Smuggling as Economic Warfare Weapon
Nil NIKANDROV | 26.08.2014 | OPINION

Smuggling as Economic Warfare Weapon

Foodstuffs and water shortage, electricity outage, disruption of transportation and other problems of everyday life provoke discontent of common Venezuelans angry with the performance of white color bureaucrats. Many members of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (Spanish: Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela, PSUV) express protest against the inefficiency of administrative functionaries who are unable to adapt to different situations, oppose the fifth column in the administrative power ranks and punish corrupted officials. Their ineptness has negative effect on the economy. The opposition uses it to its advantage while waging economic warfare against Venezuela. 

Effective large-scale propaganda efforts have a special role to play. The Bolivarian regime has tried to counter it scoring irregular successes. Hugo Chavez has said many times that hiding foodstuffs, household commodities, construction material etc. greatly damages the country’s economy. He constantly stresses that mafia’s subversive activities and smuggling are used by his US-sponsored political enemies to undermine the government. His successor had to face the same problems. 

The Venezuelan government has declared war against smugglers. The country-wide operation is led by Operational Strategic Commander of the National Armed Forces, General-in-Chief Vladimir Padrino López. 17 thousand men are involved in anti-smuggling activities. They are watching border control posts and looking for hundreds of secret trails (black paths). People can go across the 2,200-kilometer (1,400-mile) border from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m., cargo vehicles are allowed to cross the line starting from 1800 pm. During the first five days the military intercepted a lot of smuggled goods, including 22 thousand liters of car fuel. It costs 75 cents to fill a car in Venezuela (!) in comparison with around 65 cents in Columbia. Reselling fuel is as profitable as pushing drugs. The military prevented from entering the country134 tons of foodstuffs and medicine and destroyed a few dozens of «black paths». 

José Vielma Mora, the ruling party governor of the state of Táchira, southwest Venezuela, is known as a sworn enemy of smugglers. At a press-conference he said the population of Venezuela is around 30 million, roughly 10 million make their living being involved in smuggling. He says smuggling means stealing from Venezuelan people. This crime undermines moral standards, breaches the law, damages the reputation of authorities, destabilizes the currency rate and brings illegal profits to criminal groups so that they could further fund their activities. 

According to Piedad Cordova, former governor of Columbia, who is a member of the team holding talks with FARC guerillas, Columbian ultra-right paramilitary groups close to the US Central Intelligence Agency and defense intelligence pose a real threat to Venezuela. They were involved in the overthrow of Manuel Zelaya of Honduras in 2009 and toppling Fernando Lugo, President of Paraguay, in 2012. It’s a proven fact that the paramilitary have taken part in the unrest in a number of Venezuelan cities resulting in dozens of victims. Cordova emphasized that the groups are funded by Washington. Their prime mission is to topple President Maduro. They control a large segment of smuggled car fuel and lubricants. The profit is spent for the acquisition of weapons and building springboards on the Venezuelan territory. The Colombian government holds peace talks with FARC guerillas in Havana, something Washington looks askance at. It viewed the process as a threat to its military bases in Colombia. Provoking conflicts at the Venezuela-Colombia border justifies the US military presence in the region. 

The United States wages an economic war against «hostile» and «potentially hostile» countries of Latin America and the Caribbean. The prime targets are the member-states of ALBA (the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas) including Venezuela, Ecuador, Cuba, Bolivia and Nicaragua, as well as some other states. The group was established in 2004 by Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro to spur all-around integration, joint efforts to achieve progress on the basis of socialism and collective defense of independence. Washington refutes the basic goals of the organization. The empire tries to weaken economy and financial systems of such «regional heavy weights» of the Western Hemisphere as Argentina and Brazil which stand for integration without the United States. 

The failure of blockade against Cuba has not taught the United States anything. The US State Department and special services try to find weak points of the Bolivarian alliance to destroy it from within by conducting special operations, including economic and financial structure. 

Last August President Maduro received reliable information that the White House had held a meeting to discuss the ways of waging economic warfare against Venezuela. According to Maduro, the experts of Department of Treasury forecast the approximate time of economic collapse of Venezuela and with chaos to reign in the country like it had happened in Egypt, «They updated the economic war against Venezuela during that three hours meeting. Two persons from the Department of the Treasury reported on the economic war against Venezuela. We have knowledge of this. They were making calculations of a date for the economic collapse of Venezuela, then for a date for a social explosion and then, according to these macabre minds, a chaos in Venezuela as we have seen in Egypt». He added that «They discussed the possibility of forming an interim government. They have a plan to surprise President Maduro with. That’s what the empire plots. It wants a bourgeoisie government. Will Venezuelan people support it?»

According to Vice President of Venezuela Jorge Arreaza, the government did not know the real scale of the problem when it started to fight smuggling. He said, «The national commission on fight against smuggling will work out a consistent plan to counter smuggling of all kinds. We have to admit that that the scale of the problem was much greater than expected. It means that out actions should more resolute». Not all the decisions taken by the commission are known to public, but Venezuelans welcomed the creation of new centers built to fight the crime in the border states. The Vice President said there would be changes in the government: the cabinet has resigned to give President Maduro more room for making new assignments. Arreaza believes the reorganization is an important step to enhance the efficiency of governance. Orlando Borrego, 78, a professional economist, is appointed by the President as the head of task force set to outline guidelines for would-be reforms including a total, profound revolution in public administration. He faces a daunting task of staging a revolution inside the revolution for the benefit of all. Hugo Chavez often talked about the need to introduce reforms but he had not had enough time before his death. No doubt Borrego is going to seriously tackle the problem of economic warfare unleashed against the country by the United States. Many years ago he was close to Che Guevara; he is a steadfast and perspicacious person. There is ground to believe he’ll cope with the challenge.

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