Last night, President Maduro made an announcement that could change the game. Rolling out yet another mission billed as the Cure to the Common Shortage (but which in fact simply gives the government even more discretional power), Maduro announced that the Defense Minister, Vladimir Padrino López, will henceforth wield powers that…are just not normal for a Defense Minister.

The only way to pull it off is with a single commander in charge. A single command, gentlemen. All ministries, all the ministers, all the institutions of the state are henceforth at the command and the absolute subordination of the National Command of the Gran Misión Abastecimiento Soberano y Seguro, under the command of the president of the republic and under the command of General-in-Chief Vladimir Padrino López, beginning immediately. All ministries.

La única forma de hacerlo es con un solo mando. Mando único, caballero. Todos los ministerios, todos los ministros y ministras, todas las instituciones del Estado quedan bajo el orden y la subordinación absoluta al Comando Nacional de la Gran Misión Abastecimiento Soberano y Seguro, bajo el mando del presidente de la República y bajo el mando del general en jefe Vladimir Padrino López a partir de este momento. Todos los ministerios.

This new arrangement is…well, there are any number of adjectives you could attach to it.

‘Unprecedented’ is certainly one. ‘Plainly unconstitutional’, is another — but that almost goes without saying these days. ‘Bizarre’ fits the bill for sure — only in Venezuela could you have an announcement of a “single” command that consists of having everyone report to two different people. And ‘coup-y’? Oh, definitely ‘coup-y’.

We’ll need to review the fine print, obviously, but on its face Maduro has appointed Padrino López to some made-up new post that’s nowhere to be found in the constitution, something clearly outranking the vice-president and only tenuously below the president’s own level of power.

This comes just days after Maduro unexpectedly kept him on-board as defense minister, despite widespread expectations that he would be replaced. It happens on the day Mercosur suspends Venezuela’s rotating presidency, on the day Citibank announces it will suspend the Central Bank and the Banco de Venezuela’s accounts there. #ExcesivamenteNormal, puej.

Is this the first move in a resignation choreography? What does this mean for the mediation effort due to get underway as soon as today? Is this the same Padrino López who short-circuited PSUV’s power-play during #BarandaTime on the night of legislative elections on December 6th last year? What exactly is happening here?

We’re piecing it together.

For now, all that we know is that the crisis seems to have shifted gears last night. Things are probably going to start happening faster now. It’s probably premature to talk about the end game just yet. But a lot less premature than it was at this time yesterday.

49 COMMENTS

  1. It’s not as bizarre as you think. Maduro is sort of keeping his role as head of state whereas Padrino has de facto become Venezuela’s head of government. Simple as that.

    No need to guess which one of these roles is bound to be ceremonial.

    • Yeah, nothing here, if only making it official that the military are the ones who run the show here. Something that has been kinda obvious for god knows how many years.

      Maduro at this point is probably being kept as a “hate receptacle” everything everybody is angry about is directed towards him and he does wonderfully at that job.

      • AMEN. You do not have any idea how frustrated I get when I see everyone criticizing Maduro’s intelligence and making ad hominem attacks. He is obviously there to give the people something to blame. It’s the oldest trick in the book, you distract them with one hand as you rob them with the other….

  2. …obviously there is a market there for these speculations, people enjoy that, so something which appears to be normal in venezuelan “ingovernabilidad” and particularly today under “economic emergency” it is not ortodox and abnormal. What it seems to be our normallity is that the “abastecimiento” is a good business por militari, they have been under Chavez lidership everywhere in venezuela general, central, local, centra and uncentralized government, nothing distinct which has not been done in the last 17 years of revolution, just an ordinary and regular political destruction process which take place when the winner takes it all. Fmor instance, last week end nearly 50 thousand venezuelans crossed the borders with Colombia, Brasil etc to purchase same goods not found in Venezuela for reasons everyone knows. We noted that everything was coordinated, groseries and stores in Colombia border were stocked well in advance to attend a massive demand from venezuelans, which were waiting long lines before Maduro y Padrino opened the border closed nearly a year ago. So I do not exclude that opening border for shoppers could have been a good business for everyone involved, politicians, gobernadores, alcaldes, militari, exporters, banks, etc. Furthermore, these bolivares expent by venezuelans there should be exchanged in dollars at the paralel rate, 30% larger than SIMADE “tablita” price. So, we can think off that what we have seen on the weekend was a massive money laundry, it is not difficult to know how and who made good business. Looks that the party will continue, tha bachaqueros and claps have transformed in something more rentable. I have already commented it yesterday in mi timeline, feisbuk & tw.

