The International Assessment and Strategy Center has just published a paper I wrote on the rapidly-deteriorating situation in Bolivia: Into the Abyss: Bolivia Under Morales and the MAS.
The study outlines several of the more dangerous elements of the Morales government and his ties to Venezuela and Iran. Among them are:
o The systematic de-institutionalization of the nation’s fragile democratic structures, including the judiciary and independent auditing agencies;
o A complete restructuring of the military patterned after the Venezuelan model of integrating the armed forces into a host of civic and traditionally civilian roles;
o A radical restructuring of the military doctrine, endorsing the asymmetrical warfare tactics embraced and employed by radical Islamist groups and formally adopted by Hugo Chávez and the Venezuelan military;
o A complete restructuring of the nation’s intelligence apparatus, advised by Cuban and Venezuelan experts on internal security;
o Growing ties to the FARC and other armed groups in Latin America;
o Permanent confrontation, insults and attacks-verbal and physical-on members of the press, leading to numerous international expressions of concern.
Of greatest concern is the little-discussed endorsement of Chavez of the a doctrine of asymmetrical warfare against the United States based on the principles pioneered by radical Islamist groups.
Since 2005 Chávez has rewritten Venezuela’s security doctrine to scrub it of all outside, “imperialist” influences. To replace the old doctrine, Chávez and the Venezuelan military leadership have focused on developing a doctrine centered on asymmetrical warfare, in the belief that the primary threat to Venezuelan security is a U.S. invasion. One of the main books he has adopted is Peripheral Warfare and Revolutionary Islam: Origins, Rules and Ethics of Asymmetrical Warfare (Guerra Periferica y el Islam Revolucionario: Orígenes, Reglas y Ética de la Guerra Asimétrica) by the Spanish politician and ideologue Jorge Verstrynge. Although he is not a Muslim, and the book was not written directly in relation to the Venezuelan experience, Verstrynge’s book lauds radical Islam (as well as past terrorists like Ilich Ramírez Sánchez, better known as Carlos the Jackal)104 for helping to expand the parameters of what irregular warfare should encompass—including the use of biological and nuclear weapons, along with the correlated civilian casualties among the enemy. Central to Verstrynge’s idealized view of terrorists is the belief that it involves fighters willing tosacrifice their lives in pursuit of their goals. Before writing extensively on how to make chemical weapons and listing helpful places to find information on the manufacture of rudimentary nuclear bombs that “someone with a high school education could make,” Verstrynge writes: "We already know it is incorrect to limit asymmetrical warfare to guerrilla warfare, but it is important. However, it is not a mistake to also use things that are classified as terrorism and use them in asymmetrical warfare. And we have super terrorism, divided into chemical terrorism, bioterrorism (which uses biological and bacteriological methods), and nuclear terrorism, which means “the type of terrorism uses the threat of nuclear attack to achieve its goals.”
Based on this book, Verstrynge was invited by Chávez to give keynote address to military leaders in a 2005 conference titled “First Military Forum on Fourth Generation Warfare and Asymmetric Conflict” held at the military academy. Following the conference Gen. Raúl Baduel, the army commander and Chávez confidant ordered a special pocket size edition of the book to be printed up and distributed throughout the officer corps with explicit orders that it be studied cover to cover. In a December 12, 2008 interview with Venezuelan state television Verstynge lauded Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda for creating a new type of warfare that is “deterritorialized, de-stateized and de-nationalized,” a war where suicide bombers act as “atomic bombs for the poor.” Given the level of training Venezuelan military institutions are giving their Bolivian counterparts and the level of on the ground Venezuelan leadership and advising in Bolivia, it is highly likely that this doctrine is being transmitted from one military to the other.