Everyone's a general

Can´t touch this
Can´t touch this

I´m under the weather this week, so I’ll stick to re-posting interesting things that reach my Inbox. Today, Bloomberg has a story on how the military find all sorts of goodies, from cars to apartments, while regular Venezuelans face shortages.

One thing that has always baffled me about my country is how the military remains one of the more prestigious institutions. With rare exceptions, the Venezuelan military is an abusive, overweight, scamming, public-money sucking, toll-charging, unprofessional group of drug smugglers … … and yet people revere them.

I understand why that is, what with the myth of Bolívar and the wars of independence, but it frustrates me to no end. To me the military is the problem in Venezuela. Perhaps it´s something about my upbringing – a legacy from the Dutch side of my family perhaps. (The Dutch generally hold their military in low esteem, or so I´ve been told)

The value added from Bloomberg´s piece:

Military personnel don’t have to contend with the economic chaos in the rest of the country. The 43 trucks and tents at the market in the military base on Aug. 22 were loaded with subsidized milk, cooking oil and detergents — goods that are out of stock in most shops…

At Fort Tiuna in southern Caracas, hundreds of new Chinese cars glistened in the parking lots, after former Defense Minister Diego Molero pledged in May of last year to purchase 20,000 autos for the armed forces.

That compares with just eight new cars imported into the country of 29 million people in August, according to the Venezuelan Automotive Chamber, which excludes Chinese carmakers. (emphasis is mine) Few Chinese cars are imported outside government programs, said Raul Alvarez, a Caracas-based car industry consultant…

And the coup de grace:

There is one general for every 34 servicemen in Venezuela, compared with one for 1,490 servicemen in the U.S., based on the latest figures from the countries’ ministries of defense.

Yowza. The military is more of a scam than I thought…

Count the Armed Forces alongside Wall Street and China as the three groups Maduro will never default on. That´s why it pains me to read simplistic stuff such as García Mora’s latest, where he wonders out loud when the country will finally break.

As long as there´s enough cash to go around to keep the military happy, Maduro seems pretty safe to me. Sometimes, the answer is really simple.

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  1. Perhaps it´s something about my upbringing – a legacy from the Dutch side of my family perhaps. (The Dutch generally hold their military in low esteem, or so I´ve been told)

    True, I can vouch for that, I´m dutch. Its sad to see how the military in Venezuela is getting richer by the day and I know cos I have a brother in law that is a major in the GNB and he´s getting reallllllllly rich these days!!! Dollar rich … not Mickey Mouse Bolivars!!! Time for you people to get rid of these corrupt MF´ers!!!

  2. I wholly agree, the military is a scourge not only in Ven but in Lat Am, save for Costa Rica where sensibly it was eliminated I believe. It’s puzzling as you rightly note how some still view them with reverence in Ven. Certainly not the case for some Chileans or Argentines who experienced directly or indirectly the military regimes of those respective countries.

    • Costa Rica did away with their military after a coup attempt in the late 40’s/early 50’s.
      Saved themselves a TON of Money, too.

      However, their police does have certain units that are equipped just as well as many military forces are, except for heavy armor.

      They have most of the toys a light infantry would have.

      They do not possess a Navy, per se, but they do have a decent Coast Guard.

  3. Having had relatives in the Venezuelan military in previous centuries, I was always amazed, when looking through family albums, at all the medallas, etc. You could barely see the uniform. What MAJOR post-independence wars were there, and I am excluding the various battles among the caciques or warlords of the 19th century?

  4. Right now the GN and the military are seen as the traitorous eunuchs that they are. At least in the youngest generations.

    Except the morons that believe that we need the resurrected corpse of Pérez Jiménez “para poner orden”, but those have always been crazy.

  5. I wholeheartedly agree with everything here, except the part about the Dutch, which I can’t confirm. If this widespread deference traces its way back to the beginning of the 19th century, it is long overdue for a rethink. I personally think people like the military the way they like a lottery ticket or a fortune teller- they think there is still an outside chance it will change their lives suddenly, and for the better. It would be better if they recognized it for the giant parasite on Venezuelan public life that it is.

  6. Beautifully, simply explained. It’s about keeping all the people with the guns happy.
    Imagine a “Support our troops” bumper sticker becoming a fad in Venezuela…

  7. My dad is a corenel retirao del Ejercito (retired from the Army) from Desember 2002. I used to respect them all, until I saw my own dad just sitting in the couch calmly watching the TV with the famous split images in April 2002. He didn’t say a word about it, neither did anything about it… It was only three years later that he recognised what a mistake was Chavez and how deviated the government was from the original idea.

