Hugo Chavez’ Balsa Wood Drone

There were two very fascinating pieces of news out of Venezuela today.

First, Venezuela has officially surpassed Saudi Arabia in terms of proven petroleum reserves.

Venezuela surpassed Saudi Arabia to become the world’s largest holder of proven oil reserves, a resource that President Hugo Chavez promises to tap if he gets re-elected in October.

The South American country’s deposits were at 296.5 billion barrels at the end of last year, data from BP Plc (BP/) show. Saudi Arabia held 265.4 billion barrels, BP said yesterday in its annual Statistical Review of World Energy.


Venezuela now holds 18 percent of the world’s reserves, according to BP data.


Saudi Arabia now trails Venezuela with a 16 percent share of world proven oil reserves, according to the report. Canada ranks third with 175.2 billion barrels, or 11 percent of total, unchanged from the revised number for 2010.

While Saudi oil remains a lot easier to extract and refine, the assholes holding us by the nuts in the Middle East are now officially second fiddle to the asshole we tried to overthrow a decade back. Lucky for us, the guy in charge of Canada right now is an asshole who likes to suck up to America.

This state of affairs may be one reason why Chavez just rolled out Venezuela’s very own drone. In terms of capabilities, Chavez’ drone is not much more sophisticated than the balsa-wood and duck tape contraption Saddam had which Bush used to help drum up the Iraq War.

The drone has a range of 100 kilometers (60 miles), can reach an altitude of 3,000 meters (nearly 10,000 feet) according to General Julio Morales, head of the state-run Cavim arms manufacturer, which developed the aircraft.

They can stay aloft for up to 90 minutes and can transmit real-time video and images, and is currently being upgraded in order to carry out night flights, he added.

The three-by-four-meter drone was part of a system “exclusively for defense,” aimed at surveillance and the monitoring of pipelines, dams and other rural infrastructure, Morales said.

But I am rather interested in Chavez’ partners on this balsa wood toy.

“Russia, China, Iran and other allied countries” had contributed to the project, he added.


Another official said the drone was made from components manufactured in Venezuela and assembled by military engineers trained in Iran.

Sure, we’ve known that Chavez is close to the Iranian regime. And we’ve known that Russia and China will help them both at times. But I’ve suggested that we’d be idiots if we thought China, especially, but also Russia weren’t trying to do to us in the Middle East what we did to Russia: provide our enemies a way to counteract the air superiority that gives us free reign.

Maybe Chavez is blustering as he so often does. But his balsa wood drone announcement seems to be more about signaling cooperation, however meager, on an area that is central to our expansive goals than necessarily making us fear his balsa wood toy itself.

16 replies
  1. MadDog says:

    Though Chavez has exhibited more than a bit of silly paranoia with things like the CIA caused his cancer, and all of his Venezuelan opposition are paid operatives of the CIA, there is no doubt that some of his fear about the US is entirely justified.

    And with the recently announced news that the US Southern Command will be getting Predators and Reapers, it sounds like our drone wars will be coming to theater near us soon.

  2. KWillow says:

    I think its “duct” tape, tho I do like Duck tape. Sounds like something Donale or his nephews would use.

    Meanwhile… wouldn’t it be nice if we Americans could wave bye-bye the the mid-East, including Israel? We could, of course, if we’d invest in non-oil fuels, but that won’t happen. So LET’S INVADE VENEZUELA111!!!

  3. MadDog says:

    @KWillow: LOL! Whether the use of “duck” tape was deliberate or accidental, there’s no doubt it’s apropos for something made of balsa wood and flies.

  4. Michael Murry says:

    Not to worry, America, those cheap IEDs — made for the cost of a pizza — can’t hold a candle to your fabulously expensive, high-tech military toys. As you retreat from Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, and [your next bloody boondoggle], keep repeating your soothing self-hypnotic mantra over and over and over.

    With their tails tucked proudly ‘tween their legs
    Advancing towards the exit march the dregs
    Of empire, whose retreat this question begs:
    “No promised omelet? Just the broken eggs?”

    Honest people just pay for what they want instead of trying to steal it through force and intimidation that cost more than the stuff itself.

  5. earlofhuntingdon says:

    I wonder if anyone inside the Beltway is having a coughing fit over how we have spent more than a decade seriously alienating the country with the world’s largest proven oil reserves, and which now has a near-stealth drone. Then again, introspection and a willingness to change course have never been part of the toolkit of any player inside the Beltway.

  6. joanneleon says:

    This drone frenzy is really getting scary. It’s like being competitive in fashion. All the tough guys have to have the latest thing. But what happens when they all start using them against each other, and us. What happens when they hack each others drones and go bomb their own enemy with somebody else’s drone?

    I’ve said “this world is crazy” a lot of times in the past. But when I say it now, I really mean “this world is crazy!”

  7. Duncan Hare says:

    @Michael Murry:

    Sung to Men of Harlich

    Some die of Constipation and some of Diarrhea
    And some of Masturbation and some of Gonorrhea
    But of all the world’s diseases there none that can compare,
    With the drip, drip, drip of Syphilitic Prick
    Of the British Grenadier.

  8. lefty665 says:


    Sometimes also known as “quack” tape, may be apropos for a “balsa wood drone”. I personally prefer a nose flute for a first class drone, never seen one made of balsa.

    Not sure I appreciate the guys sliding off topic on the MI vagina wars post. Have they ever segued to vagina when the topics were more “manly” like drones, adhesives and balsa “wood”?

    On an earnest (but OT) note, why do I have to allow googleapis and all it entails to get a posting preview? Ever thought about enabling HTTPS for Emptywheel like the ACLU allows? At least make the bastards work for the traffic.

  9. tjallen says:

    I’ve mentioned this before, but expect full escalation in the drone wars – there will be drone to drone missiles, drone escorts, drone fighters, fleets of drones, ground stations trying to disrupt the communications, and more. US drones rule the sky because there is no one else around, but what happens when there are adversaries in the drone-space?

    Also consider how low-tech a drone can be and still cause big damage – there is at present a drone protection gap. The public has no idea how dangerous these cheap drones could be in the wrong hands, and how little defense exists against drone attacks. They are hard to see, judge distance, and shoot down from the ground, especially at night. I suppose radar-guided missiles can do it, as radar is accurate enough to track birds and baseballs. But imagine our big fighter jets going mach 2 in a dogfight vs a 30 mph electric drone? Something reminds me of small mammals vs the big old dinosaurs, but maybe that’s the wrong analogy.

  10. earlofhuntingdon says:

    @Duncan Hare: It would be “redundant” if introspection were valuable only as an aid to course correction. A little thought would suggest it could be valuable elsewhere, such as in setting an original course.

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