Rummy in Paraguay is "concerned" about Fidehugo's activities in Bolivia.
Rumsfeld meets with Paraguayan president amid concerns over Cuba, Venezuela
ASUNCION (AFP) - US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld arrived here for talks with Paraguay's President Nicanor Duarte Frutos amid concerns over what US officials see as a Cuban-Venezuelan campaign to subvert neighboring Bolivia.
"There certainly is evidence that both Cuba and Venezuela have been involved in the situation in Bolivia in unhelpful ways," US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told reporters as he flew here from Washington.
Rumsfeld declined to elaborate but senior defense officials traveling with him said a major purpose of the secretary's visit to Paraguay was to consult on Cuban and Venezuelan activities in the region.
The article quotes some DOD guys, who are probably reflecting Rumsfeld's thinking
First time admission that there are Special Ops guys on the ground
Paraguay, which borders Bolivia as well as Argentina and Brazil, has hosted a series of small scale US military exercises this year. Most involve peacekeeping training and medical readiness teams, but also US special operations forces.
Cuba Worming Its Way Back In?
The officials said Cuba, backed by Venezuelan money, has reactivated its underground networks throughout the region, particularly in Bolivia
"Very clearly in the past year we've seen a return of an aggressive Cuban foreign policy," said one US defense official, who spoke to reporters traveling with Rumsfeld on condition of anonymity.
"The Cubans are back with a big game," he said.
Cuban Activity In Bolivia?
"The evidence suggests that Bolivia really is more of a Cuban project so to speak," the official said.
The official said Cubans were providing political guidance, stimulating street violence and attempting to discredit the country's democratic institutions.
"To the degree that subversive activity is going on and they're trying to wield political influence, it is really the Cubans. Venezuela is certainly providing funding and some morale support," he said.
"It's a concern to all the neighbors. There is an enormous indigenous population that stretches all up the Andes -- Ecuador, Peru even in Paraguay," the official said.
How Farfetched is this whole Scenario?
I have previously wondered what was going on with Castro's vast intelligence network in South America. Anyone denying there was a massive Cuban intel presence in South America is blind, deluded, or just plain stupid. These folks were good, besides the usual suspects in local "open" communist parties, guerillas, and drug dealers, they had great sources within the military's of the region, the government and business.
My theory is that Venezuela has outsourced their intelligence networks, and "hired" the Cubans.
Fidel has a long history of messing with South American governments, specially the ones allied with the U.S. Chavez has been subsidizing him lately with a couple of billions of dollars a year in oil, so he might be flexing his muscles again. There are an estimated 50,000 Cubans in Venezuela, and odds are some of them are intel agents.
So how much of this meddling in Bolivia is Fidel's doing? I am not sure, we have to factor in how much it could annoy Brazil - the "quiet" (for now) giant in the area - and a country which is a trade partner to Cuba.
Fidel is also too much of a control freak; he needs a Marxist-Leninist base to stamp his imprint on it. Bolivia's chaotic New-Left - with all of its Andean babble - would not suit his tastes. Makes me wonder if he is in the drivers seat on this one, or is letting Chavez play lead, while he supplies the instruments.
As for Chavez, he has all the motivation in the world to destabilize Bolivia. Why? First because its fun. Helping overthrow a pro-U.S. government like Sanchez De Lozada's creates headaches for the U.S. and it comes cheap. It has the added benefit of messing with neighbors like Peru and Colombia, who are scared of this type of instability. Plus, the Colonel gets "evidence" for all the B.S. he talks about the failure of neo-liberalism - the big Chavez bogeyman. And it also plays to his messianic fantasies of being the new Bolivar, liberating South America from foreign intervention, and installing himself as the South American leader. From a purely strategic sense, it also constitutes a pro-Venezuela territory right smack in the middle of the continent, giving an outlet to Argentina, Paraguay, Brazil, Peru, and Chile. A cynic might also say that by destabilizing Bolivia, it freezes the natural gas production of the nation with the second largest reserves in South America, that would benefit the country with the largest Venezuela.
Venezuela Policy Re-Apprised
A second defense official suggested Washington also has reappraised the challenge posed by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, a leftist populist who has gained clout from soaring oil income since surviving a referendum on his rule a year ago.
"A guy who seemed like a comical figure a year ago is turning into a real strategic menace," the official said, also speaking on condition he not be identified.
Washington initially took a wait-and-see approach after Chavez won a referendum on his rule last year, the official said.
"But then we saw within a period of months that he began moving out very aggressively, both internally and externally," he said.
"We see him trying to strangle pluralistic institutions of the country at home and then abroad, we see him moving aggressively in Bolivia, other places, with the Cubans," he said.
What is Hugo Problem???
Here is the issue withy Chavez, all his saber-rattling was bound to have an effect. No doubt the third world groupies will blame the U.S. for the crisis, but the bottom line is that the Bush administration has cut Chavez a lot of slack, rightfully so in my opinion. Basically, they let him run his mouth against Bush, and let him try to influence his neighbors, in return they bought his oil. HE PROVOKED THEM, by making all sorts of threats, buying weapons, bringing in Cuban advisors, and kicking out the DEA. The days of Social Democrats overthrown in U.S.-inspired coups in South America is over, and Chavez had enough room to be annoying so long as hge stayed in his playbox and wasn't too overt about things. At this stage, the U.S. reaction comes because Chavez basically asked for it.
It would not surprise me if this has the tacit agreement of not only Colombia and Paraguay, but of Brazil, which is extremely concerned with Chavez' activities. Chavez is projecting his power in South America, taking advantage of the vacuum that resulted when the U.S. got into the Iraq disaster. The resulting balance of power in the region is skewed towards Venezuela, it is time for someone to smack him down to size a little, and put the brakes on him.