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.

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  1. What’s about Venezuelans that love a Messiah all the time! and even more if it comes dressed in olive and some stars on his shoulders. It frustrates me seriously.
    My in-laws at the best dona del cafetal style were all excited telling me this story, and as you say the myth keeps growing.

  2. 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

    This, actually. People keep forgetting this is a banana republic and the votes where just for show. We only won because we were allowed to do so.

    • Mmm, no. The In a true “banana republic”, the opposition would have been blocked from effectively competing in the election at all. The chavernment could have done a lot more to steal the election. They could have imposed bogus disqualifications on MUD candidates, could have run not just MIN but several dummy parties, could have obstructed the MUD primaries, could have generated large numbers of fraudulent registrations, could have arrested key MUD leaders on bogus charges, could have replaced the voting machines with a fraudable electronic system…

      They didn’t. They let the voting go ahead, because they thought that somehow they could get through with a majority of seats. They thought that the memory of Chavez and their other tools of manipulation (state-controlled media, crony-owned private media, state resources for the PSUV, giveaways, low-level intimidation and manipulation of voters) would be sufficient, as in the past.

      By the time it was obvious that wouldn’t work, it was too late for most of those other measures. The chavernment suffered a collapse of morale, and could not muster the willpower to do anything drastic at the last minute. Many of their “foot soldiers” (the operatives who “get the vote out”) didn’t bother to show up, and I think the leaders knew that was going to happen.

      JCN is right, though, to note the actions of the army. The army leadership, though deeply corrupt, was never subordinated to the chavernment. Today’s senior officers would all predate Chavismo, and AFAIK, the chavernment did not systematically purge and pack the officer corps to be all-chavista. So, as his friend notes, the army has no loyalty to the regime. They served it because it had power. It has lost power, so they will not openly break the law to maintain it (no self-coup).

      I do have one last question: what about the rank and file? If the generals had given orders for a self-coup and the forcible suppression of MUD, would the soldiers obey? Or desert en masse?

  3. There are going to be lots of Chavista turncoats in the days to come. Franklin Nieves is another example. We don’t have to make them out to be heroes, but we do have to accept them. The Chavistas need to know they won’t be hanged if they cross over. If they think there is no way out, it will force them to dig in deeper, and desperate people do desperate things.

  4. I have no particular problem with this. We need the military to be on our side, or at least not against us, in order to make any significant changes to the system. Chavez was successful because he understood this.

    If the Defense Minister wants the story to propagate, that would make me very happy. He is either acknowledging there is no stopping the collapse of Maduro’s regime OR facing pressure from within his ranks (or both!). I imagine the middle and low rank military are tired of Maduro-Diosdado as much as civilians. Even if they receive special benefits from the government, their families are exposed to the country’s ever-deteriorating conditions.

  5. There is a lot of crazy talk and it is getting more virulent by the day. They could tamp things down by doing the customary bear hug. But no, just amping up the rhetoric.

    Chavismo has a tendency toself inflict damage (man jailing Leopoldo for one) so it would not be out of character to do some batshit crazy thing.

  6. JCN, one plays the cards one has been dealt, and should be thankful for them. Venezuela has long been a barracks-driven country, and that isn’t going to change soon, especially given its current state of lawlessness/permissiveness. Fortunately the many years of Chavista indoctrination of the Venezuelan military were overcome by the pragmatism of ruined Venezuelan military family finances/well-being due to disastrous Chavista economic policies/cratered oil prices. LA military frequently come down on the side of the Pueblo vs. the Govt., if public discontent is large enough. Pinochet was of Allende’s utmost confidence, chosen to personally escort Fidel Castro around Chile, but a year or so later was deposing Allende due to his ruinous economic policies and ensuing general strike. From a good source, Padrino even faced down a gun drawn on him when he refused to allow massive fraud, with its probable ensuing matazon of innocents.

  7. I was downright offended when one of my Whatsapp groups started agreeing with this voicenote from some moronic vieja del Cafetal saying we owed a debt a gratitude to Padrino Lopez.
    Lo que nos faltaba…

  8. Juan Cristobal.
    No se nada de lo que ha hecho Padrino Lopez antes del 6d. Pero si me parece creíble que en la arrechera de perder Diosdado y Maduro le hayan pedido que sacara las fuerzas armadas por ‘irregularidades hechas por la oposición para robar el voto’ o cualquier otra excusa chimba.

    Padrino Lopez les dijo que no. (o por lo menos sabemos que Padrino acepto aceptar los resultados sin ninguna pataleta)

    Eso es importante, y que se este difundiendo no significa que el carajo va a tratar de ser nuestro nuevo dictador, pero si yo fuera la oposición yo creo que es bueno que la gente sepa (o por lo menos piense) que no va a haber violencia porque las Fuerzas Armadas no se van a prestar para eso.

    Si el juego se convierte uno de miedo, cripacion y violencia, entonces los enchufados pueden tener un chance de agarrar el poder de vuelta. Pero la realidad es que lo perdieron; tomara tiempo para que todas las instituciones reflejen eso, pero pasara.

