Juan Guaidó has a challenge: to conquer the Army of Venezuela, without which it is impossible for a true transitional government to become flesh. It is not an easy task, because even today the Armed Forces are the essential pillar on which President Nicolás Maduro rests. They are the ones who have the weapons. They are the ones who repress or allow the manifestations of dissidence. They are the ones who legitimize an Executive with their loyalty.
The president of the Venezuelan National Assembly and self-proclaimed “president in charge” of the country is using laws and promises, but also appeals to the gut, to the heart, to mobilize the uniformed in their favor. Guarantees that nothing will happen to them if they change sides and encouragement to be “truly loyal to their oath with the fatherland”.
He prayed before sending his message to the Army
The most concrete step that has taken has been the approval in the Parliament of the opposition majority of a law that proposes to grant amnesty to those who decide to “abide by the Constitution” and ignore Maduro as president. If you come with me, there will be forgiveness of your actions. To reinforce this message, Guaidó went to mass and launched a parallel message to the military from the temple. “Today I give you an order: do not shoot the people of Venezuela, to those who, in a clear, constitutional way, have come out to defend your family, your people, your work, your livelihood. order: do not repress peaceful demonstrations, “said Guaidó, in his suit of” legitimate “president.
Today I give you an order: do not shoot the people of Venezuela, who have clearly, constitutionally come out to defend your family, your people, your work, your livelihood
The text of that amnesty law is being handed out by hundreds of opponents, patrol to patrol, barracks to barracks, with a mixed welcome, explains the EFE Agency. For example, the professionals who are stationed in the presidential residence of Maduro, La Casona, returned the broken papers, as a sign of disagreement, while in a checkpoint of the Bolivarian National Police (PNB) in the east of Caracas another received the circular and he kept it, willing to “listen”. The two scenes have been repeated in the last hours throughout the country: those who tear papers or burn them before the media and those who quietly accept them.
The dome of the Armed Forces is with Maduro. He made it clear, in the heat of the proclamation of Guaidó, the defense minister, Vladimir Padrino, who described in an appearance the proclamation of the opposition leader as a “coup d’état”. The Armed Forces “will never accept a president imposed in the shadow of obscure interests or self-proclaimed outside the law,” he said, reading a very measured statement.
The military establishment maintains a strong link with the Chavez government. Many ministers are military or former military; it is even the president of the state oil company PDVSA, practically the only source of money entry in the country. And the money is also behind this loyalty, as always happens: since the protests of 2016, when the problems of inflation and shortages began to become chronic, Maduro transferred control of the import, production and distribution of food to the Army. and medicines, so that the military dominates the entry ways of everything essential. “This closeness to money is for many the basis of the unwavering loyalty of the military leadership to the Executive in the midst of a strong economic crisis in the country,” the BBC describes.
In their hands, denounces the opposition, are not only the legal routes, but also the illegal ones. Sounded is the case of the current Interior Minister, Néstor Reverol, to whom the United States seeks, of course, drug trafficking. Maduro promoted him, after being police chief.
Before the amnesty announcement of Guaidó, Maduro changed his agenda on Sunday and visited a military base in Fort Paramacay, where the biggest military maneuvers in the history of the country are being prepared for February (from 10 to 15), a “set-up” , in the words of the president. It was an attempt to show muscle and unity, in the face of opposition pressure. Maduro tried to inoculate the soldiers the ardor of the Chavista message in a class that, by definition, should not have ideology. It was Hugo Chávez who re-founded the Army, he reminded them, and to that memory they owe obedience. “Do you want the armed forces to become a coup-maker? Are you a coup-maker?” He asked loudly. “No, president,” the attendees responded.
When Maduro narrowly wins elections (not recognized as valid by much of the international community for its democratic lacunae) and there are more or less numerous protests in the streets (2014, 2017, the new ones called by Guaidó … ), having the Army on your side is more decisive than ever to stay in the Miraflores Palace.
But what about the intermediate and base positions in the Armed Forces? Are they also with the ruling party? And, if they are not, do they have the strength to impose themselves on their superiors and give a turn in favor of the opponent? The Army is not a solid rock and it has cracks. They are not new, they do not come from the Guaidó effect, although it can amplify them. If enough to put an end to chavismo … that’s the unknown. In 25 years it has already experienced three coup attempts in Venezuela, it is therefore not a new scenario, and the situation of generalized crisis is a factor that can change the current inertia. The internal debate is intense.
It also remains to be seen whether, in any way, the threat of US President Donald Trump influences a “military option in Venezuela” if Guaidó does not consolidate in power. Do they intimidate you from the outside so that the ranks are tighter or to add fear and separate them?
The truth is that in recent months several dozen soldiers have been arrested on charges such as treason and instigation of rebellion, accused of aligning themselves with dissent, rebellion attempts, assaults on barracks and weapons robberies. The best known of these was the pilot Óscar Pérez, inspector of the Scientific, Criminal and Criminal Investigations Body (CICPC), who died last year after a confrontation with the Venezuelan security forces. He was the only uniformed man who showed his face in a video in which he claimed that he and his commando had taken a helicopter, flown to the Ministry of the Interior and fired 15 times at an official party.
Maduro also recently denounced an alleged coup attempt by some thirty soldiers. The dissidents have paid with sanctions or even jail, in a demobilization that has not been massive, clearly, but not imperceptible either. Something of nick has done, some messages of ex-military have already been published denouncing the new Chavez winds. As an example, the tweets of former ministers Hebert García Plaza and Miguel Rodríguez Torres.
For now, the biggest gesture of a uniformed by Guaidó has been that of the military attache at the Venezuelan embassy in the US, Colonel José Luis Silva, in office since 2014. On Saturday he publicly said that he no longer recognizes Maduro as commanding He urged his “military brothers” to back Guaidó and “propitiate” a change in the nation. “This Defense Attaché does not recognize President Nicolás Maduro for considering him a usurper and recognizes Juan Guaidó as legitimate interim president,” he told AFP.
“We are also the people,” he emphasized. His message goes in the line that opponents want to inoculate in the troop: that the military are also the people and that, if there is fatigue in the streets, it is also time to have it in the barracks and bases. The Armed Forces, like the police forces, have also seen in recent years that their salaries were falling due to the crisis, they have not been shielded by the Government, and to make ends meet is as complicated as in other homes for an average military, for the dome.
Guaidó is using as ammunition in this battle for the army even his wife, Fabiana Rosales, who has published a video dedicated to the “mothers, wives and daughters” of the military, asking them to convince them that the right path is their husband.
An essential requirement
Guaidó, formally, can not advance further without the Armed Forces. The opponent relies on article 233 of the Venezuelan Constitution to declare himself president, but is forced to follow the steps set in another article, 236, to strengthen the alleged democracy that he proclaims. There are indicated 24 points that are the steps that must follow to take control of the attributions of the executive, to make a Government of viable transition.
We must remove the previous charges, we must remodel the team, but we must also take the reins of diplomacy and foreign action, respecting the agreements agreed, we must call free and immediate elections, and we must control the Army, as crutch of stability and national security. The president is the commander-in-chief of those troops, but has not yet been recognized as such by the military establishment. The process is not complete if that is missing. It is not enough that you support a score of great nations, the US among them. Either the Army is on your side or there is no change.