An interview with General Raul Baduel, Commander of the Venezuelan army by Heinz Dieterich, translated with an introductory note by Toni Solo
The barbaric violation of basic legal norms revealed by British detainees lately released from Guantanamo is emblematic of US foreign policy root and branch. Open or covert illegal aggression has always been a principal tool of US foreign policy. The energy needs of the US and its allies will dictate the next likely savage intervention – in Venezuela.
Venezuela is an obstacle to the full implementation of US plans for the region.Those plans require control of extraction and transport of Latin America’s energy resources and on destroying the region’s food sovereignty. Plan Colombia, Plan Puebla Panama and the â€œfree tradeâ€ corporate welfare scams the US seeks to impose on the region are the main policy instruments to achieve those goals. Multinational European corporations are willing collaborators.
It is certainly not mere conicidence that the US now has military bases in the Dutch Antilles â€“ CuraÃ§ao and Aruba. Like the other huge oil companies including British Petroleum and the United States oil giants, the Anglo Dutch oil multinational Shell would love a free hand in a privatized Venezuelan oil industry. It goes without saying that European Union foreign policy prioritises European energy needs. This fact probably does much to explain why European mainstream media resolutely refuse to report the facts of political and economic events in the country,
This interview by writer Heinz Dieterich with the head of the Venezuelan armed forces gives an interesting insider’s view into the latest bout of destabilisation in Venezuelaâ€“ which many people there regard as a yet another externally orchestrated attempt to overthrow the democratically elected President Hugo Chavez Frias.
Disturbances of late February
HD Are the current disturbances a real threat to the stability of the government or the State or are they marginal?
RB To start with I ought to say that resorting to violence is deplorable when participative constitutional democratic mechanisms exist. We’re dealing with an irrational use of violence unsupported by a genuine ideal. I am convinced this violence only represents minority cliques.
As a soldier and a follower of the Tao Te Ching of Lao Tze, I know one should never undervalue an adversary because if we undervalue an opponent we lose our greatest asset and strength which is love. I believe that love, civic awareness and participatory awakening prevail throughout a wide segment of the people. In any case , those who reject this reality and believe that with the help of the news media they can try and forge the basis for a different view are just reacting to the loss of perks and privileges.
So I think you can’t underestimate the extremists who have fomented the recourse to violent insurrectionism, baseless as it is as I have already said, but neither should one exaggerate their importance. The government and the authorities generally are not going to make the mistake of magnifying the situation and offering them the excuses they unfortunately seek, namely, to cause death and destruction so as to sustain this media campaign not just for internal consumption but internationally too.
The coup in Haiti
HD: Are there any parallels to be drawn between what happened in Haiti and what’s happening in Venezuela?
RB Well, some foreign elements, in my view, in an irresponsible way and ignoring the self-determination of the Haitian people, have tried to take advantage of the extreme circumstances of poverty that country has suffered so as to advance their own interests instead of seeking with other countries to improve conditions in the island.
Rather it seems to me that an attempt is being made to establish a pattern, trying to present a glass showcase to the world to demonstrate that this could extend to other countries and in particular to our country. Because we have seen officials of the State Department and their local ventriloquists’ dummies repeating that we should take a good look at Haiti because it could happen here.
And a few of these ventriloquists’ dummies say this with such conviction that it seems they had already been given the script of what to say, as if already certain that this is what they are ready to do, make such things happen here in our country.
HD. President Chavez revealed on Sunday that a message had been intercepted mentioning plans to locate US navy ships off the coast of Venezuela in the near future. Is there a real danger of beliigerent hostilites?
RB. I have to say this is a delicate matter because any opinion I offer, especially given my seniority in the Armed Forces, has a lot of weight.
But to deal with the question, let’s look at the facts of the April 2002 coup d’Ã©tat. There is irrefutable and categorical evidence that there were warships and military airplanes in Venezuelan territorial waters, some as close as ten miles off shore in the area called FalcÃ³n near the north of the ParaguanÃ¡ peninsula,
And further off at CuraÃ§ao and Bonaire there are countries that have military bases (trans. US and Holland) As a military person, I think, speaking in my personal capacity that this type of action could happen, using Plan Colombia instrumentally to try and generate a situation of conflict with the Republic of Colombia which might serve to excuse an intervention.
Relations with Colombia
HD. Are sections of the Colombian armed forces ready to participate in this type of project from Washington?
RB. I couldn’t say, because I can’t pretend to speak for the armed forces of Colombia. But what is worrying is that Colombia has just acquired AMX-30 battle tanks from Spain.
Spain has to reduce its excess of military vehicles, which according to NATO plans ought to number no more than 300. What’s known is that Spain intends to keep its German â€œLeopardâ€ tanks and obtain Italian â€œCentaurâ€ vehicles. One of the conditions necessary to be able to do that is to dispose of or somehow unload their M-60s which are very heavy, above all for a theatre of operations such as ours and also the AMX-30s which are also very heavy for our kind of terrain.
The news media suggest that these battle systems are to combat drugs trafficking. Well, I’m just an infantry parachutist, but I can say I have plenty of experience â€“ for example I have led the 4th Armoured Division - and this pretext really has our attention. The use of these AMX-30s is very limited, above all in Colombia’s topography. And we really ought to bear in mind very much that this deepens the military imbalance and asymmetry between the Republic of Colombia and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. We understand for example that the purchases are not just limited to this one from Spain but also include the acquisition of â€œDragonâ€ reconnaissance vehicles.
