Thursday, July 17, 2008

COHA responds to the San Francisco Chronicle's, “Venezuela weapons worry US, Colombia” (May 16th, 2008)

In an article published in the San Francisco Chronicle on May 16th, 2008, AP reporter Christopher Toothaker contended that the Venezuelan military build-up was cause for alarm. COHA Research Associate Jessica Bryant's response follows:

Newspaper accounts of Venezuela’s military buildup often paint a picture that is more alarming than accurate. Christopher Toothaker’s article “Venezuela weapons worry US, Colombia” (May 16th) may provide an example of this. His reference to a military analyst’s opinion that the arms that Venezuela is now acquiring are, “just the sorts of weapons that the FARC would find interesting since these are the standard tools of guerrilla warfare” could easily be said of the more than $5 billion of weapons and aid that Washington currently supplies to Bogotá and adds nothing to an understanding of the situation.

Additionally, your author fails to contextualize his story within the history of defense spending in the region. He could have revealed how links between Colombian officials and rightist paramilitary groups render Caracas’ apprehensions over US military aid to their neighbor entirely credible. Toothaker fails to turn a critical eye in all directions, overlooking US support of an ill-conceived plot to overthrow President Chavez in 2002.

While Chávez’s modus operandi has favored haranguing leaders with whom he disagrees, he has yet to manifest this in a threatening manner. Recent Interpol findings that Venezuelan officials funded and supplied weapons to the FARC certainly warrant further investigation but are not conclusive. It would be wise to maintain rhetoric that generates more light than heat.

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