  8. Yvonne Godoy-Ramos @ September 29, 2014 at 9:41 pm says:

    What MAJOR post-independence wars were there, and I am excluding the various battles among the caciques or warlords of the 19th century?

    None. AFAIK, Venezuela has never fought against any external enemy. So why does Venezuela even have an army? I guess because pretty uniforms and military rituals were gratifying to the upper classes of the 19th century.

    This of course is something chavismo inherited.

    • “Venezuela has never fought against any external enemy. ”
      Except in the 60s against the cuban invaders who slaughtered hundreds of venezuelans.
      But those little snippets of history got misteryously lost thanks to the “izmierdosos”

  9. This could end very badly. At a certain point there won’t be enough goodies to satisfy the army any more, at which point certain elements will begin to be left out. What follows is self-evident.

    I do find it absurd that he keeps the military happy by giving them a life the rest of the world considers “normal” though.

    • “At a certain point there won’t be enough goodies to satisfy the army any more”

      Not enough goodies for only a few thousand people? In a country that produces as much oil as Venezuela?

      When is that gonna happen? WHEN?

  10. “As long as there´s enough cash to go around to keep the military happy, Maduro seems pretty safe to me. Sometimes, the answer is really simple.”

    Finally, someone who gets it. I’ve been saying this to people for years, and most don’t seem to realize how serious this is. Given the existence of these despicable sh!t-eaters who care not about defending their country, but defending their own buttocks, there is nothing we can do. Throwing rocks has never been a good match against tanks. That’s why proposals like “La Salida” (or any other proposal for that matter) have no chance of being successful, unless by “La Salida” we mean Maiquetia.

    I hope you also realize that THERE WILL ALWAYS be enough cash to keep the military happy.

    (PS: if anyone knows how to write in boldface here, so I don’t have to “yell” for emphasis, let me know)

  11. Venezuela no longer has an army , only a ramshackle , , make believe organization that mimics the externals of what a true army is all about. The army is totally degraded , the process has been going on for years and years . Back during the 4th Republic the army people were already being pampered and degraded albeit more slowly and superficially. Now the process is complete. !! There is no one army command but a scattered almost chaotic system of scattered commands , there is no army sprit d corp , only dozens of small corrupt cliques. Its the pols way of keeping the army in control .

    Before the civil war , Spain also had almost as many generals and high level offcers as common soldiers. The great function of an army in a country of institutions is to prevent a group of adventurous para militaries from gaining control of the Country . That was the situation in Venezuela during the whole of the XIX centry and part of the XXth century until Gnral Gomez created a professional Army.

    Putting uniforms on a group of govt paramilitaries doesnt transform them into an army , thats what happened in Cuba before Castro , one country that never had an army . Sergeant typist Batista was no general to confront the uprising in the 50’s. The result is clear !!

    • I’m a pacifist, but this whole situation makes me curious, I mean, what in the world would this poor fools do in the event of an actual battle, or war? I’m pretty sure that there are malandritos about my age with more combat experience and with bigger balls than 70 percent of today’s so called military. Let’s not even begin to talk about some of the worlds actual armies.
      I’m just gonna go ahead and reference one my favorite animes (and I assume that by that you can tell what age group I might be in) and call these guys military dogs, cause they are nothing but the government’s snappy poodles, all they do sit on it’s lap a let themselves be pampered.

      • I’ve given that some thought too. War is hell, but it’s almost tempting to see how just badly our troops would get their asses handed to them in the event of an international conflict. If it wouldn’t entail any casualties, civilian or military, that’s something I’d pay to see.

  12. One day about 3 years ago in Las Mercedes I was waiting to cross a road when a general in full dress uniform walked up next to me with 3 or 4 aides and his security detail. He had a huge stomach that was being held in only partially by his belt and his left chest was absolutely covered in service medals. He had so many medals and ribbons that they spilled over onto his right breast as well. After looking at him for a few seconds I couldn’t help my self and I broke out laughing as his whole image just screamed banana republic. His security people and aides just went nuts on me when they realized I was laughing at this comic book image and for good measure I was knocked to the ground and given a couple of good kicks.

