Skip to comments.Sources: Chavez Calls In Foreign Aid in Preparation for Crackdown?
Posted on 12/09/2002 12:47:04 PM PST by Axion
Sources: Chavez Calls In Foreign Aid in Preparation for Crackdown? Summary
Dec 09, 2002
The risk of violence is escalating in Venezuela, where multiple sources say President Hugo Chavez is arming domestic supporters and possibly calling in help from Cuban nationals and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.
The threat of major violence in Venezuela within the next two or three days is increasing rapidly in cities like Caracas and Maracaibo, Stratfor sources say. The government of embattled President Hugo Chavez is arming hundreds of civilian supporters, at least three small groups of Colombian rebels have crossed the border into Venezuela, and individuals believed to be Cuban nationals have been spied in Caracas and Maracaibo wearing Venezuelan military uniforms, according to military intelligence (DIM) and police.
If these reports are correct, it appears likely that Chavez and his shrinking group of political and military supporters are preparing for an armed confrontation. Loyalist military forces, supported by civilian militia and foreign nationals, soon could be locked in battle against dissident military units. If fighting erupts, it likely will take place within and around military garrisons like Fort Tiuna in Caracas and Fort Mara in Maracaibo, where army and national guard units that support and oppose Chavez would confront each other.
Fighting also is possible in urban areas where the Chavez regime has deployed military forces, and vital Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) installations -- which armed supporters of the Chavez regime have tried to seize in the past 72 hours -- could be affected. Sources also say that at least two major European oil companies are withdrawing expatriate personnel from Venezuela.
Stratfor strongly advises foreign expatriates to take all necessary measures to protect themselves and their families, given the strong possibility that pro-regime civilian militias may target foreigners for attack. If large-scale fighting breaks out, a week or more could pass before order is restored. Casualty counts and property damage could be substantial if heavy weapons are used by both sides.
Meanwhile, criminal gangs in Caracas and other cities could seek to take advantage of the chaos -- creating the potential for armed robberies, home invasions and looting of stores and shopping malls.
Military intelligence sources say that at least three small groups of rebels believed to be Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas have been identified in the border city of Puerto Ayacucho, in Venezuela's Amazon region; the central city of Maracay and the state of Trujillo, near the border with Colombia. The sources were unable to give details on the size of these groups, but said they are believed to be small urban units trained in small-scale street attacks.
The purpose of a Colombian rebel infiltration apparently would be to create panic and confusion by attacking opposition groups in different parts of the country, once fighting breaks out between pro- and anti-Chavez military units.
DIM sources also say that several Cuban nationals have established a presence in the country, and that some are believe to be disguised as Venezuelan military personnel. A clandestine Cuban presence reportedly has been confirmed in both Maracaibo and Caracas. Additionally, dissident military leaders very recently publicized immigration movement documents that show more than 6,000 Cuban nationals -- most of them men travelling without women or families -- have entered Venezuela since early 2001.
One source also reported a first-hand encounter on Dec. 3 in the Chuao district of Caracas with individuals he believed to be Cuban nationals uniformed as Venezuelan soldiers. A Venezuelan military helicopter landed on the roof of the Best Western hotel carrying eight people armed with sniper rifles. The apparent snipers soon re-boarded the helicopter and departed, but not before the Stratfor source spoke with the group's leader -- who reportedly spoke with a Venezuelan accent but whose Spanish employed distinctly Cuban phrasings.
Meanwhile, the 8-day-old national strike showed no signs of ending Dec. 9. Banks and private schools were closed, supermarkets observed shortened schedules -- although food stocks appeared to be holding up -- and Caracas Metro subway workers were threatening to join the strike.
All of the country's commercial ports were closed, forcing state-owned producers of iron, steel, bauxite, alumina, aluminum and ferroalloys to declare force majeure on deliveries to customers in the United States, Mexico and Asia for the months of December and January.
Moreover, PDVSA was almost completely shut down Dec. 9 by striking managers and workers, despite regime efforts to restart idled terminals in western and eastern Venezuela. As of early evening GMT, nearly three dozen tankers sat idle at different terminals, PDVSA's largest refineries were completely shut down, natural gas production was plummeting rapidly and nearly 2 million bpd of crude oil had been taken off the market, according to oil industry sources. Gasoline, diesel and natural gas supplies in many areas of Venezuela were nearly depleted, raising the possibility that the economy could be completely paralyzed by midweek.
Just what we need right now, another source of pressure. Are we going to let Hugo Chavez bring in outside thugs to attack people who are primarily asking for free and fair elections in Venezuela? Castro's fingerprints are all over this, looks like.
Perhaps some of our advisors in Columbia are needed here?
Sure would be nice to have a base in Panama about now.
Lines of cars stretched for blocks in Caracas as panic-buying at gas stations began. Troops stood by the pumps at some stations. "I went to seven gas stations and they were all closed," Johnny Mota, 26, said from his 1979 Ford Fairlane, one of 35 cars waiting at a Texaco station in eastern Caracas. An attendant wandered by with a sign reading, "No unleaded gasoline."
Outside Caracas, the national guard seized at least three gasoline distribution centers that had closed in the strike. The government hired civilians to drive tanker trucks commandeered from their private owners to gas stations. The Energy Ministry said the private property would be returned to its owners "as soon as activities are normalized." Horacio Medina, a leader of the striking oil workers, said more than 30 percent of gas stations in Venezuela's major cities had run out of fuel.***
Noose tightens- Stike in 'final stretch' - Oil workers, air traffic controllers, customs agents, banks..*** CARACAS, Venezuela -- The noose tightened on Venezuela's economy Monday as an eight-day general strike aimed at ousting President Hugo Chavez spread to banks, air travel and the capital city's subway system. Oil workers, air traffic controllers and customs agents joined the strikers. The banks announced that they were joining the strike and restricting services to three hours a day. "We are in the final stretch," union boss Carlos Ortega, one of the leaders of the opposition coalition, announced at a news conference, in which the strike was extended indefinitely. "Mr. Chavez understands that no one or nothing will stop the people."
Chavez sympathizers seized a pro-opposition television station in the city of Maracay, about 60 miles west of Caracas Monday afternoon. About 11 p.m., other demonstrators besieged four of the principal opposition stations in Caracas. Cesar Gaviria, secretary general of the Organization of American States who is in Caracas to broker talks between the two sides, went on television to denounce the actions and called on the Chavez government to call off the demonstators. Enraged Chavez supporters have blamed the privately owned media of inciting the uprising against the government and journalists have been the targets of violence in the past year. ***
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