For context:

  • In 2007, Chavez and President Hu Jintao of China signed a deal for operating credit. The deal was loans for oil .
  • In 2014, the China Development Bank provided Venezuela another $30 billion in more oil back loans including mining, refining, pipelines and power stations. Maduro failed on parts of the deal and China is working diligently to protect the loans, investments and the deals.
  • Russia in 2015, stepped in a provided $6.5 billion in new funds through Rosneft while in previous years, Venezuela bought $4 billion in Russian arms and military equipment. Now both China and Russia are facing defaults by Venezuela.
  • Russia flew in 2 bombers containing more military equipment last month and an estimate 100-200 Russian troops. Russia has explained the troops were there for maintenance. However, as a cover, Russia immediately opened a helicopter training center via Rostec. The helicopters included are Mi-35M gunships and troop transports.  At least 2 factories are under construction in Venezuela building Kalashnikov rifles and ammunition. Furthermore, Russia provides military tactic advice and training to Venezuela.
  • Russia has supplied Venezuela with fighter jets, tanks and an air defense system(s).
  • The worst part of the relationship between Russia and Venezuela consists of at least 5000 MANPADS. The stockpile in Venezuela is the largest in Latin America are of a shoulder fired variation. Known to be SA-24 or Igla-S, having a range of 500-6,000m and an altitude up to 3,500m. More details here.

Venezuela is home to a vibrant illegal weapons trade and smuggling operation(s). Weapons include long guns, machine guns, grenades and other military grade items.

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While U.S. operatives are working to locate and understand all military equipment in Venezuela, theft of the MANPADS is most concerning including investigations into trade on the Black market.

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Venezuela maintains an inventory of MSTA self-propelled howitzers, TOR0M1 mobile SAMS and T-72 tanks.

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It is thought that stockpile is located near the coast in fears of a U.S. attack which Russia is accusing the U.S. of planning. With those stockpiles are 1,500 launchers and grip stocks fundamental to MANPAD operations. These MANPADS were purchased by Chavez in 2010 as part of a $4 billion weapons purchase with Russia. In 2009, Sweden had confirmed that at least 3 MANPADS were found in a FARC guerrilla camp in Columbia. Sweden had actually sold them to Venezuela in the late 1980’s.

Both Obama and John Kerry negotiated a deal with Columbia to disband FARC. The deal happened in early 2016 in Cuba. FARC is a Marxist guerrilla group and was on the U.S. State Department terror list for years. The talks took place in Cuba, yet FARC remains a major concern as to where members are today, likely joined up with other militant organizations in the region.

All of the items above play into the equation of decisions made by the United States, The LIMA Group and the Organization of American States. Not to be left out is the China trade negotiations and matters with Russia.

Denise Simon