Política y Administración Pública
CAUSES OF INTERNATIONAL CONFLICT
CASE: VENEZUELA AND THE UNITED STATES
Since February 3rd, 1992, the political fields in Latin America have been taking different sides, and exploring new opinionated ideas. Why? After decades under the U.S. hegemony, several countries in the South American hemisphere are changing their sides from the world called Democratization into a new faction called Socialism-Populism. It is fair to say that this ideology started with Fidel Castro and his well-know revolution, but their effort was left behind with no important representation from one of the sides in the bipolar world. Now a new figure is making that transformation with an ace in his hand: Hugo Chávez. The current president of Venezuela has been labelled as a principal factor for the present instability in South America. With this essay, I will present the causes of the international conflict between Venezuela and the United States, and the possible consequences.
The change produced by the former president of Venezuela has created a chain reaction in different countries. His alliance with former Cuban and Middle East leaders are opening new doors in the international scenery, making the resultant effects of those changes, a complex relationship between Latin America, Middle East and the United States. Using the perspective of Herfried Munkler, professor of political theory at Humboldt University, the appearance of this new war could be an expression of failed state-building processes in the Third World. Economic globalization, in one hand has been weakening state-makers in their ability to rule. On the other hand, it has challenging the state monopoly of physical force. (1, Pg. 425) These are the initial reasons why the Venezuela's President is challenging the hegemony of the United States. His combined ideology between populism, socialism, and communism (labelled as sociocultural dissimilarity), is creating an obstacle between other Latin American Countries against what he called American Imperialism. The former leaders of Venezuela are trying to create a second “globalization” called Revolución Bolivariana (Bolivarian Revolution), in where the principal actors are countries with a clear and defined ideology adjacent to the one proclaimed from United States, this is also in fact the answer from the Munkler perspective of weak states. (2)
Venezuela was a country with no influence in the world political map, in fact being part of the OPEP and the fifth more important provider of oil in the world; this was not enough to make this third world country a severe threat for the American agenda (status defference). Since Hugo Chavez rose into power his principal point of no return has been the emancipation of the revolution with new states, not sociable to the American policy (perception of opportunity and surprise). Old conversations with Cuba and new approaches to countries like Iran and organizations like Hamas are being seen as a threat for the American democracy and their globalization process. They are creating a force against the American monopoly and their physical force. Last conversations between Venezuela and Iran resulted in an agreement of $404.6 million, to build 10,000 houses in Venezuela with Iranian technology, as well as co-operation agreements to built concrete companies, heavy duty equipment, ships, and vehicles. This agreement is perturbing the United States' International Agenda. Venezuela is not just approaching Iran and Cuba, another upcoming colleague is North Korea, showing high interest to the matter of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) in exchange for oil. This obsession for the creation of 21st Century New Socialist Revolution and their offer to buy a Nuclear Reactor from Argentina, is catalogued as national peril for the United States, and is considered under the scholarship of Justin Vaisse as a severe threat to the national interest without which no American president could justify war. (1, Pg. 429) The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in one of their recommendations reflected the perspective of the `[w]idening' school of security studies. This recognizes, first, that actors other than the state, such as individuals or nations, may also serve as referent objects of security; and second, that threats to security may appear in non-military as well as military forms. (3, Pg. 308)
On one hand the Venezuelan government states that this reactor will be for the production of clean energy, to appear as a non-military threat, but their association with the Middle East countries reveals one more face; this alliance and the procurement of armament from Russia and China is to guarantee their national security, and their national security must be defined as integrity of the national territory and of its institutions. (3, Pg. 310) However, this armament is providing adequate power to Venezuela to support an eventual war against the U.S. “Venezuela is purchasing helicopters, airplanes and boats to fight drug trafficking rather than prepare for military offensives in Latin America as U.S. officials have warned”, Interior Minister Jesse Chacón said, (4) except that Venezuela suspended total co-operation with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in August 2005, accusing its members of spying. This powerful new armament is tough enough to fight a war far away from the Venezuelan coast to the Mexican Gulf almost at the doors of the American ground.
On the other hand, Donald Nuechterlein claimed that “the fundamental national interest of the United States is the defence and the well-being of its citizens, its territory, and the U.S. constitutional system”. (3, Pg. 310) The Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice promised to resist what she called “the growth of anti-democratic populism in Latin America” (4). While asserting that some rhetoric defined as populist is constructive, Rice said that in Latin America, that normally is not the case. The U.S. agenda's vital interest is to push back a multilateral programme between the Venezuelan government and the “axis of evil” that could shatter the flimsy Latin America stability. In other words, under unipolarity dominated by a democratic pole we are likely to see more attempts to create or advance regional security arrangements (5, Pg. 282), and this is being threatened by Hugo Chavez's new ideologies. According to the logic of the balance-of-threat theory (Walt, 1987), “a hegemonic state can preserve its unipolar position by using policies of accommodation and reassurance in its dealing with status quo states. The dominant state should reinforce their sense of security and should also provide opportunities for these states to demonstrate power or enhance prestige without challenging the existing order. It should also try to take steps to integrate `undecided' states more fully into the existing order, thus turning then into status quo states (Mastanduno, 1999: 148-9 (5, Pg.286))”.
