Under normal circumstances, Hugo Chavez would get diagnosed as a run-of-the-mill paranoid and treated with proper medication. Unfortunately, as dictator of Venezuela, the paranoia gets combined with oil revenues to produce real problems for the US, neighboring countries, and the Venezuelans themselves. Chavez has begun a spending spree on arms and now threatens to conduct a guerilla war against the US:
President Hugo Chavez urged soldiers on Sunday to prepare for a guerrilla-style war against the United States, saying that Washington is using psychological and economic warfare as part of an unconventional campaign aimed at derailing his government.
Dressed in olive green fatigues and a red beret, Chavez spoke inside Tiuna Fort — Venezuela’s military nerve-center — before hundreds of uniformed soldiers standing alongside armored vehicles and tanks decorated with banners reading: “Fatherland, Socialism, or Death! We will triumph!”
“We must continue developing the resistance war, that’s the anti-imperialist weapon. We must think and prepare for the resistance war everyday,” said Chavez, who has repeatedly warned that American soldiers could invade Venezuela to seize control of the South American nation’s immense oil reserves.
U.S. officials reject claims that Washington is considering a military attack. But the U.S. government has expressed concern over what it perceives as a significant arms build-up here.
The only development that could possibly cause us to make war against Venezuela would be an attack from Chavez on the US. No one here has any interest at all in storming Caracas for any reason. We don’t need the land, and we don’t need the hassle, and we have plenty of other sources for oil. The US could drill its own, higher-quality reserves before spending billions on a fight for Chavez’ sulfuric crude.
Unfortunately, the increasing irrationality of Chavez may touch off a war regardless. The US and the rest of Latin America cannot help but wonder what a lunatic like Chavez might do with all of this military equipment he’s buying. Chavez may be talking defense, but submarines are not a defensive weapon. They exist primarily to provide an attack force against surface fleets in open waters, and his consideration of those systems along with his other purchases indicates that he has something else in mind than just defending Venezuelan territory.
Like most other dictators, Chavez wants to stoke fears of war to keep people from rising up to depose him from power. He also wants to buy off the military to keep them from executing a coup d’etat. At some point, when Chavez has emptied the treasury in arming himself to the teeth, his credibility will fail unless he gets the war he’s using to frighten Venezuelans now. That’s when Chavez will be most dangerous, and Venezuelans will have to act before that moment arrives if they want to avoid the catastrophe that will follow.