It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know why Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez would want a nuclear bomb. Although most observers would dismiss the notion of Chavez building such a weapon, a man who used to help build them for the United States didn’t think the idea was so crazy.
Last Friday, the FBI revealed the arrest and indictment of two U.S. citizens accused of plotting to help Venezuela obtain a nuclear bomb. Accused nuclear scientist Pedro Leonardo Mascheroni, who was convinced that he was talking to a representative of the Chavez regime (rather than an FBI undercover agent), offers the following rationale for such a dangerous program:
A deterrence against the U.S. based on conventional weapons is highly inadequate … Venezuela cannot develop deterrence against a U.S. invasion using conventional weapons … The only option for Venezuela is to develop nuclear deterrence … Venezuela would show the world that [it] is a mature nuclear power able to deter a superpower … What we do when we are in Venezuela … is our business, not that of the U.S. government.
Chavez could not have said it better himself.
The U.S. federal indictment continues:
Defendant MASCHERONI discussed how in his program Venezuela would build and test nuclear bombs in secret and would have two nuclear reactors—one open, above ground reactor used for producing nuclear energy and the other, a secret underground nuclear reactor used for producing and enriching plutonium. In his program, Venezuela would build an above-ground micro-fusion facility for developing energy, and an underground micro-fission facility where Venezuela would conduct undetectable tests of ‘micro bombs.’
Justice Department officials have stated that there is no evidence that the Venezuelan government obtained any of the sensitive technology offered by Mascheroni and his co-indicted spouse. However, those who are paying attention to the extraordinarily tight and secretive ties between Chavez and troublesome regimes in Iran, Cuba, Russia, and China might wonder if Mascheroni’s vision is being implemented by a band of rogues at work in the Western Hemisphere while Washington sleeps.
One can hope that the FBI is not the only U.S. agency with its guard up when it comes to Chavez and the bomb.