Foreign Policy Blogs

Wag the Dog? Venezuelan Troops to the Border, Again

The Venezuelan government is, once again, moving soldiers to the border region with Colombia. The 15,000 troops are intended to “increase security, combat drug trafficking and root out paramilitary groups”.

It seems like déjà vu, as Chávez sent 6,000 soldiers there in March 2008, after Raul Reyes of the FARC was killed on Ecuadorian territory.

As Christopher Toothaker reports for the Associated Press, Chávez may be trying to divert the public’s focus towards an external enemy, and avoid criticism on the home front. He writes that:

some of Chavez’s critics say the socialist leader is intentionally picking a fight with Colombia to turn public attention away from pressing domestic problems such as rampant crime, a weak economy and rationing of electricity and water”.

Could Chávez be wagging the dog if there is the possibility that when it comes to security and economic stability, his country is “going to the dogs”?

At the same time, does the troop movement mean there is greater risk of unintentional conflict between Venezuela and Colombia? The presence of additional soldiers near the border appears to raise the prospect of some chance encounter or miscommunication. Might it draw the two countries into some accidental outbreak of violence? Let us hope against hope that this does not happen.