Will Post-Chavez Venezuela become a Narcostate?
Bits from foreignpolicy.com posted almost a year ago, 11 Apr 2012, by Roger F. Noriega, titled After Chávez, the Narcostate:
"In my estimation, the approaching death of the Venezuelan caudillo could put the country on the path toward a political and social meltdown. The military cadre installed by Chávez in January already is behaving like a de facto regime determined to hold onto power at all costs. And Havana, Tehran, Moscow, and Beijing are moving to protect their interests."
"... Washington should rally Latin American leaders to draw the line against a Syria scenario in the Western Hemisphere."
"Cabello's appointment (Jan 2012) was meant to reassure a powerful cadre of narcomilitares -- Gen. Rangel Silva, Army Gen. Cliver Alcalá, retired intelligence chief Gen. Hugo Carvajal, and half a dozen other senior officers who have been branded drug "kingpins" by the U.S. government. These ruthless men will never surrender power and the impunity that goes with it -- and they have no illusions that elections will confer "legitimacy" on a Venezuelan narco-state . . ."
"Cuba's Fidel and Raúl Castro are desperate to preserve the life-blood of Venezuelan oil that sustains their bankrupt regime. According to a source who was briefed on conversations in Cuba, Raúl has counseled Chávez to prepare to pass power to a "revolutionary junta"; Venezuelans who are suspicious of the Castros expect them to pack the junta with men loyal to Havana. Cabello does not trust the Castros, but with thousands of Cuban intelligence officers and triggermen on the ground in Venezuela, the Castro brothers are a force to be reckoned with."
No mention was made of Nicaragua's dependence on Chávez under Ortega. Maybe payments for all that food Nicaragua ships them will be more upfront now. Nor was anything said about ALBA.
"The Chinese have provided more than $20 billion in quickie loans to Chávez in the last 18 months, which are to be repaid by oil at well below the market price. Most of these funds were paid into Chávez's slush funds before the Chinese knew of his terminal condition."
" ... the Chávez regime has been a reliable customer of more than $13 billion in Russian arms ..."
"Iran is more dependent than ever on its banks and other ventures in Venezuela as a means to launder billions in funds to evade tightening international financial sanctions. Companies associated with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, the Qods Force, and illicit nuclear and ballistic missile programs have invested millions in infrastructure in shadowy facilities throughout Venezuela. Tehran will struggle to keep its beachhead near U.S. soil, which is vital to its survival strategy in the critical months ahead. ... U.S. intelligence agencies have been virtually blind to the Iranian presence in Venezuela."
He does express some hope for post-Chávez Venezuela.
"Venezuela's military is not a monolith, and Chávez has undermined his own succession strategy by giving the narco-generals such visible and operational roles. The fact that the narco-generals will be more willing to resort to unconstitutional measures and repression to keep power and carry the "narco" label sets them apart from the rank-and-file soldiers and institutionalist generals. The United States military still carries a lot of weight with these men."
I'd guess the Sixth Fleet on alert in the Caribbean would bolster their confidence.
"The Soviet-style succession that corrupt Chavistas and their Cuban handlers are trying to impose on the Venezuelan people is anything but a done deal. There is room and time for friends of democracy to play a constructive role."