U.S. intelligence officials have long been worried about the danger of Venezuelan military weapons falling into the hands of criminals or terrorists as the socialist country collapses.
Reuters added some high-octane nightmare fuel on Monday by reporting on military documents that confirm Venezuela has about 5,000 Russian-made shoulder-launched surface-to-air missiles in its inventory. That would be substantially more than the roughly 3,800 missiles described in fragmentary shipping records supplied by Russia to the United Nations.
“The missiles, which are shoulder-mounted and can be operated by one person, pose a serious threat to commercial and military aircraft. Weapons experts said there have long been fears that the weapons could be stolen, sold or somehow channeled to the wrong hands, concerns exacerbated by the current civil unrest in Venezuela and the economic crisis roiling the oil-producing nation,” Reuters writes.
Reuters obtained what it describes as a “Venezuelan military presentation” detailing the stockpile of SA-24 Man-Portable Air Defense Systems (MANPADS). The news service states that it was able to verify other figures appearing in this presentation by checking them against public records.
The missiles are said to have been purchased near the end of previous socialist dictator Hugo Chávez’s rule, a purchase justified on the grounds of a potential “imperialist” invasion by the United States. Venezuelan soldiers were filmed marching with what appear to be shoulder-mounted missile launchers in the last years of Chávez’s reign. According to a former Venezuelan general who spoke anonymously to Reuters, the MANPADS are still positioned primarily along the coast to repel a hypothetical U.S. invasion.
Reuters notes that Venezuela has a “thriving illicit weapons trade,” driven by rampant reports of soldiers and police officers stealing weapons and ammo. As if the Venezuelan government’s control of weaponry wasn’t already shaky enough, current dictator Nicolas Maduro has been recklessly promising to arm militia groups and civilian vigilantes to crack down on dissidents.
Monica Showalter at American Thinker warns:
It’s a bad situation, given that Chavistas are universally corrupt, their hellhole regime is out of money, and there are ready and willing buyers among the world’s gamiest actors, such as Mexico’s cartels, ISIS terrorists, migrant smuggling operations, and assorted wannabe rebel groups floating around the Central and South American regions. Any of those factors could drive a Chavista official to sell the missiles to one of these gamy players.
Showalter advises the Trump administration to lean on Russia to quietly buy the missiles back from Venezuela, coupled with a clear message to the Russians that they will be held responsible for any horrors perpetrated with those missiles.
In a similar vein, Paul Coyer at Forbes suggested, even before the size of Venezuela’s missile stash was made clear, that other Latin American nations should be enlisted to keep those weapons from spreading beyond Venezuela’s borders.
“Venezuela has already increasingly become a security concern within the region, but the security threat now has the very real potential to metastasize, a fact which should spur Venezuela’s neighbors to action,” Coyer wrote in April.