Venezuelan security policy as it applies to the protection and distribution of Venezuelan oil.
Venezuelan Oil Policy: A Security Perspective
Venezuela has traditionally exhibited more peace and inner tranquility than its South American neighbors. It is one of the few South American governments in which the military exerts no influence on public policy. It is also very prosperous as compared to its neighbors, with the bulk of its wealth coming from its rich oil resources. Venezuela has been a stable democratic regime since the late 1950s, which also makes it an anomaly among other South American countries. However, Venezuela's peace and security should not be construed to mean that it has no security concerns. Venezuela has important resources that it must protect, radicals that it must keep in check, and politically unstable neighbors that it must continually guard against. This paper examines Venezuelan national security policy and makes specific recommendations as to what policies Venezuela should follow based on its particular national security concerns.
II. The Most Pressing Policy Concerns Facing the Country
There are two main national security issues facing Venezuela at this time. These issues are:
The illicit drug trade and drug transportation through the country.
The political instability of neighboring Columbia.
Venezuela's location near major drug production centers and its vast jungles capable of hiding drug production operations make the illegal drug trade a major problem for Venezuela. Columbia, which is Venezuela's neighbor, is a major producer of cocaine, and cocaine producers in that country regularly transport their illegal products through Venezuela. This is because Venezuela has a long coastline bordering the Caribbean Sea, making it an ideal location from which to ship out the cocaine to international destinations. The fact that drug producers are using Venezuela as a shipping-off point for their products is of great concern. The presence of these drug producers in our country puts our citizens in danger. Drug producers and traffickers are not known for their peaceful qualities, and encounters with these people may result in harm to our citizens, especially if the traffickers believe our people are interfering in their activities. Some of our citizens may also be susceptible to being drawn into the drug trade from contact with the drug traffickers. Further, the presence of drug traffickers in our country has the potential to attract international attention to our nation, especially from large, powerful nations such as the United States. This attention could very well result in interference in our national sovereignty from these foreign entities. This makes it imperative that Venezuela find a way tto handle this growing problem on its own.
The political instability of Columbia is also of great concern to Venezuela at this time. Columbia, as is well-known, is not only a hotbed of drug production, it is also a political powder keg. The current state of civil war in Columbia threatens the security of our nation, especially around the border areas. Already, our citizens who live near the Columbian border have been the victims of violence and intimidation from Columbian rebels using the surrounding jungles as their hideouts. It has not been unheard of for some of our border citizens to be kidnapped by Columbian rebels, or even killed by them as they are caught up in the crossfire of this foreign conflict (Johnson). Especially common for abduction and violence are our wealthy ranchers who live along the border, as the Columbian rebels like to kidnap these people for ransom (Caesar). Further, there is the problem of illegal immigration from Columbia. Since Columbia is so violent and politically unstable, it is understandable that many Columbians would want to immigrate here to Venezuela. However, the spillover from Columbia has now reached the hundreds of thousands, most of them here illegally ("Venezuela and Columbia"). The presence of these illegal immigrants is straining our economy and our resources, and our citizens are growing resentful of the intrusion. There is no end to this situation in sight, as the situation in Columbia appears to be no closer to an end now than it was ten years ago. If we allow things to continue unchecked as they are, it is likely that hundreds of thousands of more illegal Columbian immigrants will cross our borders in the coming decade. While our economy is prosperous in comparison to our neighbors, it will not be able to stand up to the strain of unchecked immigration forever. We will eventually see a sharp downturn in our standard of living, and this will probably be sooner than later.
III. Policy Recommendations
We must act on these national security issues immediately before they begin to destroy the infrastructure of our beautiful country. While Venezuela is a model for other South American nations to follow right now, with our internal peace and economic prosperity, this will not continue to be the case if we do not begin to act on our two most pressing national security concerns right now. Already the drug traffickers who haul their illegal shipments through our nation are becoming bolder in their activities and more hostile to our citizens. There also appears to be a growing influence on some of our poorer citizens, as we are beginning to find large fields of marijuana being grown in the hillsides by poor farmers and others on the lower end of the economic spectrum, and we have no doubt the initial plants for these enterprises were supplied by the Columbian drug traffickers ("Threats"). If we do not want Venezuela to follow Columbia in this drug madness, we must act now.
The question of what to do about this situation is a delicate one, and one not easily answered. The drug traffickers have a large range of firepower at their disposal, the backing of wealthy drug lords and the Columbian rebel army, and the advantage of knowing the jungles intimately. They will not be easy to stop, and it may not be possible to stop them completely. However, with appropriate planning, it may be possible to curtail their illegal activities and violent actions against our citizens to less intrusive levels. If we act appropriately, we will be able to better monitor what is going on with the illegal drug traffickers in our country and limit their ability to harm or negatively influence our citizens. We could post more military around the border areas and along the coast, but this would likely result in many military casualties and may overwhelm our military resources. It could also have the undesired effect of drawing us into a war with the drug traffickers and their backers, a war we would be hard-pressed to win.
The best way to stop the activity of the drug traffickers in Venezuela is to take away their reason for trafficking. Therefore, it is my recommendation that marijuana possession, as well as the possession and use of other drugs that are currently illegal, be decriminalized in Venezuela. With a legal market for these products in our country, it is likely that many of those who wish to use our products will come here to obtain them. Not only will this increase tourism in our nation (which will improve our economy), it will also eliminate many potential customers for the Columbian drug traffickers. When people who want these products can get them legally here, the market for illegal drugs will begin to dry up. There will be less of a profit in growing and transporting such drugs across our country. This reduction in drug traffickers in our country will greatly reduce the risk of harm to our citizens. Further, our citizens who have taken to growing their own marijuana will find that they can now have a legitimate business by selling it to the state, and the state can bring in much new revenue by taxing the marijuana and other substances it will now sell. Of course, we must be prepared for much international criticism for this action, especially from the United States (Webb). However, both Canada and The Netherlands have taken similar steps to great success, and have weathered this criticism well. I believe that this is the best course of action to reduce the threat from illegal drug traffickers in our country. It may not totally eliminate their presence, but it should greatly reduce it.
The unstable political situation in Columbia is another matter. While there is likely little that Venezuela can do to improve the political conditions in that country, we can take proactive steps to reduce the border violence and illegal immigration that we are experiencing as a result of it. It is my recommendation that we create a "no man's land" zone of ten miles between our border and Columbia's border. The official policy will be that none of our citizens will be allowed to live in this area. Land that is privately owned in this area will be turned over to the state. The land will be cleared of jungle and other obstructing growth. Military posts will be set up…