  3. Apart from the actual bit of news… I know it is not suprising, but YET ANOTHER “Mission”? With yet another stupidly grandiose name?

  4. Is there any hope that things will improve with the new announcement ??, that Gnral Padrino will be able to pull a rabbit out of a hat and make things better thru a magic trick, with a waive of his gnrals baton ?? of course not !! this is more like Maduro pushing someone in front of himself so that any attacks made against his for his inability to deal with the crisis will instead fall on the Military , thus the military wont be able to oust him when things turn even worse by saying that Maduro is responsible for the horrible situation because with this decision the whole mess should be seen as the Militarys fault…..!!

    With this measure he is formally handing the whole dam hot potato to Gnral Padrino , making him directly complicit in the govts failure to meet the subsistence needs of the country. Thus Gnral Padrino to defend himself must stay loyal to the govt, whatever happens from now on….(at least thats probably their thinking)

    Of course the problem is not simply one of organizing supplies under a central authority , the regimes incompetence in handling the movilization of supplies has compounded the problem , but the crisis has its roots in other deeper causes , causes for which the regime is directly responsible ……, its failure to take rational measures in time has brought us to this impossible and worsening situation …..nothing that Gnral Padrino can handle……..because the decisions on which confronting the crisis depends are not in the hands of Gnral Padrino but instead lie with the regimes leadership !!

    This is a political manouver to attempt scaping the general ill will which the regime’s handling of the crisis is generating by making the military appear as responsible for it…….!!

    • If the idea was only to remove Maduro from perceived responsibility for the crisis, why did Maduro put it like this:

      “Todo el mando del abastecimiento del país estará en mis manos y las de Padrino López”.

      ?

      • Because the idea is not that.

        The idea is “If you are wondering on which side the Armed Forces are going to be, here you have it”

      • Jeff , maybe remove is too strong a word , as head of govt he cant scape ultimate responsability , but by making General Padrino the head honcho inside the govt to handle all supply problems in such a conscpicuous way he is in fact making him the guy with direct ,’hands on’ responsability for whatever happens , thus deflecting a big part of the muck coming his way as the shit his the fan …..at the same time he makes the army complicit in the blame for whatever errors and frauds are committed in the handling of supplies inside the country !! something which might probe very useful in the coming days…….of mass anger….!!

    • I think you are missing the target by a wide margin… Maduro is a puppet here, he is a weak individual with absolutely no power or influence. Maduro does not call the shots, not even in his own home. You’re wasting time thinking that he’s trying to weave some complicated web. This is “their” (their, as in “who ever is running this show”) way of shoving a military boot up venezuelans asses, with a tiny bit of lubricant.

  5. Para mi, el significado de este nombramiento es que detiene, por ahora, el nombramiento de Nestor Reverol como Min. de Defensa; y todo lo que eso implica

    • Nestor was never going to be defmin. He never kneeled before Fidel and is wanted man by gringos. You guys are not thinking outside the box. Padrino is the ultimate and consumate PR man. He knows how to talk and look good at once. He runs circles around every other general. Padrino has ambitions in case you have not noticed. Venezuela and Fanb have an image to maintain and uphold. These guys need more advanced weapon systems. They actually think about tomorrow. They are not going to go ape shit. They are going to behave for others to see.

  6. I wouldn’t go as far as calling this a choreographed transition. I’d be more prudent and reffer to this as a safety net of sorts. It’s empowering a man (with whom they’ve recently pacted a sort of pax pretoriae, hence the reappointment) with enough at stake to ensure that, when shit hits the fan, no va a salpicar tanto.

