Intelligence: Practical Paranoia


April 23, 2010:  Venezuelan police arrested a visiting Canadian doctor, Luis Carlos Cossio, last month, and accused him of espionage. The 52 year old doctor was born in Venezuela, and was visiting family that still lives there. Police found a picture of a telecommunications tower on his camera, and insist this is evidence of espionage. Police subsequently arrested some of the doctor's kin as well. All this comes from the growing paranoia of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez. He sees a large number of enemies arrayed against him. There is some truth in this.

Hugo Chavez openly preaches his desire to turn all of northern Latin America into one big leftist republic, run by himself. This does not go down well with many people in the region. This includes other leftist groups, who do not agree with Chavez on doctrinal or practical grounds, or who just consider Chavez a nut case. That kind of thinking arises from the fact that Chavez has ruined the Venezuelan economy, even as he promised to reform it so that the poor got more. But now the poor are getting less, and are unhappy with how much of the oil money is being spent on Chavez's political plans.

There is also unrest, especially along the Colombian border, with the Chavez policy of giving sanctuary (apparently for a fee) to drug gangs and leftist rebels from Colombia. What may be the final blow is Chavez taking his invented threat from the United States, and using it as an excuse to buy billions of dollars of weapons from Russia. Not only is there no need for the weapons (except perhaps to threaten Colombia, and other neighbors), but these transactions (this is not the first Russian arms buy) is another opportunity for Chavez cronies to skim lots of money off these deals in the form of bribes and kickbacks.

Chavez is particularly suspicious of Western foreigners visiting Venezuela. Expatriates, like Cossio, are especially suspect, as they speak the language and have knowledge of local culture and conditions. Chavez has reformed his armed forces, partly because he has revolutionary ideas about radical new tactics, but mostly because he does not trust most of the military officers. Suspicion breeds suspicion, and that has more to do with Cossio's arrest than anything else.





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