Merchant of Death
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Chávez Establishes Militias Under Personal Control-The FARC Can Rest Easy
In his latest move to insure his permanence in power and control over loyal forces, Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez has established nation-wide armed civilian militias that are answerable only to him.

According to the El Universal newspaper, the Bolivarian Militia of Peasants will become operational very soon.

For a country about to go on line with an AK-47 assault rifle factory, and with a government that has spent some $6 billion on weapons (publicly announced, without counting those that are not disclosed) in the past four years, this is a worrisome development, especially given Chávez's deep and growing authoritarian tendencies.

Yet it fits perfectly with Chávez's conception of the coming asymmetrical battle agains the United States and the need his forces will have to retreat to the hinterlands to wage guerrilla warfare. Here is my posting on this concept and actions.

There is no ambiguity on where the militias' loyalties lie. Not with the Venezuelan state, not with the military, but directly and personally with Chávez.

"We will start training (the militia) next week. We will establish some centers in the farms that have been seized, in the Zamoranos farms (named after Ezequiel Zamora, a leader of the Venezuelan Federal War) and in the fields and plants that have been seized, to defend the farmers and the fatherland, if necessary, against the imperialist occupation," said Jaua, who was in the event as Minister and Vice President of the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) for the Venezuelan plains region.

Further, Orlando Zambrano, a leader of the Simón Bolívar National Front of Peasants, said, "We must solidify the militia – the people's armed power- to defend ourselves. We are voicing anger, joy and willingness to support Commander Chávez."

Nor is there any ambiguity about where the militias will be operational. Many of them will be formed and armed along the Colombia-Venezuela border, where the FARC is increasingly seeking sanctuary from the Colombian military's offensives.

If one has armed Bolivarian militias, with access to a steady stream of new weapons, on the border where the FARC is (and Chávez has already demonstrated his determination to arm the FARC with Swedish rocket launchers etc.), it is not much of a stretch to see who will be significantly helped by this development.

One can be relatively sure that it will not be anyone who has anything critical to say about Chávez. Nor those who own the land and have no judicial recourse when armed mobs take their property.

Every dictator or dictator in the making wants his or her own armed groups that can act outside the more disciplined military structures and are loyal to the Leader above all else. This step usually happens when the Leader is feeling threatened and cannot be sure of the full support of the armed forces, or the security forces' ability to keep a lid on dissent.

Chávez, with control of the judiciary and a compliant legislature, got what he wanted. One can only imagine how much easier the FARC commanders are breathing, and how much fear now resides in the Venezuelan countryside.
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