A reed in the wind

One of my best friends is a guy who had deep links with the pre-Chávez Venezuelan military.

Since I know next to nothing about the culture inside our armed forces, a few years ago I asked him whether he thought they had actually bought into the revolution. Were they in it hook, line, and sinker?

“Nah,” he said to me. “They’re in it for the money. These guys are like reeds in the wind – as soon as the winds change, they will flip sides and go with it.”

I kept thinking about his remarks after reports began surfacing about the role played by Defense Minister General Vladimir Padrino last Sunday.

According to the well-sourced Emili Blasco of ABC, a Spanish daily, there was a confrontation last Sunday between Nicolas Maduro on the one hand, and Padrino and a cadre of military men on the other. El Nuevo Herald confirms the story through its own sources.

According to the tale, facing an electoral rout, Maduro and Cabello were calling to suspend the election and call out paramilitary goons, but the military said they would not go along with it. Blasco has even said that the government was losing in pre-election military polls, and that it actually lost in all military voting centers. This is confirmed by stories we are now hearing of so-and-so coronel and such-and-such general saying to their families that “of course they do not support this corrupt regime.”

All of this has allegedly prompted an all-out military crisis inside the government.

We have no way of knowing if this is true. What is apparently true is that General Padrino wants it to sound like it is true.

Many, if not all, of these stories are being leaked via people inside Padrino’s inner circle. The more they circulate, the more the myth grows that Padrino saved Venezuelan democracy. That suggests that the two-thirds majority the opposition managed to win represents a seismic change in Venezuela’s politics.

The government is in full crisis mode. Everything from Maduro’s crazy rants while addressing the nation from Hugo Chavez’s coffin to Aporrea’s deliriously delicious coverage of the last few days says this is so.

But the crisis that would really matter would be in the military and in the courts. Those are the movements we need to be tracking, because that’s where Maduro’s true power lies. The rest is just a sideshow.

As for General Padrino, it’s going to take the opposition a long time to forgive this, and this, and this.

He can shake with the wind all he wants, but his track record should fool nobody.

Caracas Chronicles is 100% reader-supported. Support independent Venezuelan journalism by making a donation.