By Shelley Smith
There have been serious implications revealed by officials, critics, and former participants that the Venezuelan government in cooperation with Cuban military advisors and Columbian guerrillas are operating a secret Venezuelan paramilitary training camp.
During an interview in 2007 by the Washington Times, Venezuelan Ambassador Bernardo Alvarez said that his country was preparing for any “asymmetrical conflict” with the United States. In a recent article in the El Nuevo Herald/Miami Herald Cuba, FARC may be training guerrillas at Venezuelan camp, by Casto Ocando. The implications are that asymmetrical warfare and other is being taught within a closed-off tourist campground at the Venezuela Tapo-Caparo National Park near San Cristobal. Others are waiting for confirmation.
However, witnesses who participated asked for anonymity out of fear of reprisals and stated the camp is maintained in a cloak of secrecy to train Venezuelan civilians who are supporters of President Hugo Cha´vez. Estimated numbers of participants range from 400 to 1,000 persons with continual new arrivals.
The camp is approximately 125 acres and has been closed off to the public. Security has been established with military checkpoints since the government took control of the area. It offers six-week courses consisting of a first-phase political-ideological indoctrination with text and paramilitary disciplines and training. A second phase of guerrilla training includes the use of light and heavy weaponry and explosives.
Trainers at the secret camp have been observed as being members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the Francisco Miranda Front.
In September 2008, the U.S. Treasury Department applied sanctions against government officials of President Cha´vez who are Hugo Armando Carvajal Barrios and Henry de Jesus Rangel Silva, both high ranking Venezuelan intelligence officials, and Ramon Emilio Rodriguez Chacin, a former government minister for helping FARC with narcotic trafficking and arms purchasing.
The United States was able to stop and prohibit Spain from selling to Venezuela F-16 fighter jets and several naval ships. But there still remains the concern of CAVIM- Compañía Anónima Venezolana de Industrias Militares. A state owned Venezuelan Military Industries Company delegated to producing small arms and ammunition, chemicals, explosives, and patrol craft for the Venezuelan navy. In July, 2006, Venezuela announced they had purchased the licensing rights to produce AK-47s. The CAVIM factory is to be built and the Venezuelan government is anticipating it to be in full production within two years.
In 2006, the United States was able to introduce sanctions against Russia’s state arms exporter Rosoboronexport and state-owned aircraft manufacturer Sukhoi to hasten the stopping of arms and weapons and other trafficking to Venezuela. Russia had already completed contracts with Venezuela for 30 Su-30 Flanker air-superiority fighters and 30 helicopters. Yet, Cha´vez continued to negotiate deals with Russia and other sources to bolster his military through the purchase of more military arms and weapons, fighter jets, helicopters and considered purchasing five diesel submarines.
Further revealed in a recent article Russia’s warships head for exercise with Venezuelan navy, by Michael Evans, October 06, 2008, the Russian warship Peter the Great a nuclear-powered missile cruiser, an anti-submarine destroyer, and a reconnaissance vessel and a support ship are in route to the Caribbean for maritime exercises with the Venezuelan Navy.
Since 2005, Venezuela had attained from Russia $4 billion in weapons contracts. They would supply the Venezuelan military with 100,000 Kalashnikov AK47 assault rifles, supply fighter jets, and helicopters.
Experts have said a Venezuelan military buildup could destabilize the region by igniting an arms race, irregardless of the lack of Latin America not being fully militarized. But through President Cha´vez’s paranoid determination against the United States and Russia’s recent power posturing and expressing their intent of future deployment of regular global military maneuvers, it makes one wonder – what’s next?
About the Author
Shelley Smith is an expert in analysis and research on varied national and international issues, homeland security, terrorism and counterterrorism, law enforcement, criminal justice systems, and other. Smith has an A.S. in Criminal Justice with Honors and a B.A in Intelligence Studies. She is currently pursuing an M.A. in Intelligence Studies Capstone with a concentration in Middle Eastern Studies at American Military University.