By Luis Manuel Aguana
I begin by quoting Luis Almagro, Secretary General of the OAS and main architect of our current solid international position against the dictatorship: “Maduro’s departure is the main humanitarian aid we can give to Venezuela” (see Almagro’s message in Spanish in https://www.diariolasamericas.com/america-latina/almagro-la-salida-maduro-es-la-principal-ayuda-humanitaria-que-podemos-dar-venezuela-n4172048). Without undermining the opposition’s efforts to lead the regime into a political situation of demonstrating that they refuse to help the Venezuelan people by preventing at all costs the entry of food and medicine that our country so desperately needs, we all know that anything that can enter would not be enough to alleviate, at least to a reasonable degree, the hunger and diseases that these criminals have generated in 20 years of misgovernment and tyranny.
In other words Almagro put the things in the corresponding place: It is not humanitarian aid. Maduro has to leave so that Venezuela can continue. But what is missing for that to happen? Even the unthinkable has already happened, like that historic speech by the President of the United States, Donald Trump in Miami, backing Juan Guaidó as President in Charge of Venezuela, recognizing the struggle of this indomitable people and an ultimatum to the usurper and the military accompanying him. That had never happened before with a U.S. President with any other country. This should have been more than enough for Maduro to pick up his macundales and flee the country. But that did not happen.
And that brings me back to the Venezuelan military. There is no way that there will be a new government in Venezuela without resolving the military issue. And the military still insists on supporting the regime. Why? In fact this is a regime where the entire public sector is controlled by the military where civilian expression is minimal. The only thing the tyranny lacks is for Maduro to be military. If there is an armed intervention by an outside force to bring order to this madness that is happening in Venezuela, the final control of the country’s security must then be handed over to a Venezuelan Armed Force. And if this does not exist as we knew it, then it will have to be done again.
And we have to address that military issue whether we want it or not from a civilian perspective. Hugo Chávez dedicated himself to destroying the military institution after April 11, 2002, in order to prevent the same thing from happening to him that day when he was deposed from the Military High Command. Personally, I don’t think the military has gone mad to permanently support this Castro puppet, as Trump called the usurper Maduro, accepting right away that all those above that institution are corrupt and that’s why they “don’t give up” Maduro, ending the nightmare once and for all. There has to be something else.
The threats hanging over the officials who still maintain the regime are in some cases giving results and the offers of future amnesty made by the President in charge have produced important defections but have not been decisive for the fall of the regime. What happens there? What needs to be done additionally so that the effect accelerates?
Little by little, there is a general perception, including the armed institution itself, that the regime is unfeasible. It is surrounded on all sides internationally and it is very possible that some of these high officials are negotiating their situation in the face of a new situation in the country. But even so, it has not just fallen.
Looking for reasons, I came across a recent note published in the Washington Post signed by General (R)(Ej) Antonio Rivero (see “Exiled general: Why the Venezuelan military hasn’t turned against Maduro” https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/theworldpost/wp/2019/02/07/venezuela-military/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.9267077887bc) where Rivero gives three reasons: 1) “…within the military high command, there is a deeply impregnated filial commitment to the late President Hugo Chávez and his ideology”; 2) “…the armed forces receive privileges at the highest levels, such as promotions, bonuses and bribes”; and 3) “…many of the military are involved in illicit activities such as drug trafficking”.
Reasons 2 and 3 are historical in Venezuela. The military has always received these benefits from all governments and there have always been criminals at these levels. So with the fact of going too far I don’t see why they would stop, pragmatically speaking. But the first thing is decisive. A commitment to chavismo? That is difficult. Any new government could not begin in a new military state of affairs with an Armed Force whose principal officers are inoculated precisely by the virus that killed their institution in practice. And that is fundamental.
I remember that in life the disappeared General of Division (Ej) Jacobo Yépez Daza (see in Spanish Jacobo Yépez Daza, Requiem by a civilist General, in http://ticsddhh.blogspot.com/2015/12/jacobo-yepez-daza-requiem-por-un.html) indicated to me that one of the greatest errors committed with the Armed Force was having reinstated in the institution those responsible for the coup of 4F-1992, for the sake of a supposed institutional reunification, and what was achieved was quite the opposite when the internal scales of merit and seniority were broken, breaking with “the three fundamental pillars on which the organization, administration, operation and command unit of the Armed Force rest, such as DISCIPLINE, OBEDIENCE AND SUBORDINATION”, Yepez dixit
If this is the case, Juan Guaidó will never be able to change the minds of those officers so that they change sides, without taking into account all the ideological work that in these last 17 years, after 2002, those officers have received, with courses and permanent official missions to Cuba and other communist countries. So the pod is not a simple “pass to democracy” that the National Assembly and the Law of the Statute for the Transition to the military are doing. The thing is more complex. If we stay with that superficial analysis, we could have Maduro for a while unless the communism in those soldiers who command the Armed Force by force is defeated. And I think Trump has it very clear and he’s moving in that direction. Which takes me to the next level of action.
If what we have then is a highly ideologized Armed Force that does not listen to the reasons of hunger, death and misery of its people, then it is time to think about rebuilding that institution with whatever is salvageable from it. And that can only be done by former officers who are available and who have demonstrated institutional knowledge and devotion for the recovery of the armed institution.
So the first thing that politicians should be thinking, starting with President Juan Guaidó, who are managing this transition ship, is to start at the top – as the military effectively thinks – by designating a Military High Command immediately – including the Minister of Defense – that will be in charge of that institutional restructuring and that the recoverable officers can look at and respect in a clearly established direct line of command with “discipline, obedience and subordination”, so that they see and touch a new situation of the Armed Force and the country. These officers would abandon the communist structures of the regime, weakening them to fertilize a new organization that must begin to be built before the departure of Maduro de Miraflores. That is if it could effectively accelerate the end of usurpation. Start now because tomorrow is too late…
Caracas, February 22, 2019