El Chavecito is making the Yanks cranky again. Check out his latest bold move:
Venezuelan lawmakers are to begin debating proposals which would include compulsory service in the home guard.
Army spokesman Gen Alberto Mueller Rojas told the BBC that the country needed a civilian reserve big enough to deter any would-be aggressors.
Critics say the new emphasis on militia units is inspired by Cuba’s defence system, where each neighbourhood has its own civilian command structure.
Caracas has already boosted the number of volunteers in its military to 2m.
Gen Mueller Rojas said Venezuela was moving to a strategy of guerrilla warfare in which militia units would play a key role if the country were invaded.
The plans will be discussed by experts and politicians before the parliamentary Defence and Security Commission.
Any changes to the military law require the backing of two-thirds of the of the members of the National Assembly.
But the BBC’s Greg Morsbach in Caracas says this is not a big hurdle for Mr Chavez, as lawmakers loyal to him have a clear majority in congress.
N.B.: this situation is due to the opposition’s wimping out at the last moment, the better to whine about Chavez being a “dictator” and claiming that the poor turnout at the last congressional election in Venezuela was proof that the majority are really on their side (and not suffering from a bit of voting fatigue, as is most likely the case.)
Anyhow, here’s where Douglas Bravo comes in:
Sometime during the latter 1970s, while a young army officer, Hugo Chavez first met with the leftist revolutionary guerrilla leader and former communist, Douglas Bravo. The two men were introduced by Chavez’s elder brother, Adan, then a university professor and leftist activist. They kept up a running dialogue over the next few years, talking and arguing over what shape the future Venezuelan revolution should take. The encounters were clandestine, because Chavez was at the time involved in anti-guerrilla activities and Bravo’s name, somewhat understandably, was mud with Chavez’s army buddies, not to mention his superiors.
According to Bravo, Chavez was planning to be a caudillo (military strongman); ironically and somewhat comically, Chavez has said the same–of Bravo! Apparently Bravo wanted the military to be merely the “armed wing of the revolution”, while Chavez had something more integrated in mind (and was, as the failed coup attempt of 1992 made clear, ill prepared to get it off the ground in that form–the civilians invited to participate failed to show up for their weapons and fight, leaving Chavez and his military compadres high and dry.)
Whoever’s right about the other’s ambitions, though, one thing is clear: Chavez learned something very important from Bravo. Namely, the usefulness of occasional guerrilla tactics. Since he hasn’t been able to complete a purchase of promised military hardware from Spain due to US interference, Chavez has had to make an end-run around all that. Now civilian militias and reserves are turning up for training all over Venezuela–to do battle against BushCo’s army, when and if it shows up to bring “democracy” in by force against the caudillo who isn’t. (See Iraq.)
Call Chavez what you will, but give him full marks for being one wily guy. And capable of making good use of whatever he learns–whoever he may have learned it from!