Foreign Policy Blogs

Approaching The Venezuelan Spring

President Nicolas Maduro (center) enjoys support from the armed forces

When millions of Venezuelans left their country over the last few months the world finally started to refocus on Venezuela. Since the death of Hugo Chavez, Venezuela has not gathered much attention outside of the region. When three million of its citizens crossed the border into Colombia, Brazil as well as the rest of Latin America, countries as far afield as Canada, the larger countries of the European Union and the United States decided to challenge the Maduro regime externally.

The recent move by the political opposition in the country to challenge the power of the President internally is almost wholly supported by the international community with the exception of left wing governments in the region, leftist parties in many of the countries mentioned above as well as the Russian Federation. While some might see this as a Venezuelan Spring, the reality is that popular movements in countries like Venezuela over the last few years have often been highly suppressed. Democracy movements like those seen in Iran in 2009 were torn apart by their government, leading to a trend that produced the most horrific war Syria has ever faced.

The ongoing narrative of the Venezuelan Government after Hugo Chavez came into power is that Western powers sought control of the country by covert means, and because of this Venezuela was equipped with the means to challenge an overt military threat from the United States and their allies in the region. Venezuela’s oil reserves are seen as a large incentive for outside control of the country according to the current government, and oil assets were used since 2006 to purchase arms from Russia and China. The significance of the military build up of the Venezuelan Armed Forces likely makes Venezuela the most advanced and well equipped military ever present in Latin America. Included in the rearming of Venezuelan forces since 2006 are Mi-35 attack helicopters, the SU-30 family of fighter bombers and possibly TOR, BUK and S-300 anti-aircraft missile systems. SA-24 Igla shoulder launched anti-aircraft missiles were also confirmed in their inventory as well as T-72 tanks, all weapons systems that are possibly being used currently in Eastern Ukraine.

Since Chavez came into power it was likely the case that he prepared for a time when his government would be ousted. With the unknown reaction Maduro might take it could be that the modernised Venezuelan forces will be deployed against its citizens and any outside military power that would try to assist Venezuela’s opposition. It may not be a co-incidence that since 2009, popular movements in oil producing countries have be severely crushed and that many of the same tactics have been used in Syria to brutal effect. Western powers will likely refrain from any physical intervention in Venezuela, and in the case that it may take place there will be political opposition from Russia as well as a very capable defense from Venezuela’s Armed Forces. The reaction of the military will most likely determine the outcome of the recent push for elections, as world powers will refrain from moves beyond sanctions against the Maduro regime.

 

Author

Richard Basas
Richard Basas

Richard Basas, a Canadian Masters Level Law student educated in Spain, England, and Canada (U of London MA 2003 LL.M., 2007), has worked researching for CSIS and as a Reporter for the Latin America Advisor. He went on to study his MA in Latin American Political Economy in London with the University of London and LSE. Subsequently, Rich followed his career into Law focusing mostly on International Commerce and EU-Americas issues. He has worked for many commercial and legal organisations as well as within the Refugee Protection Community in Toronto, Canada, representing detained non-status indivduals residing in Canada. Rich will go on to study his PhD in International Law.

Areas of Focus:
Law; Economics and Commerce; Americas; Europe; Refugees; Immigration

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