MÉRIDA, VENEZUELA - The State oil company of Venezuela, PDVSA, confirmed today the discovery of four billion square feet of natural gas in western Venezuela, believed in June to have only been 2 billion square feet. It also confirmed that it possesses the largest single reserve of oil in the world. In addition to the estimated 78 billion barrels of conventional oil reserves, there are 235 billion more barrels of heavy and extra-heavy crude, known as Orimulsion, in the Rio Orinoco region. This means that Venezuela possesses under her soil nearly fifty percent of the total amount of oil in the entire Middle East. Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Kuwait, Abu Dhabi, Iran and Qatar have a combined total of 676 billion barrels while Venezuela´s total alone is 313 billion barrels.
This might go a long way in explaining why the Bush Administration has made extensive plans for an the invasion of Venezuela. Plans for a joint U.S.-NATO invasion of Venezuela date back to May 3, 2001, according to an article published in last week´s edition of Venezuelan weekly "Las Verdades de Miguel." The plan was dubbed "Operation Balboa" and drawn up by the Southern Command under George Bush, according to the report, written by José Luis Carpio. The invasion had as its objective to "remove Hugo Chavez from power, using the same strategy employed in the war against Iraq" with a massive midnight bombing campaign, followed by an invasion and occupation of the country.
President Hugo Chavez had mentioned Operation Balboa on Sunday, July 3, in his weekly television show, Alo Presidente, but without offering details. At that time Chavez said he knew "in detail" about the plan and he also proposed an "Operation Counter Balboa," an operation which may already be underway.
For several months now the Venezuelan Military has been conducting joint exercises with the civilian population in preparation for national emergencies like "earthquakes, tsunamis and invasions by foreign forces." They have also made recent purchases of 100,000 small arms and helicopters from Russia and begun developing plans to build up a national civilian defense force to repel any foreign aggression.
"Operation Balboa" appears not to have been implemented beyond the design stage, but neither have the plans been scrapped. According to Carpio, "The plans presented by the North Americans continue in effect and the possibility remains, according to the sources of information that have been consulted, of the appearance of unidentified groups attacking U.S. citizens or interests, which would give greater justification for an intervention." This latter scenario may already be in the works and has historical precedents dating back all the way to the Mexican American War.
Under President Andrew Jackson the U.S. made military incursions into Mexico numerous times to provoke an attack on their soldiers for an excuse for the war in which the U.S. carried away half of Mexico as war booty. Prior to the invasion of Panama in December of 1989 the U.S. provoked attacks on U.S. personnel by running roadblocks, attacking and insulting Panamanian Defense Forces and this eventually provided the pretext for the eventual invasion.
In a U.S.-Contra operation, reminiscent of the CIA's terrorist war against Sandinista Nicaragua in the 1980s, these "unidentified groups" Carpio mentioned are known as paramilitaries and they are currently operating along the Colombia-Venezuelan border. Like the Contras, they are sustained by cocaine money and the work of these paramilitaries is not only to instill terror in the local population. So far they have also been responsible for killing nearly one hundred peasant leaders committed to the Bolivarian Revolution of Venezuela.
The plan, according to Diario Vea, seems to be "to clear important peasant areas of Bolivarian activists" with the aim of creating "focos of civil war" and this civil war, in turn, "would offer a pretext to North American circles for an intervention in Venezuela."(Diario Vea, July 7, 2005).
Venezuelan weekly, Quinto Día, (July 1-8, 2005 edition) reports incursions by U.S. Marines into Venezuelan territory from bases in Colombia. Although officially denied by both the U.S. and Venezuelan military authorities in Caracas, residents along the Rio Arauca insist that "the marines have already detained people in Venezuelan territory, taking them into Colombia where they're tortured or threatened."
Other U.S. plans to destroy the Bolivarian Revolution appear to include the assassination of Pres. Chavez and the purchase of the forthcoming Venezuelan municipal elections set for August 7. Rumors of assassination attempts have been swirling around Caracas for several weeks and at least one arrest was made of a man with a sniper's rifle and several thousand dollars in cash in hand.
Security for Pres. Chavez has been stepped up, however, the new measures don't seem to have affected the pace of his seemingly constant public life.
The Bolivarian Government of Venezuela has made it clear that the elections are not for sale and it has begun legal proceedings against leaders of the opposition group, Súmate, for taking money from the U.S. and other foreign governments so as to subvert Venezuela's democracy, an act universally defined as treason.
Regardless of what poison the U.S. may be brewing up for Venezuela´s democracy, the plan will more than likely backfire. Chavez has sworn that if they make an attempt on his life, Venezuela won´t sell another drop of oil to the U.S. With Chavez´s popularity now standing at 70%, the nation sitting on top of the greatest energy wealth of any one nation in the world, and Latin American unity continuing apace under Chavez´s leadership, the Bolivarian Revolution is holding a full house to Bush´s bluff. The neocons have met their strategic match in Chavez and it might pay off better in the long run to fold now than to continue raising the stakes and risk losing the pot.