    I am used to a professional and volunteer military. My family lost 2 uncles in the WWII and three great uncles in WWI with the Canadian forces and I can name at least 8 Canadian Army regiments that lost more men in a single morning of battle on the Western Front in WWI then have died in all of Venezuela’s wars. These Venezuelan thugs in uniform deserve no respect. They are a cancer on Venezuela that must be removed ad unfortunately, until the vast majority of the population understands that and is willing to act on that not much will ever change in Cubazuela.

  13. End the military! This is one of the basic steps to cleanse Venezuela. If I were to sit on a table and they gave me 1 thing that the government does that I would end, it would be these military institutions. They are not just corrupted, but they have a history of repression to both left and center left. Do away with them, become a US ally, and give the citizens second amended rights so that nobody can mess with a us from a position of power, ever again.

    • In the XIX century and part of the XX Venezuela had no professional army , so anytime a regional caudillo wanted to topple the govt he would simply arm a group of peons and friends and Venezuela would experience a nice uprising- civil war. We had dozens of these continually disrupting the countrys life . This stopped with General Gomez who created a professional army no caudillo paramilitary group or guerrilla could beat bringing peace to the country. Thats the use of a professional institutionalized army. To prevent any political group from arming itself and taking over the country . Back in the early 20th century a group of Venezuelan rebels took over Curacazao foi a few days , the Dutch colonials didnt beleive in having an army.

      In the 60’s Venezuela underwent a Castroite guerrilla uprising , if there had been no army , they would have gained power 4 decades ahead of time . the convention that armies are to fight international wars is very common but thats not necessarily the case in the third world.

      A professional army man doesnt love medals and ornaments , a professional soldier eschews that sort of infantile showmanship , An example of a real professional army , the army of israel , where general officers dress the army fatigues of ordinary foot soldiers except for a tiny botton on the lapel .

  14. In here I rest my case that the Government is not increasing Public expenditures in real terms to prepare for next year’s elections to the National Assembly but rather to appease the biggest veto actor in the country, what Manuel Caballero called “la peste militar” (the military plague).

  15. Can anyone remember when Chavez threatened Colombia and said he was moving two military divisions to the border? Three days later almost no soldiers were at the border because they got tied up in traffic in Caracas.
    The Venezuelan military is totally incapable of fighting a war. They may look cool in their uniforms but they are not stupid. None of them will risk their lives for Maduro, Chavismo, the failed country.

    Of course, un-armed civilians are in the most danger with this military.

      • When Hitler annexed Austria to Germany he sent his armoured divisions to the latters territory , only 35% of germanys armoured vehicles got there . the rest brokedown on the way. Planning and executing any army manouver requires preparation and training . By the time WWII broke , the german army had learned efficiency. Chavez of course didnt have the german armoured divisions to move to the Colombian borders so none reached their destination .!!

    • Actually, they made it as far as La Encrucijada, Aragua State. (About 1 hour from Caracas).

      The joke at the time was that they stopped for Pernil (Oven Roasted Pork) Sandwiches and decided to call it a day……..

  16. Juan,

    The “Dutch” stuff doesn’t have anything to do with the attitude to the military. My whole family is as culturally representative of the average Venezuela and we have hated, despised the military for generations.

    Attitudes towards the military have changed a lot in the Netherlands, as any book on the history of the country would tell you.

  17. A funny thing happened to me on my way to war. I got stuck in traffic! Seriously? This really is so Caracas. It was always a good excuse for me when I was late for something, so why not for the army?:-)

  18. I can understand Americans or Australians being proud of their militaries. After all, GIs and Diggers defeated the Nazis and Japs, fought communism in Vietnam, and is now waging war on Islamic terrorism. I can understand South Koreans or Israelis treating their soldiers with respect, since their armies are actually protecting the people from foreign aggressors.

    What I cannot understand is why military institutions enjoy such prestigious positions in Latin American countries, when none of us haven’t fought a real war for more than a century, and don’t have any potential foreign aggressors to fear.

    Latin American militaries didn’t protect people from enemies, both foreign and domesitc. Instead, they have been instruments of repression in almost all countries. In Chile, Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia, Uruguay, military dictatorships caused so much suffering to so many people. And when Argentinians fought a real war with a real enemy in 1982, it flopped, because it wasn’t a military properly trained to fight a war, but rather a force trained to oppress the citizenry.

    So why is this militarism so rampant in almost all countries? Costa Rica and Panama would be relieving exceptions(although the latter was disarmed against its will by Uncle Sam), but I don’t see why we Venezuelans hold our military in such a high regard, when they’re only a group of monkeys in greens, out of shape, armed with rusting guns, and never seen any combat.


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