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Monday, July 07, 2008

Is the Venezuelan army sending Hugo a message?

Two apparently independent items:

The first one, from the Guardian (definitely not one organ of the vast right wing conspirators), Venezuela: Army unrest grows over Chávez reforms (emphasis added)
Venezuelan military officers have expressed growing alarm at attempts by President Hugo Chávez to turn the armed forces into a political instrument of his socialist revolution.

One general has been detained and hundreds of other officers reportedly sidelined for protesting against the ideological drive. Chavez has ordered the armed forces to adopt the Cuba-style salute "Fatherland, socialism or death" to put the institution at the heart of his effort to transform Venezuela.

Pastors from the recently formed pro-Chávez Reformed Catholic church have been installed as army chaplains to weaken the influence of the traditional Catholic church, which is hostile to the president. "That's causing a lot of resentment, a lot of upset," said a source close to the military.

Last week military intelligence agents detained an outspoken critic, General Angel Vivas Perdomo, and questioned him for nine hours. Vivas had asked the supreme court to ban the new official salute. As a replacement he suggested "Death to tyranny. Long live freedom!" - a slogan from the 19th-century independence hero Francisco de Miranda.

The general was ordered to report to the military prosecutor's office twice a month and to stay in Caracas but was not charged with any crime.

Before his detention he told the Associated Press that the new motto deprived "the right of every Venezuelan citizen to think differently and to disagree with socialism".

According to Citizen Control for Security, a watchdog group, about 800 disgruntled officers have been left without formal duties. Many sit at home awaiting early retirement, it said.
I copied and pasted the article in its entirety. As regular readers of this blog know, I seldom cut and paste a whole article, but every word in that article needed to be read. Let's bear in mind that retired military officers do make a difference in Venezuelan politics.

And now for a flashback:
Last March Hugo was threatening war with Colombia in reaction to the Colombian raid in Ecuador that killed the FARC's #2 guy, Raul Reyes. Considering Colombia's superior military might it came as no surprise that the Venezuelan army wasn't exactly chomping at the bit to go to war.

It so happened that the Venezuelan army's advance to the Colombian border got held up by a taxi drivers' strike, an incident which the Guardian refers to as "unrelated"
An unrelated taxi strike on a motorway reportedly bogged down Venezuelan military convoys
but evoking "comic opera".

Fast-forward to last week's Mercosur summit,
where Chavez was saying that the U.S. Navy's decision to re-establish its Fourth Fleet is "a threat" to Latin America. Right before Mercosur Chavez even had the military do exercises, named Operation Socialist Fatherland,
a military exercise designed to show the strength of Venezuela's combined forces.
Chavez returned from Mercosur, and soon after came the Colombians' rescue of the FARC's four most valuable hostages. Chavez claims he heard the news from a construction worker at one of the socialist cities.

The second independent item:
Along came the July 5th celebration of Venezuela's Independence Day, where the military parade is also a "show of strength", or so you would expect. Except that it was not; it was, again, something of a "comic opera":
There was the overturned truck: the truck overturned while driving at a vertiginous parade speed of maybe 5 miles per hour.

Then things really got smokin':

And some thing fell off the tank:

The thing had to be dragged off the street.

To add to the hilarity of the celebration, this guy's probably glad he wore a cup to the parade:

Hardly the stuff one expects to fight the Fourth Fleet with. Definitely the stuff one expects in a "comic opera".

Crotch-gazing aside, is the Venezuelan military sending Hugo a message?

I post, you decide.


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At 10:10 PM, Blogger Anthony (Los Angeles) said...

Combine this with the rumors that the military told Chavez that he had to obey the results of the recent election, and it's clear he's got trouble brewing. Whether it will turn into anything is another question altogether. And duty-less, disgruntled officers are never a good thing to have laying around.

It's no wonder that the mini-Castro is creating a parallel militia to dominate and absorb the Army: he both needs to subvert that institution and, until he does, he also needs his own force in case it revolts. Allende was following the same path in Chile; it's a common ploy among totalitarians.

I don't care how many shiny new toys Hugo buys from Russia or China or Iran: if he's dumb enough to force a confrontation with Colombia or the US, then his military, which hasn't done anything other than overthrow governments since the 1820s, will either fall to pieces or overthrow him to save itself.


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