In what could signal a transformation of world politics, bloggers are credited with stopping Europe’s $630 million military aircraft sale to Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez.
Several online news services quickly picked up on the story and published a statement from an Institute of World Politics professor who has done cutting-edge work on blogging and international politics.
Foreign Policy journal’s editorial blog reports, “The campaign appears to have worked.”
The Earth Times ran a feature: “‘This is another example of the New Media’s impact on international politics,’ says J. Michael Waller, Annenberg Professor of International Communication at the Institute of World Politics in Washington.”
Waller believes that the Spanish government’s claim of insufficient profits from the Venezuela deal is false. Tthe European company cut off Venezuela after American bloggers questioned the company’s right to compete to build the Joint Cargo Aircraft (JCA) for the US Army and Air Force, and to supply the patrol planes for the Coast Guard’s Deepwater program.
It was a question of a $600 million deal with Chavez for little if any profit, or the prospects of a multibillion-dollar deal with the Pentagon. He said that the company believed it could have both, but that the bloggers blew the whistle.
The professor noted the coincidence between the start of an online letter-writing campaign to Congress about the European company, and the sudden cancellation of the Venezuela contract three days later.
The letter campaign focused on the company’s reported intentional violation of American nonproliferation regulations and the military embargo on Venezuela, its aircraft plants in Andalusia, Spain, that critics call a jobs program for President Jose Luis Zapatero’s Socialist Workers Party, its partial ownership by the Russian government, and other matters.
“Nobody in Washington wants to do business with Chavez,” Waller said. “Now there’s little sentiment for doing business with those who are modernizing his military. Lawmakers didn’t have to say a thing to the company. The fact that they were alerted was enough,” he said. “The guys who did the website that sent letters into Congress really made the difference.”
Waller is a longtime observer and practitioner in western hemisphere security issues, and writes his own blog, Venezuelastan, that has followed the European aircraft controversy.
Other blogs that focused on the EADS CASA-Chavez connection range from the analytical to the satirical. They include: Casacrash.com, TeamJCA.org, and the email-generating website SecureTheHomeland.org. They are not associated with the Institute of World Politics.