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Venezuela & Chávez

Chávez's Overthrow Was Clearly Predictable

By Stephen Kangal
April 25, 2002

The illegal overthrow of democratically-elected President Chávez of neighbouring Venezuela albeit via a failed 48 hour coup on April 12 was clearly predictable. While his overthrow was being slowly but inevitably incubated since his assumption of the Presidency in 1998 in his leftist radical domestic and foreign policy posturings the events of September 11 and its aftermath, most notably the fortress America foreign policy and the homeland security agenda provided the trigger mechanisms that escalated the failed coup.

Chávez's radicalism that sought to transform Venezuela into a maverick but pro-OPEC state conflicted with the post September 11 fortress American foreign policy and America's penchant for cheap oil. In the face of the international unipolar reality that made Latin America the acknowledged sphere of influence of the US, Chávez's policies made him a political anachronism in a globalised Latin America. US dependence on Venezuela's oil ( 1.5 million bpd) constituted the singular mitigating factor which delayed his overthrow.

Chávez sought to socialize the southern Rim of the Caribbean Basin by virtue of his economic policies as well as in his foreign policies. It could have been viewed as providing reinforcement to Castro's strategic presence on the Northern Rim of the Caribbean Basin and with whom Chávez developed very close political and functional relations. Castro referred to Chávez as his political son. This situation was always untenable for the USA.

Chávez's domestic and foreign policies presented a formidable affront to US attempts to counteract the terrorism wave allegedly unleashed by American- branded rogue states. He also stood in the path of America's obsession with achieving energy security notably in the post September 11 in the face of the vagaries and volatility of Middle Eastern supplies which tended to be linked with the Israel- Palestinian conflict. In the perceptiom of the US, Chávez was far advanced in establishing in the South Caribbean a beachhead sympathetic to Cuba, Libya, Iran and Iraq. Such a development was potentially detrimental to US contingency arrangements to progressively decrease and insulate itself from its vulnerability to the vagaries of Middle East oil which in fact was no longer cheap having regard to the astronomical costs occasioned by September 11.

It is in the context of the US imperative to achieve energy security in a post- September 11 World by securing, developing and expanding alternative Latin American sources which are less susceptible to Middle East oil politics that the political events in Venezuela, which in my view, are far from over as supported by the OAS fact finding Mission, have serious implications for Trinidad and Tobago.

US foreign policy in the context of its policy on achieving energy security does not seem take into account the boundaries which separate the two countries. It would appear that both T&T and Venezuela constitute a Latin American oil- producing domain with enormous potential in both crude and LNG. Unfortunately both countries are riddled with political instability that tend to act as a disincentive to inflows of American capital that are essential for funding increasing exploration and exploitation especially in the off-shore marine areas.

In my thesis, both Venezuela (having the largest oil reserves outside of the Middle East and world's 4th largest exporter of crude) and Trinidad and Tobago ( supplying 52% of US LNG imports and having enormous oil and gas potential) had been targeted as key players in the Post September 11 US Strategic Energy Security Plan. The US Senate's decision to refuse to sanction President Bush's legislation to initiate exploration activities of the Arctic Wild Life Area Reserve (ARWAR) makes the energy producing potential of both Venezuela and T&T even more critical to America's penchant for achieving energy security.

There is another factor in the equation that hitherto has not entered into the conventional explanatory paradigm. The US Drug Surveillance and Interdiction Intelligence Gathering System( aka The Weed Eater) anchored in both T&T and Venezuela as strategic trans-shipment areas also serve as important listening posts for gathering intelligence on a range of domestic matters.

It is therefore not out of the question for the US to intervene in the region via covert means to restore political stability in both countries, not necessarily democratically- inspired, with a view to promoting the achievement of the following four strategic objectives:

  • energy security;
  • re- opening up opportunities for inflows of excess US investment liquidity in the hydrocarbon sector as an aspect of globalization;
  • continuing to choke off supplies of illicit drugs originating in Colombia and Venezuela consigned to mainland USA and which seem to flourish during period of political instability using these two countries' Caribbean marine areas as strategic transhipment avenues;
  • establishing political stability in both T&T and Venezuela and neutralizing Venezuelan foreign policies favourable to US-branded extra-Caribbean rogue states.

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