U.S. Alerted to Cuba Migration, Venezuelan Weapons

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez is purchasing ”three or four times” more weapons than he needs, a top U.S. intelligence chief said Wednesday, but there is no evidence so far he is providing arms to Colombian guerrillas.Gen. Michael Maples, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said that the 100,000 AK-103s and AK-104 assault rifles purchased by Venezuela from Russia are going “into armories.”

Maples and National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell also told a Senate panel that the Cuban leadership shift from Fidel Castro to his brother Raúl could trigger tensions and even a migration crisis.

At a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Florida Republican Sen. Mel Martinez, asked if Chávez’s recent weapons purchases, especially the assault rifles, exceeded Venezuela’s defense needs.

”Yes sir,” McConnell responded, “probably three or four times more than what he would need.”

When asked if Chávez could use the surplus to ”destabilize neighboring governments, particularly Colombia” and assist Colombia’s left-wing FARC guerrillas, McConnell said: “Could very well be.”

Maples then interjected, saying U.S. officials had not seen any distribution of rifles to Colombia. ”We have seen them go into armories,” he said. “And we do hear discussion within Venezuela about using asymmetric kinds of capabilities and tactics and empowering the population in some way, in a home guard sense.”

Chavez has argued that he needs the weapons to replace old guns and systems that Washington has refused to supply, and to equip larger reserves and militias for a guerrilla war in case of a U.S. invasion. But the purchases have triggered concerns in Washington and Latin American capitals of a potential arms race and leakage of weapons to neighboring Colombia.

From Russia Chávez has purchased the assault rifles, a munitions factory, 53 helicopters — including a dozen Mi-17 military helicopters — and 14 SU-30MK fighters.

McConnell added that on the purchase of the assault rifles, ”one of the thoughts is [Chávez] forming an internal militia to enforce his authoritarian rule.” But when pressed if Chávez meant to arm his supporters to stifle opposition, Maples said that although “the opportunity is there, we haven’t seen it move that direction yet.”

Martinez then asked if the intelligence chiefs had noted an increase in migration out of Cuba, which on Sunday saw Raúl Castro elected as its new president.

”We’re concerned about it,” McConnell responded, ”but nothing we’ve seen yet.” He added that Cuba was witnessing the old generation “hanging on, hanging on.”

”The key, in my view, is going to be fourth generation,” said McConnell, referring to Cuba’s increasingly restless youth. “They’re thinking new thoughts and they’re asking hard questions. So how do you get from the first generation of the revolution to the fourth generation? That’s going to be the question. And what my concern is there’s going to be some instability in that process.”

A failure by the new Castro government to deliver improvements to Cubans ”could increase concerns,” Maples said. “Something we have to be attuned to . . . is looking for any indicators that the dissatisfaction is going to reach a level where a migration from the island might take place.”

Martinez agreed the migration issue was a threat to U.S. security but noted that Washington should seek democracy and the concern should “not just be the fear of a mass migration.”

Source:  Miami Herald

4 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    julie said,

    the bush adminstration as we know are trying to put people against venezuela and that is because chavez is a good man trying to benefit his people and he is not and could not be used in favor of this corrupt admintation.

  2. 2

    Passenger57 said,

    This has to be the funniest thing I’ve read all week. The US spends more on defense/weapons than the rest of the world combined – but Venezuela seems to have purchased more weapons than it “needs”.
    We had more weapons than we “needed” decades ago.

  3. 3

    swampie said,

    You really need to read the article. It is about whether there is any credible evidence that Chavez is attempting to arm guerillas to overthrow the elected representatives in other Latin American countries.

    Arguing about whether or not “we” have more weapons than “we” need (whoever the hell “we” is) is stupid. I have many weapons. I decide how much I “need”. I don’t know or care how many you have.

    Hugo Chavez is an opportunistic thug who is running Venezuela’s economy into the ground and digging a hole.

  4. 4

    Robert D said,

    Speaking of maroons…..#1 gets the prize.

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