

profebritos:

spit-fire
i find your vision clerly naive and it´s clear that you dont know nothing from venezuela and ther rest of latin america.

MJ Eizen:

Having been to Venezuela numerous times, both before and after Chavez, I have always been dismayed by the tragedy that is Venezuela. This is a beautiful country, rich in natural resources in addition to oil. There was, and always has been a fairly high level of education, especially in comparison to many other countries in Latin America.

Yet, both before and after Chavez, the same problems that have plagued Venezuela for years continue-notably fraud and corruption. As a Cuban born American, I see many parallels between Venezuela and Cuba. Cuba like Venezuela, before Castro, suffered from the concentration of power and wealth in the hands of the few, and a very large, oppressed, and uneducated population, with vast amounts of fraud, corruption and theft committed by those in power. Ditto for Venezuela. After Fidel, Cuba went on a socialist model, and of course, made the US and the Yanquis their great enemy. Ditto for Venezuela.

The big difference between Cuba and Venezuela is that Venezuela is truly blessed with an abundance of natural resources, especially oil. Chavez has chosen to model himself after Fidel. He sees himself as a great leader of the poor. Yet, he is following Castro's game plan of concentrating political power in his own hands. It is really a shame. If Chavez would concentrate on his own people, institute changes in the legal system directed towards honesty and integrity, work hard to eliminate fraud and corruption, and instill true democracy in Venezuela, he could have been one of the great leaders of all time. Instead, driven by his ego, he is taking the nation down the path of dictatorial socialism. The Venezuelan people deserve better than this, and I can only hope that Chavez will be displaced in a democratic fashion, and the Venezuelan people take control over their own lives, free of interference from anyone.

thopaine:

To TOML; Why do you need to state a disclaimer that you are agnostic born to christians, before leveling irresposible charges of anti=semitism?
I have seen this type of post several times before"...I am not jewish, but...".hmmmmm

Leave it alone.Anti-zionism/anti israel is not anti-jewish(Arabs are semites)no matter how badly the israelies want to conflate the two.

And before you continue your foray into the mind of that "psychiatrist's dream",based on a single,translated, observed, speech, think about bush on the a/c carrier(mission accomplished);or after barely winning(?)reelection, he trumpets:"I have the political capital and I am going to spend it !!(not "lets try to join the country together, I will try to earn the support of the 50% of the american people who did not vote for me")
And cheney, whose speeches and TV appearances, show him to be what you, as a competent(and speedy) diagnostician, would be forced to diagnose as pathological/sociopathic liar of the worse sort,suffering from delusions of grandeur, not to mention paranoia.

Robert17:

Great posts by F. Toro, and hilarious reversion to type by much of the rest. Is the imaginary enemy of my imaginary enemy my friend, or just my imaginary friend they ask.


F. Toro:

A. Tarre,

You're probably onto something there. My little framework probably needs some work still.

Vohs,

If *only* Chávez had accepted the voters' decision as final, the climate of tension in Venezuela would have subsided considerably. But he did nothing of the sort. Instead, he announced *on*election*night* that he intended to put forward the reform again, that he wouldn't backtrack "even on a single comma", even though the constitution he himself had approved back in 1999 bars him from proposing the same reform proposal twice within a single term of office.

Since election night, he's said again and again that he intends to have the constitution's clause on presidential term limits reversed.

Just last week, he threatened that if he had to hand over power to an opponent, "there will be a war." It takes nothing beyond open eyes to realize that Chávez does not actually perceive his term in office as finite, or the alternance of different parties in office as normal. If this stuff doesn't set your authoritarianism alarm bells ringing, it's hard to imagine what would.

Amar,

To the extent that you found General Baduel sort of baffling, I think you're on the same page as most Venezuelans!

Mariano Patalinjug:

Yonkers, New York
04 February 2008

Once upon a time, Gen. Baduel and Hugo Chavez were that close and chummy, so much so that Chavez entrusted him with preparing Venezuela for an external attack--which he did.

At the time, it is safe to assume that Gen. Baduel knew Mr. Chavez quite thoroughly: what his ideology was (whether democratic or despotic), what his attitude toward Venezuela's neighbors was and toward the United States and the West in general, and what his short-term and long-term plans were for his country.

Now, unexplainably, Gen. Baduel has turned against his former friend and benefactor Hugo Chavez. This was not long after he underwent that training at Fort Benning, Georgia. The coincidence is quite striking.

Nobody can know what's inside Gen. Baduel's mind. But people cannot help speculating. And one possibility is that the United States has persuaded him that Hugo Chavez is a threat to a democratic Venezuela (which he has turned out to be) and that Gen. Baduel is the one man at this juncture in Venezuela's political life who could very well bring democracy back to the Venezuelan people--with the U.S.'s full support.

MarPatalinjug@aol.com

Mariano Patalinjug:

Yonkers, New York
04 February 2008

Once upon a time, Gen. Baduel and Hugo Chavez were that close and chummy, so much so that Chavez entrusted him with preparing Venezuela for an external attack--which he did.

At the time, it is safe to assume that Gen. Baduel knew Mr. Chavez quite thoroughly: what his ideology was (whether democratic or despotic), what his attitude toward Venezuela's neighbors was and toward the United States and the West in general, and what his short-term and long-term plans were for his country.

Now, unexplainably, Gen. Baduel has turned against his former friend and benefactor Hugo Chavez. This was not long after he underwent that training at Fort Benning, Georgia. The coincidence is quite striking.

Nobody can know what's inside Gen. Baduel's mind. But people cannot help speculating. And one possibility is that the United States has persuaded him that Hugo Chavez is a threat to a democratic Venezuela (which he has turned out to be) and that Gen. Baduel is the one man at this juncture in Venezuela's political life who could very well bring democracy back to the Venezuelan people--with the U.S.'s full support.

