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Report

Venezuela and its impact on regional stability

1 November 2009

One of the least recognized neighbours of the Kingdom of the Netherlands is the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. At little over 40 kilometres off the coast of Venezuela, Aruba and the Dutch Antillean islands of Curacao and Bonaire lie a short boat-ride from the Venezuelan mainland. Its leader source of concern among Western commentators for some time. Citing a combination of military build-ups, tensions with neighboring Colombia over relations with the FARC, anti-Western rhetoric and authoritarian leadership, Chávez has been considered a threat to regional stability. As Javier Corrales writes: 

“Might Venezuela provoke a war against neighboring Colombia, spread weapons among insurgents abroad, disrupt oil sales to the United States, provide financial support to Hezbollah, Al Qaeda or other fundamentalist movement, offer safe of the Kingdom of the Netherlands is the Hugo Chávez has been a havens for drug dealers, invite Russia to open a military base on its territory, or even acquire nuclear weapons?”

Not only Venezuelan foreign policy, domestic developments have likewise led to
raised eyebrows abroad. It includes constitutional amendments to solidify
Chávez’ hold on power, militarization of domestic politics and lashing out against
the freedom of the press.

Simultaneously, developments in the broader Latin American region are creating
an intensification of the security dynamic. Political change and economic revival
associated with mineral, oil and gas resources have led Latin American leaders to
claim the international limelight.

In 2010 the islands of Bonaire, Saba and St. Eustatius will become extraordinary
administrative units of the Netherlands while St. Maarten and Curacao, like Aruba
before them, become independent countries within the Kingdom. The Hague
however, remains responsible for the security and defence of the islands. Within
the domestic, regional and international context, this strategy brief addresses the
question:

Are the policies of Hugo Chávez a source of regional instability and do they pose a challenge to Dutch interests?