The Daily Beast Gets Stolked

About once a month, Raúl Stolk channels Naky over on The Daily Beast.

About once a month, Raúl Stolk channels Naky over on The Daily Beast, writing these amazing catch-up briefings to let a gringo audience into the minutiae of public life in Late Late Chavismo. They’re really a lot of fun to read:

Over the years, Hollywood has oversimplified the level of complexity involved in disarming a bomb. On film it usually comes down to a timer, a choice between two wires (red and blue), and a Swiss Army knife. Pretty straightforward. You close your eyes, say a prayer, and “clip.” There’s a 50 percent chance you’ll either save the day, or you’ll end up splattered like a Jackson Pollock all over the pavement. Real life, however, is so much more complicated. Ask Venezuela’s minister of defense, Gen. Vladimir Padrino.

On July 11 President Maduro went on national TV to announce that Gen. Padrino (whose last name, coincidentally, means godfather) would share the task of solving the food crisis. Maduro explained that Venezuela’s most prominent military tactician was the correct person to fight off scarcity since it was a consequence of The Economic War waged by the country’s enemies.

Then Maduro looked at his ministers, and gave them a very clear order to subject themselves to whatever Gen. Padrino needed to handle these issues. The order was penned down in a resolution which confirms the vast powers that the general now has over the cabinet. This is much more than an unusual, albeit illegal, transfer of powers to the Minister of Defense. In effect, Padrino was appointed as a prime minister of sorts, and he has indeed assumed the role, as President Maduro has become less visible in the past few weeks.

Swiftly enough to choke local outrage, and cryptically enough to block the meddling eyes of international media, the military has made its move. A coup d’état? Power is still being shared. But it’s increasingly hard to tell who has the final word.

The level of opacity we live in is beautifully undermined by the bizarre need to put a question mark after “coup d’état” — I mean, goddamn, usually when there’s a coup you know it.

The question for me is how Néstor Reverol’s appointment as Interior Minister fits in with this narrative. It’s an open secret that Padrino López and Reverol hate one another’s guts…but as Defense and Interior Ministers, they’re not going to have any choice but to collaborate somehow.

Is this Maduro just doing that infuriating thing he’s been doing to the economics cabinet —naming people who don’t agree and guaranteeing policy incoherence— in the security cabinet now? Sure looks like it to me…