Potential Hot Spots: July 20, 2005


Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez seems to be working on several fronts to keep his armed forces in line. He's done some shaking up of the command structure, replacing older officers with ones who may perhaps be more beholden to him. He has also raised pay considerably, probably as a way of keeping the troops happy, and has undertaken the development of the "Bolivarian Militia," an alternative likely to be more useful in the event of a coup than in the less likely event of an American invasion. And he has been investing a lot of the country's oil money in new toys for the troops.

The recent purchase, at corruption-inflated prices, of a large lot of Russian assault rifles, will apparently be followed-up by the purchase of CASA maritime patrol aircraft from Spain and Amur Class submarines and Su-30 Flankers maritime strike fighters from Russia. This will cost an enormous amount of money, particularly since corruption will undoubtedly inflate the price, but the expenditure seems to be in keeping with several other recent developments that have boosted the Venezuelan Navy. The recently appointed chief of the national military staff is an admiral, a unique development in a nation in which the Army is considerably greater than the other two services.


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