Other reasons why the U.S. government is deciding to strike against Venezuela is related to its oil. Venezuelan reserves are 78 billion barrels plus the new reserves founded on the Orinoco: 300 billion are making this the biggest Oil reserve on the planet, and they are geographically located under the United States front door, with no direct threats to be exported until Hugo Chavez's rise to power. Based on those facts, the U.S. International policy against terrorism and such threats apply to Venezuela; Hugo Chavez is not a trustworthy leader, he has not been afraid to set back approach from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). This is where the American government is taking action, looking for sanctions based on Hugo Chavez antidemocratic deeds, and using the Inter-American Democratic Charter to aisle the Venezuelan government. If this is not enough, the U.S. government might start using the policy of direct intervention (First military option, with a low intensity). This phase is identified by a low profile of paramilitary actions, sabotages, and others small war strategies. If their attitude remains aggressive and fearless, that is when the complete U.S. military power starts taking action.
In contrast, Hugo Chavez had already strike the U.S., not as a terrorist but as a people's person, his strategy is completely unusual, he is given free oil using CITGO Company, a subsidiary of Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), that is located is the U.S., to the people who are living in shelters, and subsidizing up to 40 per cent of the oil market price for the people with low income. This strategy is making him to be recognized as a hero on the east coast of the U.S. But this is not everything, the resulting savings from this initiative, known as Low Income Heating Oil Program, are being used to pay the rent of the people with the lowest income in those communities. Also is dividing politicians, in one side John Negroponte said `Chavez is using Venezuelan petrodollars to finance an “extravagant international policy”, with no direct reference to the generosity with the poor of U.S.', on the other side Charles Rangel, a Democrat, says `This gesture is an example, more Americans are complaining and asking for help to tackle the high price of heat their places (status quo disruption) (6). This strategy have been a complete success, his populism has strike the heart of the United States.
Hugo Chavez is following also the scholarship of Griecco: `Dealing with the danger of domination, at the same time, the very wide power disparities with the hegemon create a constant fear of domination and entrapment. The overwhelming power of the hegemon threatens mainly the foreign policy autonomy of the regional states, and also raises the danger of being pulled into unnecessary adventures on its behalf. This also creates for regional states a strong incentive to organize on a regional level. A regional arrangement can be formed in order to be able to maintain a reasonable degree of independence and `voice' within its sphere on influence (Griecco, 1995). While the ability of each individual state to influence the hegemon is limited, by working collectively they can have greater influence, and can make more credible and meaningful threats to raise the cost of certain policies the hegemon may wish to pursue.' (5, Pg. 289). And that is the accord that Hugo Chavez is building in Latin America. This agreement is their first steps between Bolivia, Brazil, Cuba, and Argentina as a regional enclave to step out from the American economic domain, and with the indirect-direct help from the Colombian Revolution Army Forces (FARC, with more than 35,000 men) in case of an eventual attack from the U.S. Army against Venezuela. As well, the Venezuelan Army reserves are three times the size of the American counterpart.
Taking in consideration all the facts is important to emphasize the opposing interest between the parties; the imbalance between them is creating a tension towards misperception and miscommunication. Under R. J. Rummel all those data are the necessary causes for war: Contact and salience, opposing interest and capabilities, nonlibertarian enemies, significant change in the balance of powers underlying the status quo, a will-to-war, and the belief in success if war occurs. (7) Both states are expecting the war to start; it is just a question of time, and sees which one of these two countries decides to strike first. All the factors are on the table, from the principal causes of war, going through status difference, coercive state of power and sociocultural dissimilarity, as well being aggravated by the power intervention, polarity, and credibility at stake.
The final step is the simplest, and both states are ready for any new stage, and war is the most actual of all. The high political spheres in the United States are debating the consequences of a new battle-front in Latin America, having three different ones, Afghanistan, Iraq and now most likely Venezuela. On the other hand, Hugo Chavez is keep announcing that the Venezuelan Army is ready to defend itself against any invasion from the United States (will-to-war), and all the steps for an eventual war are here, no peaceful solution have been contemplated leaving the door open for all previous details.
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