MarPatalinjug@aol.com

Alejandro Tarre:

Very interesting thread. I’ve enjoyed it, but I would like to get back to the main topic (“How Venezuela sees America”) and the interesting debate around F. Toro’s blog entry.

Some US leftists –if we take the previous comments as a sample– do use Venezuela as a screen to project arguments against the US. That is, they seem to look desperately for a confirmation of their criticisms of the US in Venezuela –which often makes them overlook horrible things Chávez is doing there and welcome with little skepticism dubious “facts” like US involvement in the 2002 coup. And you could say the same about some in the right, who –as Toro says– use Chávez as a confirmation “of their own deeply held beliefs about the lunacy of the left's take on the world.”

These are sharp insights –although I am not sure whether these views are representative of the US right/left debate about Chávez (I suspect they are).

But is this exactly what happens the other way around? How much can we learn from these insights about “how Venezuela sees America”? I don’t see Venezuela’s political or ideological fault lines (or internal political disputes, divisions, etc) shaping in a major way Venezuelans’ view of Bush or the US. Most Venezuelans, regardless of there political or ideological affiliations, have a poor image of Bush. Most of them (around 70%, according to Latinobarómetro) have a favorable view of the US despite their dislike of Bush. I don’t see Venezuela’s opposition transforming their dislike of Chávez into unquestionable support for Bush and the US (as some in the American left transform there dislike of Bush and US foreign policy into support for Chávez). And polls clearly indicate that many chavistas haven’t changed their favorable view of the US because of Chávez.

Of course, Venezuelans’ view of the US might still reflect a lot about Venezuelans. Of course, many Venezuelans have a caricature-view of the US that is related to their own identity. But this doesn’t tell us much.

It is true, as Toro argues, that there is a struggle in Venezuela that involves instrumental rationality, the Enlightenment and so on. Chávez and many of his supporters have given clear signs of rejection of basic Enlightenment values –values that many in the opposition are passionately defending and promoting.

But I doubt Venezuelans’ view of the US is a reflection of this struggle. I see no evidence.

TOML:

How many of you who defend Chavez have actually heard him speak? I had the [unfortunate] privilege to watch him pontificate to Venezuelans on C-SPAN. "Ohhhh. C-SPAN. That's doesn't count!" I hear some of you saying. Well it does. It was translated into English. From my vantage point, I was appalled at how self-absorbed this man is. He's neurotic. He's not psychotic; he hasn't lost touch with reality, but he believes that he is incredibly special and the center of the soul of Venezuela. He's a psychiatrist's dream case.

I believe, but have no evidence, that he was a Cuban spy/operative while he was in the military. Why not? He fawns over Fidel Castro, and has loaded his internal security with Cubans. "Just one socialist looking after another" you say? I doubt it.

I feel sorry for the Venezuelan people. How did it go this far astray? A thriving democracy going down the discredited road of state-mandated socialism?! It's appalling. I only hope that our good friends, the Venezuelan people, take their government back. Chavez had set the Venezuelans back 20 years.

Spitfire:

Methinks that someone may be a bit paranoid. What is Bush going to do with accumulated power after January 09? Does that work like "roll-over" minutes with Singular? Maybe he can exchange them for credits to buy black helicopters?? Now that's a theory worth pursuing...
Hugoetta (the feminine version is so much more endearing) will in fact get "roll-over" minutes as he crushes democratic opposition (thank goodness it isn't republican opposition) and will continue on in power until his state crumbles under its own weight of oppression.

TomL:

Amar: Why did you post the first "comment" by implying that Gen. Bakshi is colluding with the Jews? Are you an anti-semite? I'm an agnostic (born to a Christian family), but your ham-handed attempt to cast this in light of the Arab/Israeli conflict is really too transparent for words.

Horacio Britos:

Dear friends I think that us foreign policy truly stinks. Always searching down the carpet for filthy craps, America or better said Americas is different. Pay attention to your real enemy undercover like Brasil, and thank Chaves for keeping on sending you oil for your bigs cars. ah before you say FARC are terrorist declare terrorist to your own governement so we can believe in your ruling the world attitude.
Sorry my english

Vic van Meter:

Thanks Amar! That's the kind of information I can use!

Alejandro, patriotism and nationalism go hand in hand. And I certainly don't expect a military man to be either unpatriotic or non-nationalistic. It seems to me that if you are willing to put your life on the line for a country, you tend to be fairly proud of the thing you risk your life for. So the former general saying that Venezuelans should use their skills to advance Venezuela isn't all that brow-raising.

Those are really the two situations. Was Baduel more and more frustrated until he up and left the military and went public with pre-formed frustrations? Or was he a lackey for Chavez until his departure when he decided to butt heads? Amar seems to think the former, and being the only person I know who has met the man, Amar's opinion is probably the best thing we can get. And I trust Amar's judgment of character. He seems to get his story.

Baduel certainly seems level, though he still thinks America green-lighted the coup attempt in 2002 (which I've repeatedly questioned, considering America is still getting its oil, Chavez has never moved on American-based oil operations in the region, and they stand at least as good a chance of screwing themselves as helping themselves in Washington if Chavez is overtaken). But you can never trust anyone too much, especially nowadays. Remember, over 80% of Americans believed Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. It has nothing to do with intelligence, globalism, or thinking in America. It all has to do with something repeated so often by so many people that the debate shifts from 'if' to something else.

