[Marxism] Chávez's radical push spurs military dissent?
fred.fuentes at gmail.com
Sun Nov 18 14:31:18 MST 2007
Chávez's radical push spurs military dissent
There are signs of increasing unrest throughout Venezuela as President
Hugo Chávez pushes his 'Bolivarian revolution' further left.
Posted on Sun, Nov. 18, 2007
BY CASTO OCANDO
El Nuevo Herald
Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez's attempt to push his ''Bolivarian
revolution'' further left has sparked growing unease in parts of the
armed forces, military officers and analysts say.
Observers said that there are signs that discipline is declining among
junior officers; that there is a profusion of pamphlets circulating in
military garrisons that criticize Chávez and allege that senior
officers loyal to him are corrupt; and that some officers are
resisting presidential orders.
Chávez is largely believed to control Venezuela's 120,000-strong
security forces as the country approaches a Dec. 2 vote on a
constitutional reform that would add to the president's already-vast
Since the 2002 military coup that briefly toppled him, Chávez has
sidelined scores of officers critical of his policies. Yet the dissent
within the military could spread if voters approve the reforms,
according to the analysts.
''We are looking at a flammable environment'' that could lead to
violence, said Orlando Ochoa Terán, a Venezuelan security and defense
analyst based in Pompano Beach who now works as a private consultant.
WAVE OF DISCONTENT
Chávez's proposal to change the name of the National Guard to that of
Territorial Guard, and reassign its members to other security forces,
triggered a wave of discontent in mid-August. Corporals in the
40,000-strong Guard complained that the change amounted to the Guard
being eliminated -- and Chávez was forced to backtrack.
The complaints heated up two weeks later after the Ministry of Defense
announced its intention to collect all shoulder weapons and mortars
held by the Guard -- leaving its members with pistols only.
''The [proposal] . . . generated a tremendous malaise in the force,''
said an active-duty army colonel, who, fearing reprisals, asked for
anonymity. ``A campaign of e-mails immediately began, including some
from army officers, in defense of the Guard.''
The Guard's supreme commander, Gen. Fredys Alonzo Carrión warned that
some of his men were trying to create confusion. ``Immediately we
proceeded to visit all the units, all the commands.''
Carrión then ''had the novel experience of hearing the corporals
criticize him openly'' when he visited the Guard headquarters in
Caracas at the end of August, the colonel said.
Two other Venezuelans confirmed to El Nuevo Herald that they had heard
of the incident from Guard officers who were present. The colonel said
he had firsthand knowledge of the incident. 'They warned him that not
only would they defend the institution from a potential constitutional
elimination, but they would also fight to the death `if they come to
take our [heavy] guns,' '' the colonel added.
Carrión summoned a meeting of the Guard's staff, then decided to take
the matter to the minister of defense, Gen. Gustavo Rangel Briceño.
The minister interceded with Chávez, who on Aug. 25 announced he was
withdrawing his proposal to restructure the National Guard.
In another show of discontent, the commander of an important military
garrison disobeyed Chávez and refused to train a large group of
reservists and house them in the same barracks as his troops, the same
''They were kids from the Bolivarian Circles [a government-sponsored
civilian militia] but the commander did not trust them and ended up
housing them in a shed so they would have no contact with the
soldiers,'' the colonel said.
Chávez has been trying to strengthen the civilian reserve in what some
critics have complained is an effort to establish a loyal armed body.
Romero, currently a visiting fellow at the University of Miami's
Center for Hemispheric Policy said signs of declining discipline among
military officers are evident in barracks bathrooms, which are
littered with pamphlets and graffiti critical of Chávez and his
Among the targets of the pamphlets: Cuban meddling in Venezuela's
affairs; Chávez's threatening rhetoric against groups that oppose his
''21st century socialism''; massive corruption among senior officers
loyal to Chávez; and the ''unnecessary'' constitutional reforms.
At Fort Tiuna in Caracas, the largest garrison in the country, ''the
distribution of such critical pamphlets is widespread,'' Romero said.
Romero said that security forces are particularly irked by the
proposals to lift the limits on consecutive presidential terms, to
weaken the right to own property and and to consider creating a
Venezuela-Cuba federation. Chávez has proposed has proposed these,
amont the 69 changes to the constitution he is putting forward.
''Those are three extremely sensitive issues for the Venezuelan
military because Venezuelan officers are not communists,'' said Ochoa
Terán, the analyst.
But the harshest complaint from the military came earlier this month
when retired Gen. Isaías Baduel, former minister of defense, branded
Chávez's proposed constitutional reforms as ``in practice a coup
d'etat shamelessly violating the letter of the constitution .''
The attack by Baduel -- a longtime Chávez supporter who played a
leading role in helping him return to power after the short-lived 2002
coup -- shook even Chávez's ideological advisor, Heinz Dieterich, a
leftist and professor at the National Autonomous University of Mexico.
In an article titled ''Prevent the Collapse of the People's Project,''
Dieterich said that Baduel's statements ``opened a phase of
uncertainty that could have grave consequences.''
'With the danger of a defeat -- absolute or relative -- of the `Yes'
vote [on Dec. 2], a new, likely chaotic phase opens in Venezuela,
which in a few years could do away with Hugo Chávez's government,''
Former National Guard Gen. Luis Alberto Camacho Kairús, who was vice
minister for civilian security in 2002 and now lives in Miami, said
that Chávez can no longer count on the security forces to secure his
''The Venezuelan soldier is not willing to die for any politician,
whether it's Chávez or anyone else,'' Camacho said. ``He is willing to
defend his country, the Venezuelan state, but not a government.''
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