The Circum-Caribbean (or Bolivarian-Grenadine) War


In “The Circum-Caribbean (or Bolivarian-Grenadine) War,” published in Small Wars Journal, Geoffrey Demarest (a researcher in the US Army’s Foreign Military Studies Office) writes about the governments of Cuba and Venezuela, referring to their supporting institutions, allies, symbols, programs, and etcetera as Bolivarian. His article refers to those in direct opposition to the Bolivarian structure and enterprise as Grenadine (taken from a colonial period name for the region of northern South America, Nueva Granada). Here are just a few excerpts; please see the full article in the link below:

Classification of the decades-long war in Colombia as an insurgency or rebellion may have helped finesse the false notion that it has been a wholly internal matter. Diplomatic conveniences notwithstanding, a look at the operational, financial, or logistic aspects of the warfare in Colombia (that is to say, at things just beyond the firefights, bombings, and kidnappings) confronts us with the reality of selectively interwoven borders, intercontinental supply lines, interventionist neighbors, and a world community that has as often as not enabled the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) or the National Liberation Army (ELN) and disadvantaged the Colombian government. Descriptions of the international nature of Colombia’s war have remained muffled, but that is about to change.

Late last year, an anti-government resistance movement in Venezuela began expressing itself with noticeably increased physical vigor, with hundreds of thousands of protesters taking to the streets. For some time, US security analysts had typically commented on what they saw as the challenge of Venezuela’s exporting revolution to its neighbors. [. . .] Beyond the simple problem of unified opposition leadership is the question of whether the Bolivarians could or would deliver what the opponents seek. The simple answer to that question is no. [. . .]

The Venezuelan Bolivarian Government.  The Venezuelan government presided by Nicolás Maduro and the Cuban regime fit comfortably into the same Bolivarian basket for purposes of most analysis, supposing that in terms of decision-making they are in lock step.  This assumption might be a significant analytical error in view of the choices potentially facing many Venezuelan government officials in comparison to Cuban officials of similar rank.  The less committed Bolivarians may face the relatively attractive option (especially if they cannot emigrate) to express contrition, collaborate, and make amends with the opposition if the latter appears on the verge of successfully ousting the Bolivarians from power. Venezuelan Bolivarians might successfully change flags, tell where the money is buried and survive peaceably within Venezuela. Venezuela does not feature the kind of profound barriers to reconciliation seen in some parts of the world, especially those plagued by religious intransigencies. Whatever government comes to displace the Bolivarian regime, there will exist for most Venezuelans an interest in compromise and reconciliation. The most senior or invested Venezuelan Bolivarians, however, will be under extreme pressure from the Cubans to hold firm in support of the Revolution.  They concomitantly will be the least likely to come to agreeable terms with the Grenadines.

[. . .] The irregular war now underway in the circum-Caribbean, replete with unique and challenging phenomena, resolute and dithering actors, and commercially valuable prizes, is likely to arrive at a new political stasis within about 4 years give or take two. [. . .] The winners within Venezuela will gain control of oil production, export and contracting capacity, will be recognized for representation to international forums and bodies, will take over the keys to Venezuelan banking and taxing authority, and will arrange the fealty of the national armed forces. With or without heating-up (meaning, say, cross-border movements of troop formations of larger than platoon size), the Grenadines will win and the Bolivarians will lose.

[. . .]  If the current president of Colombia reinforces his intention to seal a negotiated settlement with the FARC, the war in Venezuela could drag on beyond what it would otherwise.  The fastest resolution to the internal war in Venezuela and to the Circum-Caribbean War overall (and that would probably entail the least material and human cost) would occur if the peace agreements collapse and the Colombians opt for a robust military confrontation against the FARC, rather than for a negotiated settlement. This would strongly signal a willingness to support the anti-Bolivarian movement within Venezuela and could presage a potential multinational, pro-Grenadine armed presence in Venezuela which would almost necessarily feature harsh treatment of organized Cuban presence there.

[. . .] Millions of mostly poor Venezuelans, however, will preserve affection and allegiance to the precepts and projects of Bolivarian socialism. As such, political discord will continue in Venezuela after the formal Bolivarian structure is collapsed. How soon the discord recedes will depend on the creativity of the Grenadine winners. [. . .]  The actions and consequences of the Venezuelan struggle extend to all of the countries of Central America, the Caribbean, and the northern Andes.  They will especially affect the chances for final resolution of the long-suffered Colombian war.

For full article, see

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