I remember that pretty well. Most Americans were willing to buy that Iraq had nuclear weapons, but it really wasn't because it was logical or rational. It was because, after enough time of arguing about them, it became almost nonsensical to talk about Iraq NOT having them. And the debate had shifted to what to do about it.

It happens as often, if not more so, in other countries. We here in America also benefit from a rabidly destructive media that would absolutely LOVE to break a story of the century by turning a presidential mistake into the negative event of the century (I will say that I preferred when this was limited to fellatio received in office rather than the misdirected invasion of another nation). Sometimes the media gives the government too much rope, but often enough the media is always hounding all levels of government looking for a juicy story. So if our media fails us, obviously less voracious medias (aka state-owned medias) will likely do the same.

So if the missteps of America, especially recently, have taught anyone anything, it is to NEVER TRUST ANYTHING. Unless you touched it, saw it, and know it firsthand, you really do not know anything. And this brings us full circle to Baduel. I question his motives and such not because I doubt his opinions (if America is really a diabolically devouring entity, it is likely not a good idea to paint a bulls-eye on your chest) but because I doubt everything. Especially now. There is no reason for your government to be honest with you. Any of you. And as such, you can be almost 100% certain that no matter what is being told to you that you are being lied to.

So is Baduel really a political liberator finally stepping out from under Chavez's boot or a politically-motivated and disgruntled employee stepping out from Chavez's shadow? As the previous reasoning implies, it is probably a combination of both somewhere along the line since both Chavez and Baduel have every reason to lie to you. So you can hardly trust either, or anyone, to be honest with you. If they were, I am sure the world would be shocked and appalled.

That is why I thank Amar and all of you Venezuelans (whether you like me or agree with me or not) and even anyone outside the involved states to bring their opinions. If, in fact, we are not government employees and are true flesh-and-blood people on our computers communicating (and really, you can't honestly 100% trust that the US government isn't paying ME either) then this is really the best way to get our news. I know our government is lying to us, Chavez's government is lying to Venezuela, and somewhere in the middle of this ordeal maybe a few ordinary folk can figure out what exactly is being done in our name.

dunnage:

We should be doing business with Venezuala. But no, we whine about the way they treat Exxon, letting Norway, France, Canada, Spain, and China help them out. This is ridiculous. I'll bet the American people actually think we are in Columbia to stop cocaine traffic.

Notice that the so-called U.S. Oil Giants want a special exemption to go after Cuban Oil. Ta, Da. Sen. Craig of Idaho sponsored the legislative exemption last time. But I think the Spanish, Chinese, and Norwegions can pump the oil just fine.

Amar C. Bakshi:

Hi Alejandro, thanks for this note. Yes, I read the NYT op-ed and should have asked about it. I will see if I can phone in a message to get a response for the site, and I'm looking forward to seeing what Sandra posts. I'll also track down the book. As far as Baduel's patriotism, you read me correctly. I think in part this man has motivations that transcend personal politics, which is not to say he is not bogged down or to suggest the balance is one way or another. I'd love to hear Sandra's take on this as well, as one critical of military men. Your post reminds me of something I heard several Venezuelans say: that President Chavez would be a terrific public communicator, activist, radio host, NGO leader, personal motivator, but at administrating and in love with love, he is less successful. Your thoughts?

Alejandro:

Hi Amar, thanks for your reporting. I found your characterization of Baduel as "patriotic" surprising, especially since you seem to deploy it as a way to suggest his motivations transcend personal politics. You might have asked him, given his critiques of his US based half brother, what he thought of resorting to perhaps the most important public opinion platform in the US - the New York Times op-ed page - just days before the December referendum as a way to repudiate the vote. I was also struck by your journalist friend's about face. It reminds me of another Venezuelan journalist who published a book about the 1992 Chavez coup, Angela Zago. She too subsumed her basic instincts on "military men" to a far more visceral emotion about patriotic change, and our need to have a strong, almost mystical leader at its head. You might check out the book - La Rebelion de los Angeles - or even track down Zago in Caracas.

Amar C. Bakshi:

Baduel is a controversial man here, because, as you said Vic, we know his opinions, but don't know -- or perhaps just don't trust -- his motivations for leaving government.

The question of motivations plagues him, and likely will for years to come. And I think he will likely, gradually reveal more and more of what unfolded between he and Chavez, if nothing else, to calm the speculation. For example, he suggested over the course of our interview that his private disagreement with Chavez began mounting several years ago, even as his outward actions demonstrated scant proof of this. Read, for example, this interview from 06: http://www.voltairenet.org/article30248.html.

Yet in a society as polarized as Venezuela, and in his military role, it would have been exceedingly difficult for him to disagree with Chavez publicly without having to break cleanly from his circles. I got the impression in our interview that this fierce patriot was torn for several years about what to do as his discontent grew.

But as this author explains elegantly, disagreement between the two men really dates back a decade or more. He writes that there's a fundamental difference how Chavez and Baduel saw their revolution.

Chavez envisioned re-distributive socialism, with a strong state presence. Chavez grew increasingly enamored with this idea while in power, in part because he saw this form of government had the added benefit of growing his patronage powers.

Baduel says he always focused more on expanding political engagement to poorer sectors of society, and fighting government corruption. As Baduel said in our interview, "We were talking about the situation [within Venezuela] at the time [of swearing their revolutionary oath]: corruption, poverty, social injustice, lack of safety." He said he believed these ills could be redressed without changing the system of governance. He said they never talked about a different system of government than democracy at the time. Whether this is an invention of memory or the truth, Venezuelans and scholars can help us address. But these were his words.

His language now is all about making a more "profound democracy," and resisting the state-centered socialism Chavez seeks. He claims he abstained from the 1992 coup because it wasn't democratic (though in previous interviews before leaving government he said it was because he was studying and had no troops under his command).