    Por cierto que los ejemplos que pusiste sobre las intervenciones de Padrino antes no me parecieron para nada escandalosos. El tipo dijo vainas extremistas en frente de los chavistas extremistas y defendió a las fuerzas armadas [que es su institución] en contra de las guarimbas

    Pense que los videos iban ser de algún guiso en el que estaba metido.


  9. Reeds in the wind, or just plain opportunists. They may have pushed the result past the finish line, or not, but certainly, it is in their interest that people believe it to be so.

    People need other opportunities for social advancement in Venezuela. The military has got to go. They do nothing useful, and they undermine what is good. The money is better spent on schools, teachers, cops, infrastructure, a million other things.

  10. Most of my family (oppo) also having what I am calling a ‘political multipe orgasm’ over this. It deeply saddens me, it shows that 99pct of Venezuelans (oppo and Chavistas( are mentally stuck in the XIX and XX century. I find the concept that the votes counted because the army wanted it so and for no other reason absolutely cringing. But I find it even worse that many in the opposition see nothing wrong with this, in fact they add for good measure that ‘the international community’ also helped. Perpetuating the bull that our destiny is in the hands of the army and the int. comm. (IC). They fail to note that the IC is a variant of the Venezuelan army, they blow with the wind but more importantly they blow with their economic interests (realpolitik), guys how else do you think Saudi sits along Venezuela int the UN’s Human Right Council? OR why do you think gay rights in the Middle East and most Commonwealth countries (where it is criminalised) are rarely discussed but they do seem to be an issue in ‘evil’ Russia. The only silver lining to this event is that it shows that ALL Venezuelans (99 pct) deep down view some core issues in the same freaking backward way. Dona Barbara, is alive and kicking.

  11. We could have some fun with this, let´s have a “polla” as to when will Arias Cardenas shift allegiances and how many believe him this time. I say March.

  12. I don’t know, I tend to agree with your friend, plus he was sh…ing in his pants….. Check today’s opinion section of Marianella Salazar in El Nacional

    “Es falsa la versión de un enfrentamiento sobre el resultado electoral entre Diosdado Cabello y el ministro de la Defensa, Vladimir Padrino López. El ministro sintió la presión en el seno de la Fuerza Armada, dispuesta a evitar que se consumara un fraude electoral y hacer cumplir la Constitución. Estaba convencido de que la respuesta sería una rebelión que traería como consecuencia un baño de sangre que lo salpicaría. Lo que hizo fue cumplir con su deber y salvar el pellejo.”

  13. Betancourt se referia a los militares caracterizándolos como un grupo que compras con caña y putas. Muy en línea con el pensamiento de JCN.

    BTW: Néstor Reverol y Gustavo González López son cuñados.

  14. “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.”

    Precisely. What I have been saying for years. Kleptozuela is really not very complicated.

  15. The comments section is being over-run with Chavista trolls planting seeds of doubt and confusion, making rational discourse and debate very difficult. There needs to be some way to assign credulity ratings to commenters, although I have no idea how to accomplish this.

  16. It’s remarkable that someone got way with words like “mamaguevo” and “coñoetumadre” on this board. Of course, this post will be deleted. Makes you wonder who is enhancing the intellectual level of this blog.

    • Well, one thing’s to spat an insult, and another’s going threatening with genocide like hectornazi and the other chabobo trolls are used to do.

      • Ans exactly what did you write, as other retards, about the specific topic at hand. NOTHING.
        Trolling is what you do, I you do not like some original opinion, controversial one, granted, you go full blown ad hominem. It’s beyond pathetic. Go back to school.

    • You reap what you sow, Sledge.

      As long as you continue to state your opinion that Venezuelans are useless, lazy morons incapable of bettering themselves you are going to get pushback. The repetitiveness you engage in is, for most of us, troll behavior.

      I am going to post something someone else wrote to you on another blog because it sums up quite nicely words you should reflect upon and take to heart.

      Mitchell Says:

      December 8, 2015 at 9:14 pm

      Give the people a bit more credit, the uneducated just voted against their own political party and Gov’t. They were not fooled by a confusing MID Unidad ticket, or the censor controlled media, or “free” gifts, or economic wars, or a corrupted and sold out CNE and TSJ. Their senses are there. Sure there is room for improvement in Education, alot, but lets give them a hand. They are not nearly as ignorant or foolish to believe everything they see or hear on “Radio Cadena”. People speak and educate each other. Word of mouth played a big role here and common sense. Politics is a very real thing in the people’s lives. They probably know more about politics than the average of American, even if they have trouble with Science, Math, and History. I say “Gloria Al Bravo Pueblo” and I think even with all that is going to come from Chavistas mouths as far as trying to discredit the MUD will fall on deaf ears for quite a while. Especially as the corruption scandals and information and truths about the last 15 years becomes more readily available they will know what to do with it. Once you stand on line for hours and hours for the first and only time in your lifetime, you will most likely never, ever go back to that political party again. So we may just be free of Chavismo for several decades once the recovery begins. And it will begin.

      I don’t condone the language EL Pueblo Enardecido threw your way, but you aren’t exactly the poster boy for decent language yourself.

      If you decide not to continue to “grace” us with your presence, alla tu.

      The day you begin to address the rest of us decently, you will see a difference in how you are treated.


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