September 14, 2007

Buyer Beware: Chavez Invests in Bolivian Security Forces

Interesting article in La Razón, today. Apparently the Bolivian police and the military are accusing each other of accepting Venezuelan aid.
General Wilfredo Vargas, Commander of the Armed Forces, denied that Venezuela provides assistance to the armed forces and asked that such questions be raised with the National Police.

The Inspector General of the National Police, Fernando Peláez, responded that his institution is not the one that received checks for forts, just equipment that will benefit the country’s citizens.
(My translation)
In Bolivia there is long-standing enmity between the armed forces and the national police due to jealousies and mistrust over social status, funding, and a blurring of appropriate roles and missions caused by the war on drugs. In February 2003, the National Police mutinied in La Paz and the resulting rebellion saw military personnel engaging police in intense, if limited, firefights.

It is extremely unlikely that a police vs. military confrontation in the scale of the February 2003 rebellion will take place soon. But interesting to note how both institutions are playing this charade of “no, we don’t get aid from Venezuela” when, in fact, both organizations have received assistance from Chavez and will continue to do so.

So, what’s the story behind these denials? A couple of weeks ago Bolivia’s Minister of the Presidency, Juan Ramon Quintana, denounced several social scientist types for working with USAID or on projects funded by USAID. Quintana allegedly called these people “vendepatria,” which is akin to being called a traitor. No one likes to be called a “vendepatria,” especially those whose jobs are to secure the patria.

But, in the interest of keeping things real, let’s recall this La Razon article from two weeks ago.

Minister of the Presidency, Juan Ramon Quintana, confirmed yesterday that Venezuela directly deposits US$6 million into accounts opened by the Bolivian government for use by the military services to improve military infrastructure. (my translation)
The article goes on to say that in June the Army received US$5,491,462, the Navy US$1,181,000, and the Air Force US$771,395.

It’s official, Chavez is buying the country’s military. Who’s the vendepatria now?

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