Chavez came to power and succeeded in pulling in a vast part of society into the political sphere in a way they weren't before, but he proved quiet inept at addressing some of the concerns Baduel had: corruption and violence. Moreover, Baduel suggests Chavez developed ulterior motivations for his redistributive programs -- personal political power.

These are the ostensible reasons for the break: Baduel's different vision for the future, discontent with Chavez's management of government, and his push for more power.

Now as to whether his departure was personally motivated, which many here claim -- because Baduel wants to enter politics and didn't want Chavez clinging on to power past 2012 as he says he want -- is unclear. He says he will not run for local offices, but left open the possibility of running for the highest office. He also is proposing another constitutional assembly that he says is to protect Venezuela from personal power grabs like Chavez's, and he says he wants to play a part in it.

Baduel seems to be very patriotic. He lamented the fact that his half-brother was currently working in the United States, and says he hopes Venezuelans all stay put building up the country. He also seems to be someone who subordinated opposition to Chavez for sometime in part out of this patriotism, even as he saw things go awry. I think he does have political motivations of some kind, which led him to stay silent for some time while in government, and then led him to break out as publicly against the government as he did.

I went to meet Baduel with journalist Sandra Portillo, who's spent her life reporting in Venezuela. She wrote a book about the 2002 coup attempt against Chavez. I've asked her to leave her impressions of the meeting on this thread too, to round out what I've typed. My take is of course limited by time -- since I've only seen the man after his shift from government -- and would benefit from your perspectives who have watched him over the media for years. Sandra did tell me as we left his office that she thought much better of him after the meeting, since she generally didn't trust military men in politics.

Reflecting on the meeting at a personal level, the first thing that struck me about Baduel was how at ease he looked. Despite his big break with Chavez, despite being dubbed a traitor by many of his former comrades, despite receiving death threats that require all his visitors, including myself, receive an extra-screening, he doesn't have the air of a calculating politician or someone overly self-impressed, which I've seen many times before on this trip. Nor is he an insecure or apologetic dissenter.

He seems to be as eager to discuss non-political topics and political ones. If left to his devises, we might have spent the two hours debating Taoism and the spiritual experience of falling through the air as a parachuter. Maybe that's best for Baduel for now, drift away from politics for some time to shape a new vision for the country, one that could hopefully bridge the with-us-or-against us climate that shapes politics here today.

Mike:

Betobarrios is to be congratulated for observing the manipulation of language. During the Vietnam was, for example, our god-fearing American troops alway "took" a hill, whereas the godless commies alway "overran" a hill.

We used to describe those Russians who protested their government's policies as "dissidents", but at home those opposed to our own government's policies were "protesters." Foreigners providing armaments is called "proliferation", while our providing arms is called "military assistance." Good guys "assist" their allies, but bad guys "prop up" theirs. Mine is a religion; yours is a cult. Ad infinitum.

betobarrios:

So, the Chavez "regime" is still "in power"? Funny, in spite of legitimate criticism of his policies and desires to change the constitution, I thought after winning two elections, we might acknowledge that the Chavez ADMINISTRATION is still IN OFFICE!!!!!! Substituting this kind of language is irresponsible.

Michael:

When Porter Goss - a CIA case officer when he was a young man, then a Congressman, and finally Director of the CIA - gave a speech at a university a year or so ago he told the students that if they had been CIA new case officers he'd have given them this advice: "admit nothing; deny everything; make counter-accusations!"

That is the approach that pervades the relationships among the Chavistas, Bushistas, and all the other "istas."

Diogenes would wander for a long time in North, Central, and South America before finding his honest man, especially among the hemispheres' putative leaders.

jojo:

Bohdan Szejner...you remind me of the Israelis and Russian Jews. You come to a foreign country, displace the people, steal their resources and then get POed when they want a piece of their fair share. People like you make me sick. I bet you are a strong supporter of Israel too. Figures.

David Vohs:

I'm listening F.Toro, and I know that you know in much more detail what goes on there; but Mr. Chavez's 'power grab' seems to have failed at the polls and he seems to have accepted that. That seems to speak well for the voters ability to get the subtle nuances at play there. Democracy does have it's disadvantages, when you are in the minority, but isn't Chavez doing what the majority of the people want? And if he's playing the 'underlying dynamics' better than his opponents then tough luck.
Is it OK for GW Bush to exploit fear in order to do his agenda but not Hugo Chavez? He is enough of a student of history to know what has to be done to survive, there are plenty of examples of popular movements being squashed for him to get the picture.
Also no one has mentioned the racist element at play there. To a visitor it blatantly obvious. What is your take on that?

Chaos:

Dear F. Toro,

I'm sure you realize that many US anti-imperialists, relatively inneffective in domestic politics, are looking for heroes abroad. As long as Chavez looks like such a hero, this faction will refuse to see Chavez's abuse of democracy at home.

Recent reports suggest that even his programs for the poor are going to pieces because of poor administration, corruption, and partisanship.

Chavez's position is going to crumble, and the transition will be extremely dangerous. The right will be far more organized from the left. Massacres are entirely possible. Venezuela seems to need someone who can reconcile the Bolivarian revolution with the middle class.