So we have to keep matters under constant review and hope based on the fraternal links that unite us historically to the Republic of Colombia that no sectors in that neighbouring country harbour the intention of converting it into a battering ram to threaten Venezuela.
HD. Has the Colombian purchase of tanks obliged Venezuela to increase its military presence on the frontier?
RB. We have a permanent deployment on the frontier. Venezuela has always maintained an active presence on that frontier. We are aware of the spiral of violence that has afflicted our sister people Colombia for more than 50 years and we hope they can escape from it.
But too, as a sovereign State, Venezuela has the right to demand that the Republic of Colombia takes action so that Venezuela does not suffer the consequences of the widespread violence along that strip of frontier, judged to be the most active in Latin America.
We have a land frontier of about 2300km with more than 60 per cent, which is not always well marked, open to free transit and where there is a permanent flow of people.
Another point is that this generalized violence has generated massive population displacements, a phenomenon which can be used as a trojan horse to justify an intervention in Venezuela through a peacekeeping force.
Because if by any chance this were to be put forward as a pretext by some international organization such as the United Nations (UN) or the Organization of American States (OAS), it would then be possible to argue the need to put peacekeepers into the area â€“ we’d have to see just how much it really was a force intended to keep the peace. And logic indicates that one of the demands would be to put them on Venezuelan territory, not that of Colombia.
This follows because, if you analyse the Colombian situation, and I do so with total respect, one sees there are two States, or at least more than one State. You might say there is a State based in Santa FÃ© de BogotÃ¡ and another that has its seat in San Vicente del CaguÃ¡n (trans. The FARC were based here during the peace process. Recently, the city has been under paramiltary and army control).
In the news media we have seen meetings with Presidents or government representatives of the Republic of Colombia and you can observe that the leaders and military chiefs of the groups promoting violence receive the Colombian head of State with a military parade and all the pomp and protocol used by one head of State to receive another.
HD. There has been a series of armed attacks by Colombian paramilitaries on Venezuelan territory. How can these attacks be avoided?
RB. There is a permanent flow of Colombian nationals into our territory and they can disguise themselves but often we are struck by the fact that when the Colombian armed forces mobilise in an area adjacent to our frontier, those movements coincide with some action or other by the forces often described as â€œparamilitariesâ€.
US involvement in the April 2002 coup
HD. The President has said that US military helicopters landed at the Maiquetalia airport near Caracas during the April 2002 coup d’Ã©tat.
RB Some military professionals, mostly from our military aviation forces working in tactical air control centres at the Simon Bolivar International airport at Caracas, have alleged they detected those airplanes.
In some cities we combine civilian airport use with military bases. This double usage saves constuction costs and also guarantees military security in any situation that merits deployment.
On that basis, the presence of US Black Hawk helicopters has been confirmed on April 11th, 12th and 13th during the coup d’Ã©tat at the Luis del Valle Garcia base which shares a runway with the Barcelona airport here in the state of AnzoÃ¡tegui
Continuing US involvement
HD. So there’s still a lot to be revealed concerning the coup d’Ã©tat?
RB Really, as I pointed out at the start, I have be very careful what I say because my role as a soldier on active service demands that I show obedience, subordination and discipline. And this matter touches or could touch on some areas of Venezuelan foreign policy which is the express prerogative of the President of the Republic
However, he has already indicated publicly that there is no reliable explanation in this case nor in that of the United States warships off the coast of the ParaguanÃ¡ peninsula that I mentioned earlier.
There are videos of a US radar on the ParaguanÃ¡ peninsula that we were operating under a treaty agreement, where you can observe a ship entering Venezuelan territorial waters and it moors about ten miles off the Venezuelan coast. And from that ship you can note flight aspects and those flights indicate that they were helicopters which leads us to suppose that the ship was a helicopter carrier.
You can determine that, because every ship and naval airplane has characteristics called mode and aspect which are like an identifying sign for that ship or airplane. According to the explanations given to me by experts there is a classification into three groups. The first group of mode and aspect is normally assigned to civil ships and planes and the second and third to military ships and planes.
And the modes and aspects that were given to this ship and these planes were of the second and third groups. Furthermore, I was told that this radar cannot simulate. What the screen showed was what was really happening at the time.
HD. Passing on to the internal situation. The subversive movement is using snipers as well as more traditional methods like demonstrations burning tyres. What is known about these snipers? Are they professionals with special equipment?
RB. In the current goings-on there are some similarities with events that have happened before in our country and particularly with patterns used during the coup d’Ã©tat of April 2002. Today I had a report from the commander of the 4th Armoured Division that detected the presence of snipers in a building in the environs of the Paramacay Fort in Valencia.
An armoured vehicle â€“ not a tank I should clarify â€“ was used to investigate the situation. It was a German-made armoured car which was just right for getting close to the building from which the sniper fire was coming. And that vehicle had bullet marks on its glass screens and on its turret that indicate projectiles of 7.62mm calibre or of a similar long range weapon normally used by snipers.
HD. Can anyone use that type of weapon or does it require special training?
RB No, normally, at least in the military sphere, sniper training is given to those professionals who have special aptitude and have high accuracy, say, in precision shooting.
March 5th and March 7th 2004
Habla el Comandante del EjÃ©rcito Venezolano, General RaÃºl Baduel
Toni Solo is an activist based in Central America. Contact: [email protected]