    Esto tiene un tufo a Plan B…

    • The pax pretoriae worked so very well for emperors such as Caligula, Caracalla, Commodus and Elagabalus. Fascinating that said emperors were spectacularly inept at the only job they had…

      Will history repeat itself?

  7. I suspect that trying to analyze the regime’s moves from a rational perspective is a futile exercise. We tend to assume that they are still rational and that they actually have a plan, however flawed it might be. But, I have arrived at the conclusion that the current state of mind of Maduro and company is one of muddled desperation. They have no internal confidence in Maduro’s leadership, nor any consensus on a plan or solutions to resolve their problems. The latest move with Padrino Lopez the act of drowning men grabbing at what looks like a life preserver.

  8. This dictatorial move sounds like a desperate effort to back the regime up. Scare tactics. To showcase that the armed military is fully behind the Maduro disaster. “Mess with me, and you will be messing with the powerful military”..

    Clearly, it’s also another move toward an even more authoritarian system. A disguised neo-dictatorship, as I call it. Designed to terrorize and subdue everyone, from the ministers to the TSJ, to the CNE, to the MUD, to the average pueblo-people.

    Also, if the top military thug, Vladimir, is in charge – (he must be a multi-billionaire by now )- the few lower military guys will be intimidated. “Mess with the Chavista regime, and you’re messing with the top Military”
    So any honest, virtuous military person left in the armed forces does not dare to revolt and attempt a coup.

    It’s another notch in the Castro-Chavista Boiling Frog strategy: You tighten the noose progressively, so that people get used to it, you impoverish them slowly but surely, if they’re not happy you send the Guardia Nazional to repress them in the streets (as we now see every week), and you torture political prisoners like Leopoldo to set an example.

    Then you pretend to be “democratic” through meaningless elections (The MUD can’t do anything in the bogus ‘parliament”) and in international shows. You control the press and the media to a large extent, but to allow a few papers to be semi-independent to fake “freedom of the media”.

    Meanwhile, with the Boiling Frog system, people get used to the long lines, lack of food and medicine, world-record crime and murders, lack of water, power outages, etc. Year after year they become numb to their own miseries, children grow up in that mess and think it’s normal.

    Meanwhile, the top PDVSA crooks and Chavista politician keep stealing as much as they can. And bribing everyone they can to join their ranks. At all levels of society. Much like in Cuba, since people are poor, they are practically forced into corruption, and joining the crooked Chavista crap. They become accomplices and thieves themselves. By the millions of people, everywhere.

    The crooked thug Padrino is just another heavily bribed avaricious Thief. As most wealthy crooks, nouveaux-riches, he probably also craves Power, since he already probably has 5 houses and millions in several banks. So they crave Power besides money. Maduro and the PDVSA thugs have no option but greasing him, adulate him, and other top military bandits. So they probably also promoted him just to massage that massive Ego.

    That’s how such disguised neo-dictatorships stay in power for decades.

  9. As paradoxical as that may sound, to rule countries that have reached the bottom due to big government is somewhat easy, because if the new ruler just sits idly doing nothing, at the same time that he let the population live their lives freely, without so much control, it will already be a big improvement over the previous socialist lunatics that wanted to micromanage everything.

    That’s why Macri and Temer have the easiest jobs in the world. Just by wearing the presidential sash, and by saying that they won’t try to regulate people, animals, babies, forests, crops, seasons of the year, factories, Sun, rain, they are seen automatically as an improvement by everyone. And they are!

    If that 12 hour opening of the border is already Il Padrino showing his credentials, maybe we can say that Venezuela has started to walk her long, long, path to recovery. If Padrino is smart enough, and wants to be remembered as a leader, not as a criminal, he must know this simple rule to gain the sympathy of the people: more freedom and less bravados.

  10. I have to admit, I am loving the acronyms that Maduro & Co. are coming up with. They must be running out of non-gringo-termed acronyms.