Bohdan Szejner:

Like all tropical countries Venezuela is very hot, short on temper, and not too insightful. My experience of Venezuela harks back to the late fifties. There were only two classes, the rich and the poor. The rich were mostly American or European. There was a profoundly engrained resentment toward the gringos. The young people I knew acted like Chavezes - veritable replicas. They bullied the white rich boys, and tried to intimidate them. Their tactic of choice was to show how brutal they could be, to discourage us from fighting. The Indians, wherever they fought with whites present, bit each other ripping with their teeth ping-pong size chunks of flesh. We immigrants from the civilized Europe never saw anything like it. That's how they kept us at bay, with a Chavez-like combination of anti-gringo rhetoric and threatening postures. The white boys were advised by their families never to play near the Bolivar's monuments, not even walk past without a suit and tie, for fear of being either assaulted or arrested. Like today, the whole society was neurotic and unsafe because of the rampant illiteracy and class hate.

Bohdan Szejner:

Like all tropical countries Venezuela is very hot, short on temper, and not too insightful. My experience of Venezuela harks back to the late fifties. There were only two classes, the rich and the poor. The rich were mostly American or European. There was a profoundly engrained resentment toward the gringos. The young people I knew acted like Chavezes - veritable replicas. They bullied the white rich boys, and tried to intimidate them. Their tactic of choice was to show how brutal they could be, to discourage us from fighting. The Indians, wherever they fought with whites present, bit each other ripping with their teeth ping-pong size chunks of flesh. We immigrants from the civilized Europe never saw anything like it. That's how they kept us at bay, with a Chavez-like combination of anti-gringo rhetoric and threatening postures. The white boys were advised by their families never to play near the Bolivar's monuments, not even walk past without a suit and tie, for fear of being either assaulted or arrested. Like today, the whole society was neurotic and unsafe because of the rampant illiteracy and class hate.

Mike:

If I have come to one conclusion about everything that occurs in life it is this: there is no single, stand-alone cause for anything. Everything is caused by a combination and accumulation of factors,even if we are too ignorant to notice. Particularly in international relations, one has to be cognizant of the influence of certain big factors: big money, big military, big ideology, big self-interest. It's when these big factors coincide that trouble looms. Add a good dollop of fear factor on all sides and, voila, there will be blood.

richard sequest:

Understanding Venezuelan and United States history and relations is an enomously difficult task, as is evident in the many contradictory views and opinions on this subject expressed by your readers.

Amid such complexity, I like to refer to the "Law of Parsimony" which would suggest we adopt the simplest assumption in the formulation of a theory of what is going on between the US and Venezuela and what this is leading to.

Thus, I personally believe that all Venezuela needs is a little respect. All the U.S. needs is to be liked.

The next President of the U.S. could resolve the tension between the U.S. and Venezulea by flying to Isla Margarita (a beautiful resort island off the coast of Venezuela) and meeting with Chavez over a cold Polar.

It's as simple as that.



Amar. C. Bakshi:

Hi Vic and others. I was on the road and just got a chance to check the thread. Great discussion going. I'm on the road again for another few hours but will type up my take on Baduel and post it later this evening.

Anonymous:

true about the parent company, but Shell's largest subsidiary, which was operating in venezuela, was shell oil, US-owned.

Anonymous BE:

Correction: Shell is a British-Dutch company, NOT an American company.

F. Toro:

The absence of self-awareness in Spitfire and Berenice's response is quite staggering. David Vohs does very marginally better, but still fails to grasp the underlying dynamics at play here.

Let me try to put it as straightforwardly as possible.

You have no trouble seeing through the hype when George W. Bush justifies gross violations of the US constitution on the basis of a hyped-up fear of terrorists. That fear has a basis in reality (9/11) and yet, the fact that it has a basis in reality in no way changes the fact that it has been cynically manipulated, overblown, exploited and misdirected for political gain. Hyping up the terrorist threat helps Bush accumulate power, that's why Bush hypes up the terrorist threat.

So why do you have such trouble seeing through the hype when Hugo Chavez justifies gross violations of the Venezuelan constitution on the basis of a hyped-up fear of the US? That fear has a basis in reality (the long history of US interventions in the hemisphere) and yet, the fact that it has a basis in reality in no way changes the fact that it has been cynically manipulated, overblown, exploited and misdirected for political gain. Hyping up the gringo threat helps Chavez accumulate power, that's why Chavez hypes up the gringo threat.

It staggers me that so many people fail to notice the really quite evident parallels. The mechanism at play is exactly the same: both exploit a grotesquely inflated fear of a real threat in order to justify power grabs that could never be justified if a reasoned, level headed discussion of the risks at play held sway.

S. Maturin:

The only sane comment by General Baduel was his description of Chavez as "irresponsible." His wacky analysis of US aggression scenarios probably came out of his personal elixir. Chavez's lunatic behavior at the UN, his renting of Evo Morales and Danny Ortega, his kissing up to Iran, his using a couple of bagmen to finance Argentina politics and his morning dose of coca are enough to show sensible people the psychotic that's running Venezuela.

S. Maturin:

The only sane comment by General Baduel was his description of Chavez as "irresponsible." His wacky analysis of US aggression scenarios probably came out of his personal elixir. Chavez's lunatic behavior at the UN, his renting of Evo Morales and Danny Ortega, his kissing up to Iran, his using a couple of bagmen to finance Argentina politics and his morning dose of coca are enough to show sensible people the psychotic that's running Venezuela.

F. Toro:

I give up.

David Vohs:

I would agree generally with what F.Toro is saying, everyone sees through the lens of their experiences and knowledge, but it's hard to ignore the real life actions of the U.S. government in the last 50 years in Latin America. It's Venezuela this time, but it's the same old story of struggle for resource control.
From what I saw there the democratic process is working pretty well and those in the minority are realizing that their participation in the process is going to be the way forward, although the sabatoge is still going on. I was really impressed by the way people of differing opinions expressed themselves and interacted without the kind of nastiness that is common in my country.
So as long as my country is tampering in the affairs of Venezuela I'll be following events and speaking up when I can and going back again as soon as possible.

