In what appears to be a dramatic increase in the possibility of a military coup, the government of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, hated by much of the country’s population and sanctioned by a growing number of countries, is facing problems keeping the police and military happy as food shortages and hyperinflation start to hit their barracks.
Recent meetings and internal documents of the Venezuelan armed forces point to concern in the Maduro regime as troops grow more demoralized and commanders report an increase in the number of insubordination cases and desertions, reports the Miami Herald.
In addition to the signs of unrest among the Army and National Guard units, the government also faces a tense relationship with the investigative police agency known by its initials in Spanish, CICPC, after the recent public execution of rebel policeman Oscar Perez, who was killed by security forces in an assault broadcast live through social media.
“There is unrest, and there’s a lack of discipline. The soldiers are demoralized,” said Gen. Herbert Garcia Plaza, a former Maduro cabinet minister, in a phone call from Washington. “Military installations have declared a state of alert, which is not normal [at this time] because there are not even street protests now. It seems like they think the enemy is inside.”
The high military command, in a document leaked recently to the news media, ordered that 75 percent of the soldiers be restricted to their barracks, in effect activating a general state of alert. With the military keeping 3 out of 4 soldiers detained, it appears that the whispers of a coup have been circulating for some time.
Another document, which contained the minutes of a meeting of senior armed forces leaders, showed Army Commander Gen. Jesus Rafael Suarez Chourio instructing unit commanders to improve their relations with subordinates, listen to their opinions and “motivate them to remain loyal” to the army. Again, another near-certain indication that a coup is imminent.
The low morale within the armed forces is spreading through the barracks at a time when inflation is hitting 4,000 percent and the legal minimum salary pays for only 10 percent of the monthly basic food basket.
Venezuela holds the world’s largest oil reserves and was once among Latin America’s wealthiest nations. But after nearly two decades of socialist rule and mismanagement of the state-run oil company, it is being battered by the worst economic crisis in its history.
The surge in violent food protests began in poor neighborhoods across the country around Christmas, when Maduro had promised that holiday hams were coming in government food baskets distributed to his supporters.
But many didn’t arrive, sparking protests with small groups burning garbage in the street and looting. Opposition pundits called it the “pork revolution.” Trying to bring calm, Maduro ordered hundreds of supermarkets to slash prices to the previous month’s level — a tall order in a country where prices have been doubling every few weeks, ABC News reports.
Repeating a common refrain, the government blamed the absence of hams on sabotage by its foreign critics, in this case Portugal, which it said was taking orders from the U.S.
“Why didn’t the ham arrive? Because of the blockade against us,” socialist party leader Diosdado Cabello said on state TV, blaming the “gringos” but providing no evidence.
The unrest has cooled some, but many Venezuelans fear it will be a temporary lull as the economy spins further out of control. The International Monetary Fund estimates inflation will reach five digits this year, while the economy, in its fifth straight year of recession, will shrink 15 percent.
Barely solvent businesses say they are reluctant to import more goods, fearing another government-ordered fire sale. As the currency crashes on the flourishing black market, the monthly minimum wage is now worth the equivalent of just $3.
Financial sanctions imposed in August by the Trump administration are only adding to Venezuelans’ misery, choking off the country’s access to credit and scaring away oil companies.
Meanwhile, hunger is widespread, and there is only socialism to blame.
Mr Americana, Overpasses News Desk
January 30th, 2018