Thursday, January 10, 2019

Quoted in: Matisak's Blog (A Stamp on the World): Venezuela: What’s next for Nicolas Maduro?

"Venezuela: What's Next for President Maduro?"
 By Andrej Matisak
Matisak's Blog (A Stamp on the World)
10 January 2019
Originally published:

What do you expect from another presidential term of President Nicolas Maduro? We could probably see a further isolation of Venezuela under Maduro as we just witnessed with the Lima Declaration, so how safe is Maduro’s position? Read few comments.

W. Alejandro SanchezInternational Security Analyst

President Maduro has no intention of leaving power. The same can be said of his allies in the Venezuelan government and armed forces. Any analysis about Venezuela’s future must start with those two undeniable facts.
Beginning on 10 January, President Maduro will be considered an illegitimate president by most of the international community. For example, the government of Peru has stated that it will not allow President Maduro, family members and members of his cabinet, to enter Peruvian territory beginning on that date. It would not surprise me if other regional states follow this model. There is also the probability that Latin American nations will recall their ambassadors or remove other diplomatic personnel.

But here is the problem, these are governments which are already critical of the Venezuelan government, so we are not talking about “additional” isolation other than what we are already witnessing. Venezuela’s regional allies are Bolivia, Cuba and Nicaragua, along with a few Caribbean states (mostly because they still benefit from Venezuela oil, but even this will not last), along with extra-regional states like China, Iran, Russia and Turkey. If any of these countries withdrew their support (diplomatically or, even more important, when it comes to trade and economic aid), this would truly isolate Venezuela.

As for how “Safe” is President Maduro, the recent defection of Venezuela Supreme Court judge Christian Zerpa in addition to ongoing arrests of members of the armed forces highlight the constant discontent against Maduro and his close allies.

Alas, even if President Maduro were to resign tomorrow, the problem is not just him but the leadership of the armed forces, the controversial Constituent Assembly, cabinet of ministers, among others. What will they do if President Maduro leaves? It is ridiculous to believe that they will all resign and go home (or seek asylum someplace), and allow for a peaceful and democratic transfer of power. So the issue is not just how “safe” is President Maduro himself but the regime as a whole. And so far, in spite everything that has happened in the past few years, they remain firmly in control of the country.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

FAT: In 2019, Latin American Defense Industries Will Strive to Continue Replacing Out-of-Region Imports

"In 2019, Latin American Defense Industries Will Strive to Continue Replacing Out-of-Region Imports"
Wilder Alejandro Sanchez

Looking Ahead Series

Forum on the Arms Trade

9 January, 2019

Originally published:

This is the seventh blog post in a series looking at an array of issues in 2019 related to weapons use, the arms trade and security assistance, at times offering recommendations.

Two important developments occurred in Latin America in the final months of 2018: in late November, Mexico commissioned its new long-range patrol vessel (Patrulla Oceánica de Largo Alcance: POLA) ARM Reformador (POLA-101); while in mid-December, Brazil launched its new submarine, the diesel-electric Riachuelo (S-40). What makes these two ceremonies even more significant is that both platforms were overwhelmingly manufactured domestically.

Out of all Latin American nations, SIPRI’s “Trends in International Arms Transfers, 2017” fact sheet (released in March 2018) only lists Brazil as a major exporter of military equipment; coming in as the world’s 24th largest. While it is not expected that other Latin American countries will be added to that list soon, the region’s defense industries have demonstrated their ambition to learn and apply what they have learned; and they are doing so very quickly for both domestic production and international trade—trends that should continue in coming years. 

Recent National Developments

Latin American shipyards have been particularly busy in the past year. For example, Brazil launched its new submarine, named Riachuelo, and it is constructing three additional Scorpène-class diesel-electronic platforms with French assistance. The PROSUB (Programa de Desenvolvimiento de Submarinos) program is a partnership between Brazil’s Itaguaí Construções Navais and Naval Group (former DCNS), following an agreement between Brasilia and Paris. The infamous nuclear-powered submarine, which Brasilia has attempted to manufacture since the 1970s, remains unclear as construction continues to be delayed.

Meanwhile, Mexico’s state run-shipyard ASTIMAR and Damen Shipyards constructed Reformador, with most of the assembly taking place in ASTIMAR’s facilities. The Reformador is the first of an order of eight POLAs, according to the ASTIMAR-Damen contract, but the future of the program will ultimately be decided by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who recently came to power. It is also worth noting that along with Reformador, the offshore patrol vessel ARM Jalisco (PO-167), was also commissioned. The latter is the seventh Oaxaca-class vessel constructed by ASTIMAR, demonstrating that the shipyard can construct a variety of platforms.

As for other nations, Peru commissioned its new landing platform dock, BAP Pisco (AMP-156), in June 2018, and construction is already underway for its sister ship, BAP Paita. The manufacturer of both vessels is the Peruvian state-run shipyard Servicios Industriales de la Marina (SIMA), which is also constructing a variety of riverine vessels for the Peruvian army. Meanwhile, earlier last year the Chilean shipyard ASMAR commenced the construction of a new ice-breaker for the Chilean Navy.

Not only shipyards had a busy 2018. In Argentina, the aircraft manufacturer FAdeA (Fábrica de Aviones Argentinos) has completed the construction and test flights of three IA-63 Pampa III advanced jet trainer aircraft destined for the Argentine Air Force. This is a major development as the Pampa program had stalled for several years. Meanwhile, Brazil’s planemaker Embraer may be purchased by Boeing, which would constitute a major merger; while another Brazilian company, Helibras, a subsidiary of Airbus, continues to deliver H225M helicopters to the Brazilian armed forces.

Trade Within and to Other Regions

Latin American defense industries are not solely constructing platforms for domestic use, they are exporting them as well. Colombia’s COTECMAR signed an agreement with the government of Honduras in late October for the construction of two naval interceptors. This agreement builds upon relations between Bogota and Tegucigalpa as COTECMAR has already delivered a multipurpose support vessel, named Gracias a Dios, to the Honduran navy. Meanwhile, Embraer continues to sell its Tucano aircraft to a variety of clients. Similarly, the Peruvian state-run company SEMAN is actively looking for potential clients for its KT-1P trainer aircraft, which were manufactured in partnership with South Korea’s KAI.

Without a doubt, Latin American governments will continue importing military equipment from extra-regional suppliers as they can provide highly sophisticated hardware. Nevertheless, the point here is that Latin American governments and armed forces want to also produce their own equipment, hence future weapons sales will continue to include “Know How” clauses, so that Latin American defense industries can learn how to manufacture more complex equipment themselves. The close relationship between Mexico and Damen is an example of this type of partnerships as the POLA is based on Damen’s Sigma Frigate 10514 model.

As a final point, the fact that Colombia’s COTECMAR has secured an additional contract to sell interceptor craft to Honduras highlights one important aspect of the ever-evolving arms trade. While extra-regional suppliers certainly offer more sophisticated equipment, countries with limited defense budgets may choose to acquire cheaper but reliable equipment from suppliers that are geographically closer, or with which they enjoy close diplomatic relations.

Analysts that monitor the global arms trade should pay special attention to South-to-South weapons contracts, particularly as certain Latin American defense industries learn how to manufacture more advanced equipment.

Wilder Alejandro Sanchez is an analyst who focuses on geopolitical, military and cyber security issues in the Western Hemisphere. Follow him on Twitter: @W_Alex_Sanchez.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and do not necessarily reflect those of any institutions with which the author is associated.