Monday, 5 April 2010

The Lord of War or More weapons, less schools

The nasty world of weapons

Venezuela is in the middle of a recession - the biggest in South America according to The Economist numbers -, there is no real plan for sustainable development, it is more dependent than ever on oil and yet the regime is wasting more money on weapons.

The weapon business is an ugly world and a lot of countries in the world are involved in it: Russia, the US, China, France, Germany, Israel, Ukraine and many others. Viktor Ostrovsky described in his book By Way of Deception very well how the state of Israel promoted its business at all costs. Among many things, they would sell weapons and training to the government of Sri Lanka while selling weapons and training to the Tamil rebels. No wonder the war took so long. Many other countries are into that kind of deals. They have vested interests in promoting fear and struggle. If there were more stability and peace, their arms industries would suffer. Of course, the other side of the equation tells us that if developing countries spent less on weapons , they could spend much more on primary schools, on universities, on hospitals, on sustainable development in general. Venezuela is a developing nation. Unlike what some think, it is not an emerging market or newly industrialized nation or, as Germans say, a Schwellenland. It is a developing nation heavily dependent on oil.

Russia weapons instead of schools

Vladimir Putin arrived in Russia back from Venezuela and announced Hugo Chávez and his regime are ordering Russian weapons for over 5 billion dollars. The amount includes a credit for 2.2 billion dollars Russia gave Venezuela in September 2009. The agreement will benefit some 13 Russian companies, including well-known Izmash. You can read some stuff in Russian here and some in Spanish here. That is some money for Moscow, which is in the middle of a very bad recession, worse than what you would see in Western Europe or the States these days.

Putin said Russia just gave Venezuela the last 4 helicopters of the 38 Venezuela ordered in 2005. The contract included 20 Mi-17-B5, 10 Mi-35M, 3 Mi-26T, 3 Mi-172-3 and 2 Mi-172 for 500 million dollars.

In 2005 Venezuela bought helicopters, rockets, one hundred thousand Kalashnikovs, T72 tanks and the anti-aircraft system Smerch for 4 billion dollars. The Venezuelan military will now also get more naval aircraft, some extra airplanes. I am still not clear whether there will be more submarines.

Putting it to bad use

Where is all of this leading us to?

I firmly believe Venezuela cannot attack Colombia with those weapons. It does not stand a chance against the Netherlands or Brazil either. Guyana is no match to Venezuela, but other countries would rush up to defend it also.

Venezuela's military regime -yes, with a democratically elected former coupster as head of state- is probably thinking of using those weapons in case of a civil war it keeps announcing. Let's remember the vast majority of leaders under Chavismo are military or ex guerrillas. The only thing I don't see any use for are submarines. The possibilities I thought about are just too crazy.

Some people in Venezuela may have also got some commissions, but I have no proof of this.

What are we to do?

The Venezuelan opposition has to inform as many Venezuelans as possible about how this situation will affect them. It is of little use for Borges or Ledezma to talk on Globovisión and preach to the choir. Insted, the opposition should go to the secondary cities of Venezuela (Maturín, El Tigre and many others with less than 1 million and more than 100000 inhabitants) and talk to the people who have no internet access and no cable TV. They should describe the programmes that could be financed with the money now going to the Russian industry in Russia: more and above all better schools for the poor, investment in small companies with projects for sustainable development, investment on health and general infracture.

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