    I mean, first they gave us the CLAPs.

    Now we get Great Mission ASS, which sounds like a decidedly droll summer teenage comedy along the lines of Fast Times at Ridgemont High or Road Trip.

    IMDB Plot: Three slackers, Nicky, Vlad and Dado come into a lot of money and try to use it to lose their virginity by impressing the leaders…err…girls of the world through excess and drunken speeches. Through comedic misadventures they lose not their virginity, but all the money (and respect, dignity, etc.) and end up broke but learn an important life lesson about sharing with others (lesson? Don’t!)

  11. I think a news of far more significance
    is the breaking of the frontier closure
    by a civil resistance movement
    to buy food.

    They may be going overboard in their conclusion
    but this is an excellent analysis: (en español)
    http://goo.gl/FGurKm

  12. End Game: Cuba II (same structure as Cuba I, this latest move obviously mandated by Raul); or, Pinochet. Odds: 50-50. Bets, anyone?

  13. This is an excellent article. It reinforces the idea that this regime can only go out by means of a great civic rebellion, supported by external organizations and international pressure. NOT a coup, a civic rebellion. The idea of a dialogue as a solution is preposterous. The referendum is great if it can be done but it seems apparent that it will be blocked unless extreme pressure from the outside takes place.

    • Gustavo, from an on-the-ground view, a great civic rebellion would be logical, but so far I see few real signs, other than sporadic relatively small-scale ones, of this happening, at least soon. The mentado “Bravo Pueblo”, in spite of literal starvation in many cases, lack of medicines/health care, and daily attacks/threats of thugs, is generally meek as a lamb, awaiting quietly in most cases in hours-long lines to score a few packs of price-controlled Harina Pan, with few criticizing the Govt., at least openly, for their plight. Any election/RR, however, where the Pueblo meekly hides behind anonymity, would be anathema to the Regime, and likely wont happen. Without inside/outside military support, I don’t see any political change anytime soon, contrary to what expectations would normally be in virtually any similar situation worldwide. Sadly, this Pueblo se merece lo que tiene….

      • ” this Pueblo se merece lo que tiene….”

        Honestly, dude, every time a person comes up with this lame-ass excuse, said person should be inmediately punched in the teeth.

        No, man, honest people DO NOT DESERVE the damn torture that’s surviving under the chavista dictatorship, stop trying to sanctify the corpse and all the imbeciles who support the regime and its model.

        Also, everybody claims to be braver than Superman, He-Man and Optimus Prime together, until they staring at a gun barrel.

        GUNS and criminals are the only actual support of chavismo, they have been the central and strongest pillar of this regime, stronger even that the so-called “emotive connection” with the corpse.

          • They’re either idiots with powdered roach asses and asbestos in their skulls or god-forsaken criminals, but for f**k’s sake, NONE of them deserve chavismo either!

            The ignorant imbeciles that are eating a turd (and still worship the corpse) because they won’t learn a thing from this, and the criminals (I count EVERYONE who stole and/or extorted even a single bolivar during this regime) don’t deserve the money they’ve stolen from the honest people in its majority either.

        • Ula, thank you for your respect (“dude”). I’m glad to see you may be offering to become one of the many-needed John Connors who will “punch in the teeth” the many monstrous bad guys in Venezuela, as many did in the Soviet East Bloc/Ukraine/Arab Spring, at the cost of maiming/torture/death, in order to eventually throw off the yoke of the hated oppressor, so that their families/future generations could have a better life. Of course, this to date has not been seen in Venezuela, where a “me-first” mentality has traditionally prevailed, and where the Pueblo has shown that they are more willing to “hang separately”, than to “hang together” to acquire their real independence/a better life (Ben Franklin be damned). Of course the Pueblo deserves Chavismo, contrary to what you say below–they voted for it umpteen times. The Pueblo is just like their beloved Chavez, (many, many still adore him-remember, it’s Maduro who’s the bad guy), and you–“full of sound and fury, signifying nothing”.

