It sure seems like the Maduro regime is beginning to breathe its last in Caracas. This latest bit, in which Venezuela’s military appears to be breaking up, sounds a good bit like a death rattle…
Military officers are joining the exodus of Venezuelans to Colombia and Brazil, fleeing barracks and forcing President Nicolas Maduro’s government to call upon retirees and militia to fill the void.
High desertion rates at bases in Caracas and the countryside are complicating security plans for the presidential election in 13 days, which by law require military custody of electoral materials and machinery at voting centers.
“The number is unknown because it used to be published in the Official Gazette. Now, it is not,” said Rocio San Miguel, director of Control Ciudadano, a military watchdog group in Caracas. She said soldiers are fleeing for the same reason citizens are: “Wages are low, the quality of food and clothing isn’t good.”
Last week, officers who rank as high as general were called in and quartered for several days at their units. Retired officials and militia members were also contacted by their superiors, according to one retired officer who asked not to be named for fear of angering the regime. Government officials are training these fill-in personnel for the election, said a second retired officer.
The shortage of troops comes as hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans flee a societal collapse, crowding cities and makeshift camps throughout the region in the largest mass emigration in modern Latin American history. Hyperinflation has made the currency virtually worthless, and malnutrition is endemic. Almost 2 million Venezuelans are living outside the country.
Funny how socialism always brings on outmigration, isn’t it? It’s almost like there’s a lesson to be found in that.
A bit more…
High-ranking members of the military are barred from much contact with the lower ranks . Lines of young military men asking for retirement are long, said the first retired officer. The officer tried to chat with one, but officers running the barracks forbade them from talking to each other. The retiree said top officers fear too much conversation will permit officers and enlisted solders to form alliances for a coup.
“Those who ask to retire are put into arrest for a week at the military counterintelligence headquarters,” said Gonzalo Himiob, director of Foro Penal, a human-rights group. “That’s how worried the government is.”
That’s not the kind of thing a regime can generally withstand before sooner or later the coup they’re so worried about comes to pass.
Or rather, it’s not the military coup that brings down the regime but a full-on revolution that the army no longer has the will to put down.
It isn’t altogether unlikely that if the Maduro regime fixes the election in two weeks all hell breaks loose. The army, and the colectivos, the motorcycle-riding armed thugs who patrol neighborhoods in Venezuela’s cities to intimidate the people, are the only reasons that country hasn’t had a more dynamic rebellion so far.
But now the army is coming apart. And though the regime has been giving rifles to militia members in order to keep a power imbalance between itself and the people, it’s not unlikely a lot of those militiamen will note the direction of the wind and turn on the regime.
For some time, as Venezuela descended into economic disaster, the only way to insure things like electricity and three square meals was to cozy up to the regime. But it’s gotten so bad there that the government can’t effectively take care of its insiders anymore. Thus the military desertions – those people know what’s coming and they don’t want to be put in a position to have to slaughter their own countrymen defending a regime they don’t believe in.
And the election on May 20 could be a flashpoint. Both the European Union and, just yesterday, the U.S. government in the form of Vice President Mike Pence in a speech to the Organization of American States, have called for a postponement of the election in the quite reasonable assumption that it’s a sham. In 2015 when the opposition trounced Maduro’s Venezuelan United Socialist Party (PSUV) in elections for the National Assembly, the dictator simply stripped the parliamentary body of all its power and created his own hand-picked legislative council to supersede it. Many thought that would be the last straw, but the regime maintained control anyway.
But with American and European sanctions against the regime an increasing prospect and the military now breaking apart, the end is coming. Most of the opposition has announced a boycott of the elections, but one opposition candidate – a former Chavista military officer and state governor named Henri Falcon – is running. Should Falcon get close enough to Maduro that there is fresh evidence the election is fixed, violence is not unlikely.
Not that Venezuela needs another fixed election to bring on the change that is coming. It’s coming nonetheless – the only question is how much blood in the streets it will take before the people there finally overthrow their communist overlords.