Spain’s Europa Press news agency reports that Venezuela purchased “biological and nerve agents” as well as dual-use materials from Spain sometime during the first half of 2004. According to a report about defense expenditures obtained by Europa Press, Venezuela was the only country listed under the category of “states to which chemical warfare agents and radioactive materials were sold.” An English translation appears here.
The accusation comes in the wake of Spain’s announcement that it will sell conventional weaponry — military transport planes and and patrol boats — to Venezuela. I found the story through Iberian blogger Barcepundit, who notes that “If Rumsfeld was reportedly angry about the sale of planes and boats, boy I can only imagine what he’ll think about this.”
The amount of biological or nerve agents probably isn’t large — Europa Press sets the purchase price at 30,000 Euros, which isn’t out of line with the price of a single kilogram of South American heroin. I’m not familiar with the going rates on the WMD black market, but hopefully doomsday weapons are scarcer and therefore more expensive than heroin. (A further 1.6 million Euros was spent on the dual-use materials which might be legitimately destined for the petroleum and leather-tanning industries.) But any amount of WMD in the hands of the Castroite Chavez regime is too much.
President Chavez may be a thuggish autocrat, but he isn’t stupid enough to use chemical or biological weapons against American civilians, at least directly. He may see them as insurance against the possibility of an American invasion; however, the United States demonstrated in Iraq that threats of chemical retaliation will not deter us should we decide to invade.
A more likely scenario is the use of these WMD’s for international extortion against South American governments. Chavez’s alleged links to Colombia’s narcoterrorist FARC and to Evo Morales’s cocaleros in Bolivia suggest he could find a vector for the weapons should he need one. The implicit threat of arming insurgent groups with WMD’s may compel these governments — especially the precarious democracy in Bolivia — to accommodate Venezuela’s policies or to reject ours.
Interestingly, Spain and Venezuela have both ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention, Article I of which requires that:blockquote>Each State Party to this Convention undertakes never under any circumstances: br> (a) To develop, produce, otherwise acquire, stockpile or retain chemical weapons, or transfer, directly or indirectly, chemical weapons to anyone; br> (b) To use chemical weapons; br> (c) To engage in any military preparations to use chemical weapons; br> (d) To assist, encourage or induce, in any way, anyone to engage in any activity prohibited to a State Party under this Convention. /blockquote>
Taken slightly more seriously than the CWC, however, is the Monroe Doctrine — the longstanding U.S. policy that Europe messes around in the Americas at its own peril. Spain was reminded of this rule quite forcefully in 1898, in a war that ended in its greatest defeat since 1588. The last time a foreign power tried to set up WMD’s in a Latin American country, President Kennedy blockaded the country, confronted the Soviet ships, and nearly provoked nuclear war in the Cuban Missile Crisis.
On April 21 the Latin American and Caribbean branch of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons will meet in Cartagena to discuss the ongoing implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention. At the top of the agenda should be Venezuela’s apparent contempt for its obligations under the Convention.p>Meanwhile the United States should demand some answers from Spain. Most importantly, is this information accurate, or has Europa Press just published the Spanish equivalent of the Rathergate memos? These
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