Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Selling arms to dictators

China is not the only one. Spain has just announced that as a gesture of good will it will sell 10 C-295 transport planes, 2 CN-235 ocean surveillance planes and 8 patrol boats in a deal valued at €1.3 billion (c. £890 million) to that great liberal politician, President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela.

Not only is President Chávez’s preferred method of dealing with those who oppose or criticize him is arrest and torture but he is also believed to be stocking up military tension in various parts of South America.

Spanish Prime Minister Zapatero has argued that that planes and ships will be used to fight terrorism and illegal drug trade while contributing to regional security and democracy.

This is rather hard to understand. President Chávez is arming Venezuela, buying arms not only from Spain but from Russia and Brazil. He is also believed to be supporting the Communist-inclined narcoterrorists FARC as well as a number of other terrorist and insurgent organizations.

At the same time, Spain is also selling C-212 cargo planes and is discussing the sales of military helicopters and patrol boats to Colombia. Perhaps, this is to aid the fight against drug smuggling, but the big worry in that part of the world is the potentially explosive situation between those two countries.

There is, inevitably, a more general aspect. Chávez, hero of the Marxist left in Europe, is known as Fidelito (the little Fidel) in the United States and other South American countries. In fact, he has recently had a public love-in with the old tyrant, almost as if the mantle of old-fashioned left wing tyranny and international terrorism was being handed on.

Chávez has proclaimed himself to be the leader of the anti-US struggle, supposedly supported by the peoples of the world. In reality, of course, his greatest supporters are the Euro-elite. Pursuing his “struggle” he has threatened to cut off the sale of oil to the USA, signing deals with China instead. He may, of course, find himself on the receiving end of China’s notorious unreliability in deals.

His other efforts are detailed by a paper recently produced by the Heritage Foundation:
“Chavez is rumored to be supporting the FARC, letting it use the Colombian-Venezuelan border area to recuperate and resupply.

Elsewhere, Chavez is mentoring Bolivian revolutionary Evo Morales,whose comrades recently tried to force President Carlos Mesa's resignation in an effort to take control of the National Assembly.

In Peru, it's been alleged that Chavez bankrolled the rogue army officer who tried to incite December's rebellion against President Alejandro Toledo. Chavez denies all of this, of course.”
In true Marxist style, he is threatening to export the Venezuelan revolution, that is, disastrous socialist policies and political repression to other South American countries.

The American government is working on a policy to isolate the man in South America without inflaming the situation in Venezuela itself. The last thing needed at this point is a strutting European politician proclaiming that, of course, he wants to be on good terms with the American government but that will not stop him from selling arms to America’s enemies, even if it destabilizes the situation in another part of the world.

Zapatero maintains that he is signing these deals to provide work at home. Well, maybe. But if he (together with Chirac and Schröder) is so worried about the Spanish arms industry, there is an excellent solution at hand.

Why not arm the Europeans? After all, the EU is always proclaiming its readiness to be a military power that rivals the United States. Well, it cannot be done without arms. So, there you are: sell one, buy one, as Thomas L. Friedman wrote on March 7 in the International Herald Tribune.

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