Monday’s “Plantón” a nationwide sit-in protest saw the National Guard (GNB) innovate a new type of repression tactic. Rather than tear gassing at close range and shooting pellets at everyone in sight, reports and videos poured in of GNB soldiers straight-up stealing from opposition protesters and journalists covering the demonstrations. Like, just holding them up and grabbing their cell phones, wallets, anything they could get their hands on.

The tactic seemed too widespread to have been accidental. As intense repression was felt in El Paraíso and western Caracas, reports about pilfering guardsmen spread from Altamira, around La Carlota to the Francisco Fajardo highway. Videos followed. Slowly, it dawned on people: these were no isolated incidents. Somebody must have given an order. Roben a esos mariquitos.”

It’s in the context over intense outrage about this new tactic both outside and inside Fuerte Tiuna that Vladimir Padrino López, the hardline chavista Defense Minister, made his now famous speech:

 

 

“I don’t want to see one single guardsman committing atrocities on the street. Those who don’t adhere to the State directive of the preeminence of Human Rights, of respect of Human Rights and behave in an unprofessional way, will have to be held responsible.”

Padrino’s statements are in line with the call to protect journalists issued by the National Prosecutor’s office a few weeks back, following a meeting between Prosecutor General Luisa Ortega Díaz and Tinedo Guía, chairman of the National Press Union. However, theft had never been used so aggressively against regular civilians.

Those who don’t adhere to the State directive of the preeminence of Human Rights…will have to be held responsible.

Padrino López occupies a unique position in the regime. In the Venn Diagram of military loyalties, the overlap between “generals-the-hardliners-in-PSUV-trust” and “generals-all-military-components-respect” is minimal. Arguably, it contains just one name: his. Padrino himself. He’s the ultimate hard-to-replace military commander.

Padrino is an ambiguous figure for the opposition. On the one hand, he was the leading figure in facing down the protests back in 2014, including the controversial approval for the use of live ammo by the security forces in protests that weren’t ‘peaceful.’ On the other, many believe he played a pivotal role in forcing the government to accept the results of legislative elections in December 2015.

Did that shard of dissent from the general signal something broader? Did yesterday’s speech? Will it have noticeable repercussions on the streets? Or was it a gentle ear tug at guards drawing the line at these new mugging tactics? A kind of “guys, tear gas and arbitrary arrests are ok, but you gotta draw the line at armed robbery, ok?”

Veremos.

23 COMMENTS

  1. Even if it’s a gentle ear tug, it does point to a line that they are not willing to cross. That makes me wonder: if the orders from above become more radical, will they be massively followed? Will that lead to some in the upper (and lower) ranks to dissent?

  2. Who did the order to: “Roben a esos mariquitos”come from if not Padrino? If it was that widespread then who is in charge of the GNB who were committing these robberies? Did it happen anywhere else in the country? That kind of shit could not go down in my town. The police in GNB I know behave themselves reasonably well and would be shunned around town if they were “inventando asi”.

  3. The photo of all the generals in full dress following Maduro is ominous. Military forces around the world exist to protect their countries from outside attack. Except in Venezuela where the military’s sole mission is to protect the government against its own citizens.

    When was the last time Venezuela was attacked from outside? What is the ratio of Vzla citizens killed by the military to foreign invaders killed? In what war did the generals receive the awards on their uniforms? How many general are wearing an Insignia de la Asignación Exitosa de Papel Higiénico? How many frickin Cubans with guns are walking behind the generals in this parade?

    • Venezuela’s military is not the only country’s who serves the ruling regime and not the people, but I doubt there any other countries where the ruling regime is as unpopular as it is here.

      And yes, the Venezuelan military is a joke. There is roughly 1 General for every 30 soldiers, compared to most Western countries where the ratio is roughly 1 to 400. All those medals look nice though

  4. Lovely way you wrote this post, I must say.
    And yet, let’s ponder a bit more on those words:

    “I don’t want to see one single guardsman committing atrocities on the street. ”

    Perhaps he just want them not to be seen.

    “Coño, chamos, no se dejen filmar, que tendré que castigarlos. La vaina es ser discretos”

  5. It’s more like “You can keep stealing and killing all you like, just don’t let anyone record you doing so, because my dollars at the mean ebul empire are in danger”

  6. I believe that Padrino is covering his own ass when the inevitable judgement day comes.
    He wants to be able to say that he ordered the soldiers not to violate anyone’s human rights.
    That gives me hope that he realizes it is coming to an end and that he may not give the orders to violently suppress the opposition that Neverol and Maduro will surely demand.

  7. The old saying, “Follow the money,” suggests that regulars in the GN are possibly becoming so desperate for money that they have to shake down their own people. Using robbery as a scare tactic seems doubtful. Few, I would imagine, have the stomach for outright execution of their fellow citizens, no matter how polarized the situation. So they get what they can – watches, cell phones, loose bolos. Starting to sound like rape and rapine is right around the corner. Is this not an indication that the situation is getting away from the Generals? Of the Goldman Sachs dough Maduro recently got, how much of it went to the military to curry their support, and how much trickled down to the foot soldiers? Precious little I imagine. How much uglier can this get?

  8. VPL, I believe, attempted to distance himself from human rights abuses/subsequent international prosecution, and actually seemed as if he might be a factor of hope for avoiding much larger future bloodshed. This hope, however, was shattered today, as he took sides with the Govt./GNB atrocities, by stating they were all the Oppo’s fault=the wrong side of history. I now put sustainable Cubazuela at only 30% probability, but, unfortunately, a bloody internal conflict (even civil war?), at a 70% probability, before democracy is restored The U. S. probably sees the Ven. situation somewhat similarly, as the Southern Command will soon begin two weeks or so of maneuvers just outside Venezuelan territorial waters, which will be both a warning, and preparation….

    • My squeeze loves to hear Misterpopo’s announcements. She believes he’s as reliable as the sun rising in the east and Maduro lying.

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