Bernice:

F. Toro:

These are "discourses" about George Bush and the US because of the several attempts the current administration has made to depose Mr. Chavez and replace his government with monied/oil elite buddies. Chavez has told the IMF and World Bank to go away, has told the US it cannot build a military base on its soil (the better to cooperate in the 'war on terror'), and in general refuses to knuckle under to US bullying.

The infamous School for Assassins at Fort Benning actually closed. For a day. After which it re-opened with a new name. Will we never learn?

We have been subjected to a seven-year campaign of disinformation about Chavez. I hope it will end with the departure of Bush/Cheney. Chavez and the other S. American leaders now being defamed (Morales, Correa) may, without continued US interference, be on their way to showing the world how countries can benefit ALL their citizens instead of perpetuating have and have-not societies.

Spitfires:

"...horrors of corporate power...."? Oh, right. Those horrible jobs, payrolls, taxes paid to government coffers, and economic development. Oh, yes... Shame on them. Maybe Soviet style economics will work in Venezuela because Hugo is so well intentioned.... And Stalin was such a cuddly character. "Over ten million purged" on their golden arches.

F. Toro:

Many of the posts here illustrate dramatically the parallelism between the way Venezuelans "see" the US and the way USAmericans "see" Venezuela: i.e. they don't. Just as Venezuelan discourses about the US are almost always inscribed in a debate that's ultimately really about Venezuela, gringos opining about Venezuela are almost always ultimately talking about the US

Look at the posts by Doctor T, Kevin Morgan, Vohs and others. They invoke the word "Venezuela" but only in order to score points in their own parochial culture wars. Venezuela is but a way-stop in a discourse that's really *about* denouncing George Bush and the corporate media, Exxon and the horrors of corporate power, etc.

Whether you agree or disagree with the ideological stances they stake out, it's important to see clearly that these are not really discourses about Venezuela. These are discourses that use Venezuela as a screen on which to project arguments about the US. The real Venezuela, with its nuances and complexities, its peculiarities and specificities, entirely vanishes, because anything that can't fit neatly into a pre-existing rhetorical mold about the US is ignored as a matter of course. These guys talk about Venezuela, but they don't really see Venezuela at all.

Which, as I tried to explain in that blog item Amar cited, is the mirror image of what happens when Venezuelans debate the US.

doctor t:

Hi-
The domination and manipulation of Latin America has always provided a laboratory for how the US will address the rest of the world, so it not so surprising that the mess in Southwest Asia is now providing some techniques to address the unrest on "Our Backyard". Afghanistan is the model for how the US will cope with Chavez. The CIA will recruit warlords in Colombia, Panama and maybe El Salvador and Guatemala to serve as shock troops. The elites make poor foot soldiers, so my guess is that some right-wing militias will be nurtured. The battle will be cast as right vs left to disguise the true source. Colombia is already aa US client, so it will provide the air support.
What the good general designates as "regional" is actually a US fueled war using regional resources. The most effective response may be to pre-empt some of the strategy by increasing (or threatening to increase) support for sympathetic militias in the region and Mexico if the mischief continues. Venezuela will be accused of this whether it does or doesn't (the facts don't really matter for US accusations) so you might as well do the crime if you are going to do the time.
The prospect of the ignoring of Latin American sovereignty creating a Bolivarian Lebanon will hopefully shock the US to its senses and lead to more respectful interactions with our neighbors.

doctor t:

Hi-
The domination and manipulation of Latin America has always provided a laboratory for how the US will address the rest of the world, so it not so surprising that the mess in Southwest Asia is now providing some techniques to address the unrest on "Our Backyard". Afghanistan is the model for how the US will cope with Chavez. The CIA will recruit warlords in Colombia, Panama and maybe El Salvador and Guatemala to serve as shock troops. The elites make poor foot soldiers, so my guess is that some right-wing militias will be nurtured. The battle will be cast as right vs left to disguise the true source. Colombia is already aa US client, so it will provide the air support.
What the good general designates as "regional" is actually a US fueled war using regional resources. The most effective response may be to pre-empt some of the strategy by increasing (or threatening to increase) support for sympathetic militias in the region and Mexico if the mischief continues. Venezuela will be accused of this whether it does or doesn't (the facts don't really matter for US accusations) so you might as well do the crime if you are going to do the time.
The prospect of the ignoring of Latin American sovereignty creating a Bolivarian Lebanon will hopefully shock the US to its senses and lead to more respectful interactions with our neighbors.

Kevin Morgan:

In US news, or blogs, or whatever media there is an ongoing campaign to demonize Chavez. This one is no different. Chavez made the mistake of taking back his nations oil and returning it to the people who need it. For that, he will probably pay with his life. This is after a generation of Venezuelans suffered while Exxon exploited their natural resources and kept a few rich puppets in power to facilitate their plunder.
Big Oil and Big Media won't give up trying to get the oil back until he is overthrown, or warred upon, or assassinated. Meanwhile.....Exxon reports largest corporate earnings in global history while president Bush proposes drastic cuts in aid to elderly, disabled children, and the poor.

El macaco de Caracas:

Chavez won't even be able to convince 10 pilots to take to the air in case of invasion from either US or Colombian forces. He would find scant military support, if any, from the rest of Latin America. He is a buffoon who apparently does not realize that there is very little that his Iranian friends can do to save his arse in the event of war, especially when his precious Iranian friends are flying through the air in a million pieces.

