Chavez converts military to Cuban model

Miami Herald:

Under new regulations decreed by President Hugo Chávez just three weeks ago, Venezuela's military will undergo the most ambitious restructuring plan in more than a century, remodeling itself in many aspects on the Cuban military.

The new legislation enacted by Chávez places the ''popular Bolivarian militias'' directly under the command of the president, promotes the role of social intelligence networks similar to the Cuban revolutionary defense committees and gives the president unprecedented powers over the armed forces.

The measure also allows the military to take on civilian functions from the previously banned, such as the intelligence network that will now operate through the thousands of community centers around the country.

''The new legislation governing the armed forces militarizes the society and puts citizens under military order,'' explained Rocio San Miguél, a military expert that heads Control Ciudadano, a watchdog group that monitors the Venezuelan military.

Chávez has justified the changes and recent acquisitions of more than $4 billion in weaponry, primarily from Russia, by arguing that Venezuela needs to be prepared for an invasion by ''imperialist'' forces and that the population must mobilize to defend the nation in the event of an attack.

But Control Ciudadano notes that the legislation requires the military to be the ''organization, planning, management and control of a national intelligence and military counterintelligence system,'' without establishing guidelines or limits that restrict the activity.

''The military will have no restrictions or limits on obtaining information about all sectors, public and private, other than a threat against national security,'' said San Miguél.

...

Chavez is putting the machinery in place to convert Venezuela into a totalitarian police state. He is taking away freedom in huge bites these days while allowing drug terrorist free reign. In doing so he is copying one of the biggest failures in history, Cuba. He is squandering Venezuela's windfall from oil on second class weapons and investments in other failed socialist ventures.

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