  14. Padrino Lopez always struck me as a reasonable thief. I think it’s not insane to guess that this is the inner circle trying to put reins on this thing.

  15. In my humble opinion, Maduro’s days are numbered by both external and internal forces and the military is simply positioning itself to take over when the inevitable day arrives.

  16. I cannot find any information about Padrino in Enlish other than a brief description of his military service in Wikipedia. . Is he a well known figure in Venezuela? Does he have a political history?

  17. The way I see it is that they are getting rid of Aristobulo. The move renders the VP position subordinate to the military and pretty much ceremonial.

    Thus, either aristobulo is not playing ball with either Maduro or Padrino Lopez and/or there is a lot of division going on at the PSUV. There may be also certain fractures at military command level so the quest for power got a lot more attainable hence the influence.

    Now, in this “hydra monster” one head has a lot of weapons and the other has a lot of problems…

  18. “Is this the same Padrino López who short-circuited PSUV’s power-play during #BarandaTime on the night of legislative elections on December 6th last year?”

    The psycho never intended to short circuit anything, it was the middle command that forced him to carry the message to the high command or else they wouldn’t lift a finger to stop the furious people if the regime dared to continue with the fraud.

  19. In my reading, Cuban masters just turned the screw one more turn and placed military agents in a full collision course with the civilian establishment. The intention being to bring more petrol to a fireplace and raise the stakes as the infighting factions fight for the diminishing spoils and the @safety” of remaining in power. Most groups know if rule of law or a change of regime were to happens with them not holding the Corito! ( think musical chairs !) they will be hanged for their “crimes”.
    Cuba wants the peo to be huge so we remain entangled I killing each other instead of going after them.

  20. Maduro is just covering his ass. He is just making sure the army stands by him. Maduro has absolutely no need to negotiate with the opposition, but he has to sit down with the generals. The truth is that no one in the opposition is willing to put a fight (and by a fight I don’ t mean “violence”, but at least a civilian resistance). The leaders are a bunch of intelectual or pseudointectuals of bourgeois or petite-bourgeois extraction, who are either completely unwilling or uncapable of any act of heroism (because they have read and misinterpreted enough polish poetry to find any act of rebelilon too foolish and naive and thus excuse themselves of any kind of historical responsabilty), and in the very end they will celebrate when the guys in uniform kill poor people. I have no hatred for the poor people who voted for Chavez. I don’ t want them to suffer any more, because in any case that will only make them more desesperate and hence dangerous.

    Borges una vez escribió un ensayo, cuyo título, si mal no recuerdo, es “La supersticiosa ética del lector”. En ese ensayo examina los prejuicios de los lectores, especialmente de los lectores cultos. Por ejemplo, el lector culto de poesía actual siempre va a sospechar automáticamente de dos cosas: la rima (simplemente por considerarla anticuada) y de los temas políticos (por la alergia a la propaganda, al panfleto). Yo creo que hay escribir un ensayo parecido, pero sobre la política en Venezuela. He visto cómo muchos venezolanos más o menos cultos han creado toda una “ética supersticiosa” alrededor de varios temas de gran interés: por ejemplo. el discurso épico en contraposición al discurso moderado, el mesianismo, el caudillismo, el antibolivarianismo, etcétera. Incluso sería divertido escribir algo tipo “La supersticiosa ética de Fernando Mires”, quien no es venezolano, pero ha aportado mucho en el área, En fin, mi punto es que con el tiempo, esos discursos han perdido su vitalidad y su sentido y se han convertido en meras muletillas de una clase política que simplemente los repite sin entenderlos, sin ningún sentido crítico. Así es como empiezas a tener un montón de gente que dice sin pensar “todos los militares son malos”, pero es incapaz de emprender ninguna acción concreta en contra de Padrino López Y peor aún: si alguien se emociona con la idea de luchar en contra de lo que está pasando, alguien le dirá : “cuidado, usted se está dejando atrapar por la ética, amigo”. Y así se impone la demagogia. En fin, sólo una reflexión.

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