David Vohs:

Hello Amar, if you get a chance look up Gregory Wilpert, who runs a website called venezuelanalysis.com. He is very knowledgeable about Venezuelan history and can give you a good interview.
I am suspicious of General Baduel's new found opposition, maybe his pension plan wasn't keeping up with his lifestyle, that office looks expensive!
I have been following the comments the last few days and I notice that the more vehement opponents of Chavez seem to use confusing intellectual concepts instead of facts. General Baduel was in the position to have the facts and he hasn't changed his opinions of the participation of the U.S. in the coup. The money trail has been well documented, the funding by the U.S. has actually increased since the coup and through the oil lockout and recall referendum. The link to the Guardian article provides some context to the idealogical motivation for U.S. intervention in the region. It's not a pretty story and its only a secret to the American taxpayer that pays for it.
I hope you get a chance to report on the positive changes that have been happening there, which were very apparent to me in the time between my first and second stay in the country.

YOJOE:

We should have no fear of CHEVAZ, JOE KENNDY JR, ROBERT KENNEDY's son and NEPHEW OF SEN KENNEDY loves him. REPR DELAHUNT, D-MA loves him, he just visited CHEVAZ. Belafonte loves him, visited him many times. The Black guy in DIEHEART MOVIES LOVE HIM, so what is there to be afraid of CHAVAZ? Americans buy CITGO PRODUCTS which is owned by CHAVAZ. SO WHATS THE PROBLEM??

FixYourLife:

Dear Commenters, we don't need another article. Make your point breifly and concisely. We just read an entire article already. Written by a pro, and it seemed long. Thats long enough.

Ibsen Martínez:

Mr. Toro has written a unusually illuminating piece about a body of misleading ideas on the US that, being at work in our country for too long, deserve full attention and difussion, not only among US State Department's policy makers but also among a large part of the vociferous but sadly ineffectual Venezuelan opposition forces.
Bravo!

Ibsen Martínez:

Mr. Toro has written a unusually illuminating piece about a body of misleading ideas on the US that, being at work in our country for too long, deserve full attention and difussion, not only among US State Department's policy makers but also among a large part of the vociferous but sadly ineffectual Venezuelan opposition forces.
Bravo!

Ibsen Martínez:

Mr.Toro has thoroughly explained a body of ideas that deserve full attention and difussion, especially among US State Department policymakers.
¡Muchas gracias!

Vic van Meter:

Hey Ivann, trust me. This is an international forum about America. It's in English, so we won't criticize your grammar, spelling, et cetera. It's not your first language, and I'm thankful you took the time to learn ours because the only other language I come close to knowing is German. I think I speak for all of us when I say we're happy for your input and could care less if you don't speak collegiate English. That should go for the rest of you.

You're just the person I wanted to talk to! Nobody answered the bottom of my post (maybe it's difficult information to gather) but I wanted to know what you Venezuelans think about Baduel. Do the Venezuelans trust him, like him, hate him, or villainize him? Or does that depend on where you are?

I thought it was a bit convenient that he started to criticize the Chavez administration as soon as he left the military. I was also wondering which preceded the other. Did he leave and start the Chavez-bashing? Or do you think he was frustrated with the government's somewhat brash stance against the U.S. and thus left the military? He has truly genuine concerns and seems to have a good point against Chavez in my opinion. Namely, that if you don't want the Evil Empire to launch attacks against you, you're smarter to be a little more quiet about it and work diplomatically. But I'm wondering whether this is the start of maybe a political bid for him or is he genuinely frustrated with the Chavez government?

Since you're a Venezuelan on the ground, you'd have a pretty good idea. I'd invite Amar to weigh in on this one too if he can, since he's there and spoke to the man.

gilmer:

deporte

Ivann Perez:

Dear friends:
First, I apologize for my poor English grammar. Second, If you want to know how WE see America... First ask yourself... how we see the people of America? or how we see the goverment of America?. Third, Ask the Venezuelans!!! all the people you asked as a preconcived opinion and political position, why did not ask regular people on the street?
Well, if i tried to answer your question i must be clear. We love people of America, and we think that they are nice persons, but they don´t know what really happens here; so much people there thinks this country is a kind of "danger" to your interest, or we are like Irak, Iran, etc., just a Big lie. I can´t explain here all the situacion, but i tell you citizen of America, look for more, look for our´s point of view.
and please don´t take us as a fool people.
Thank´s

Amar C. Bakshi:

Hi Darden, Yes, I'll ask him for it. It is tasty.

Darden Cavalcade:

Oh, Amar? Can you ask the general to give us the formula for his elixir? Sounds tasty.

Darden Cavalcade:

Good Lord! Francisco Toro has just explained a phenomenon that has left Washington's foreign policy establishment and our political elite baffled since the end of the Cold War.

Thank you, Mr. Toro. And thank you, Amar, for bringing his article to our attention.

Jim:

Perhaps one reason that Chavez appeals to so many of Venezuela's poor is that he chose a great enemy. By challenging the US and seeming to expose all of the US "plots" in Venezuela, he is elevating the country to the level of a superpower. Everyone loves an underdog and by putting himself in the ring with Bush and the US, he pushes Venezuela (and, of course, himself) into the limelight of the world stage. By constantly denouncing Brazil or Chile, Chavez's creative antics would be written off as a "South American" issue, hardly noticed on the world stage. But because he has taken on a superpower, the Chavistas in Petare or 23 de enero can feel like they are playing a role in a great global struggle. They don't need to understand the enemy; the fact that they are "fighting the good fight" is enough for them to feel vitally important.

On another note, as a gringo who briefly lived in Caracas last summer, I am happy to say that I had entirely positive experiences speaking with chavistas. I definitely had the impression that they knew exactly what to say about the US, but obviously knew little about "who" we gringos really were. In my brief conversations with Chavistas, once the diablo jokes were said, it was all smiles, jokes and invitations to learn more about Venezuela (mostly, through constant pleas to try "modongo".) It's a shame that people (whether divided by cultures, countries or politics) can have such a negative impression of each other...but nothing cures it quicker than actually meeting one of "them" in person and sharing the broad things we have in common.

