Venezuelan Military and Civilians Test-Run Defense Operations

An estimated 40,000 Venezuelans, including military personnel, military reserves, community council members, community media workers, and civilians participated in coordinated military exercises of resistance against foreign aggression last weekend.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez said Venezuela's missile testing and military exercises last weekend were in preparation for a "war of resistance" against possible foreign invasion.

Mérida, June 10, 2008 (– An estimated 40,000 Venezuelans, including military personnel, military reserves, community council members, community media workers, and civilians participated in coordinated military exercises of resistance against foreign aggression last weekend, demonstrating the principle of “co-responsibility” between civilians and the military for the defense of the nation as mandated in Venezuela’s 1999 constitution.

“A People united will never be defeated, and the People and the reserves together defend our sovereignty against an enemy invader,” declared Colonel Francisco Salcedo, one of the chief coordinators of the exercises, on Sunday.

Salcedo explained that the objective of the operations, which were named “Socialist Fatherland 2008”, was not to militarize the citizenry, but to build consciousness about the duty that “we all have” to protect national sovereignty.

On Friday, a missile was fired from a Sukhoi war plane and another missile was fired from a naval ship off the shores of Venezuela’s La Orchila Island in a simulated defense maneuver against foreign invasion.

La Orchila Island is the Venezuelan territory whose airspace was violated by a U.S. warplane in mid-May, raising suspicions among Venezuelans that U.S. government had been spying.

Following the launching of the missiles, military reservists and civilians in seven states and 35 municipalities, mainly along Venezuela’s coastline, practiced national defense operations based in their local communities.

In Puerto Cabello, in the state of Carabobo, General Carlos Freites Reyes led “Operation Reinforcements from the Sea to a Resistance Force,” a video recording of which was broadcast on national television Sunday.

A local community radio station triggered the operation with a covert signal meant to avert enemy tracking or interference.

As a helicopter circled overhead, a reserve battalion secured the beach where a speed boat arrived bearing supplies such as water, food, and other provisions. Civilians and members of the security and defense committees of the local community councils transported the supplies by horseback and by small motorboat to hidden inland storage facilities.

According to several news reports, other rehearsed operations included ambushes against the enemy, food security managed through the infrastructure of the government’s extensive subsidized food network Mercal, emergency medical care, special operations to protect the facilities of the Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA, natural disaster emergency procedures, and environmental cleanup operations.

Also, community councils designated the key “points of resistance” in each of Venezuela’s 335 municipalities nation-wide.

General Freites Reyes boasted that “These excercises permit [the reserves] to put into practice what they have learned in the courses… a message to our people that its Armed Forces are trained.”

A communication matrix among local radio and television transmitters was also put into practice. According to alternative media news reports, the local nodes are equipped with sophisticated technology and correspond in coded language.

“In some place in Bolívar’s fatherland, Chief Guaicaipuro Radio of Resistance, radio for the defense and the organization of the People, has begun its broadcast,” was the opening statement upon the initiation of one clandestine radio station launched over the course of the weekend. The station is named after a well-known Venezuelan indigenous leader who fought against Spanish colonizers and today appears on the new 10-bolivar bill.

President Hugo Chávez, on his weekly Sunday talk show Aló Presidente, proclaimed, “Our concept of war is of resistance, a very flexible, very variable, very creative concept, by means of all the available resources on water, land, or in the air.”

Chávez assured that “Training for the war of resistance will continue.” According to the president, the first stage of test runs was the missile launch, the second was the land operations, and the third will be rehearsed next weekend.

Chávez explained that the integral defense of the nation “is everyone’s task. It is about an ethical attitude toward the nation, toward the country. Only a minority lack Fatherland and dignity, made up of those who are willing to turn over our country to the North American empire.”

Venezuela also deployed military reservists Monday to found the School of Popular Carpenters in collaboration with engineering students from the National Experimental University of the Armed Forces (UNEFA). The school’s objective is to prepare teams of disciplined citizens to construct housing, medical facilities, and perform technical services for the benefit of the national collective.

Venezuela has purchased two-dozen Sukhoi fighter planes, 50 attack helicopters, and other military equipment from Russia over the past three years, which sectors of the Venezuelan opposition and also foreign diplomats have cited as evidence of an arms build-up spearheaded by the Caribbean oil-producing nation.

The Venezuelan Defense Minister, General Gustavo Rangel Briceño, denied such accusations and asserted that the government “is acquiring the minimum elemental resources for guaranteeing [Venezuela’s] security and defense.”

Significant increases in military expenditures have occurred worldwide over the last decade, according to the 2008 Yearbook released yesterday by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

SIPRI specifies in the yearbook that “despite attention-grabbing headlines and some evidence of competitive behavior (e.g. the nature and timing of acquisitions by Brazil, Colombia, and Venezuela), it seems unlikely that South America is in the midst of a classically defined arms race.”

The report highlights that over the past 10 years, military expenditures (in terms of market value) increased by 162% in Eastern Europe, 65% in the North American continent, 62% in the Middle east, 57% in South Asia, and 51% in Africa and East Asia.

United States military spending accounted for 45% of the world total in 2007, and U.S. companies accounted for 63% of the arms sales of the top 100 companies worldwide in 2006. Venezuela did not appear on any lists of leading arms spenders or producers, although the volume of international arms transfers to South America between 2003 and 2007 was 47% higher than in the period 1998-2002, according to SIPRI.