Amar C. Bakshi:

Francisco Toro over at Caracas Chronicles wrote a lengthy, thoughtful blog post on How Venezuela Sees America today in reaction to my previous posts. Check out the whole thing here: http://caracaschronicles.blogspot.com/

Here is an excerpt:

if the question is "how do Venezuelans see the US?" the only honest answer is: we don't.

I don't mean that we don't talk about the US. Heavens knows, with a guy like Chávez in power, hardly a day goes by without him banging on about it. What I mean is that the entity that goes by the name "USA" in Venezuelan political discourse (whether chavista or anti) has precious little in common with the actual chunk of territory between the Rio Grande and the 49th parallel or the people who live there. We talk about it, sure, but we don't really see it.

This is clearest, of course, in Chavista discourse, where what's passed off as "El Imperio" is a monstruous caricature, one so deliriously two-dimensional only a bona fide zealot could recognize it. For all intents and purposes, Chavez uses "the US" as a synonym for "pure evil."

What gets me is that it's a weirdly essentialist take. As far as chavista discourse is concerned, the US does bad things not in an attempt to advance some strategic goal, but merely to instantiate its inner nature. It's not that it does bad things, it's that it is bad...so bad, indeed, that whenever anything bad happens in Venezuela it is the presumptive culprit. There's something circular, almost tautological about this: when evil things happen, they are explained by the presence of evil.

It's this essentialism that accounts for chavista anti-Americanism's all encompassing nature, for its versatility, for its ability to convincingly (in the chavista mind) explain any and every bad thing that happens, whether it's a dengue outbreak, a milk shortage, or a bus drivers' strike.

As, I think, any marginally well informed person will realize, the disconnect between this Disney villain version of the US and the strategic and military calculations that underpin Washington's decisionmaking is pretty much total. But the opposition too tends to have wildly unrealistic views of the pulchritude of American institutions, the purity of its ideological commitment to democracy, the scale of its technological sophistication and the might of its armed forces.

In either case, the US as it exists in Venezuelan public discourse has really almost nothing in common with the US as it actually is. We talk about the US, but we don't see the US...instead we use it as a screen, a kind of cultural space we can use to fight out a symbolic strugggle over Venezuelan identity, our own little psychodrama about who we are and what we are and what makes us us rather than them.

So that's the first thing: it's crucial to get clear about what it is we're really talking about when we're talking about the US. For the most part, we let that label, "United States" stand in for a set of symbolic associations around which we're fighting a society wide battle for self definition. It's our own little tropical culture war.

Superficially, this is a battle between Capitalism and Socialism, but I think that doesn't really get you very far. What it's really about is about whether Venezuela does or does not belong within the cultural sphere of the Western rationalist tradition....

Michael O.:

And how would Mr. Baduel feel if Colombia sheltered a terror organization trying to topple the Venezuelan government by kidnapping Venezuelan politicians and regular civilians for ransom, by planting bombs and sowing death and destruction in Venezuelan urban centers and by conducting a sprawling drug trade on Venezuelan soil? Wouldn't he regard it as an act of war on Colombia's part?

"Baduel says a huge infusion of cash from the U.S. to Colombia under "Plan Colombia" poses a threat to Venezuela... Venezuelans and others claim there's no way to ensure this money isn't being used against the FARC."

Of course there is no way to ensure. The money SHOULD be used against the FARC. That's what it's for. And why should it pose any threat to Venezuela, unless Venezuela collaborates with the FARC against Colombia?

Vic van Meter:

Ironically, I post in the second most recent post, and here we are talking about the very subject I was speaking of.

I suppose it hardly is worth recanting that America has little reason to depose Chavez now for quite a few reasons, chief of which being that America is largely getting what it wants out of Venezuela and you never know what will happen if he is deposed. Maybe the Venezuelans would elect someone who would actually shut off the pipeline. There is too much instability in that. Meanwhile, Chavez is much like a noisy pest. He certainly hasn't hurt the United States enough to warrant that sort of risk.

Otherwise, though, Baduel is sort of a mystery. He seems incredibly pragmatic, but spent years preparing Venezuela for an American invasion (like that would help, conventional warfare is playing into America's face-to-face warfare, veritable suicide). Honestly, I don't know whether to trust him or not. He used Chavez as he was a military knight and then, upon his retirement, suddenly becomes more cuddly with the United States and praises our system? If he was one or the other, it would be easier to believe, but I suppose paranoia gets the best of me.

Still, his military strategy seems less focused on the ground game and more on how to make himself as small a target as possible, a very good option given the size of America's looming shadow. He knows that even a Colombian military packing America's considerable firepower would be frightening enough and quite destructive. So he advocates keeping quiet and not enflaming tensions any more than they are enflamed.

So why now? Why did he suddenly decide to start openly skewering Chavez's policy now? Or did he before? I am certainly not in Venezuela and am unaware of his political status.

Certainly, somewhere, there has to be a rational, well-informed Venezuelan who can give straight, critical information. Or even Amar! You're on the ground in Venezuela. What do you think is the cause of his sudden shift in rhetoric? Is it a political ploy to enhance his post-retirement career? Did he retire from frustration with his boss? Did he not like the administration from the beginning? Or did he reach some sort of epiphany? And what are Venezuelans saying about him? Do they agree? Hate him? Think he is correct, incorrect, or simply confused?

We know his story, what's his motivation?

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