These are really confusing times for Venezuela watchers. The last time the country faced instability on this scale was probably the Federal War, 170 years ago. Venezuela has the feeling of a powder keg right now — the feeling is pervasive that something really has to give, and soon.

As observers we have a crisp understanding of the poisonous dynamics between the political opposition and the radical civilian leftists who run the government. That’s the struggle that gets reported, photographed, talked about, picked over and analyzed to death. But there’s a third actor here, deeply powerful but largely muzzled, that we just don’t understand well enough to put into the analytical mix.  

I’m talking about the Armed Forces. Widely expected to be the final arbiter, the men in green fatigues are alternatively admired, loathed, entreated, insulted, mythologized and puputoved. Until we get our heads straight on who the Armed Forces really are and what role they play in the current crisis, we’re going to be in analytical limbo: you can’t really grasp this crisis if one of its prime movers is a black box.

So let’s have at it.

The Dawn of Unión Cívico-Militar

The coalition Hugo Chávez put together was a bit of a strange beast. Chávez liked to describe it as “la unión cívico-militar” — a phrase that masked, through relentless repetition, the obvious contradiction at its core.

The Venezuelan military Chávez was trained to serve was, for the most part, a product of the anti-communist consensus of puntofijista Venezuela. The types of people who went into the Military Academy and trained as officers in the 1950s, 60s, 70s and 80s were the kind of people you’d expect — relatively conservative young men enamored of guns and hierarchy. About the only action they ever saw was hunting down little bands of communist no-hopers sent by Cuba to start guevarista focos revolucionarios on the sierras of Falcón and Sucre states. The institution was steeped in anti-communism, and the kinds of people who joined it were anti-communists.

Unión Cívico-Militar is the name Chávez gave to a harebrained scheme to graft that Armed Force onto a radical leftist revolutionary movement run by civilians whose entire worldview was crafted in Cuba.

And it was very much the same institution because, save for a few exceptions arising from the 2002 coup attempt, Chávez never really purged the old Armed Forces. The men (and a few women) who were promoted to the rank of Division General this year and have received top command posts at the nation’s powerful Regional Strategic Defense Commands (REDIs) graduated from the Military Academy in 1987. This means they went into the academy as teenagers in 1982. Now how many leftist 17 year olds were really going for a military career in 1982?

We know the answer isn’t zero —one Diosdado Cabello was in that bunch— but you can bet it isn’t many.

So how did Chávez, first, and then Maduro pull off this Unión Cívico-Militar conjuring trick?

The answer, overwhelmingly, is money and privilege.

Chávez started seeding military men in high-ranking state positions that afforded ample opportunities for corruption literally from the first month he was in power. He looked assiduously the other way as military men trafficked tons of Colombian cocaine through the country, keeping a healthy cut. He ensured military pay rises always outstripped those of civilians. The deal under Chávez was simple: follow the orders, mouth the slogans, and I’m gonna make it rain.

Soldiers didn’t need to repress protests, because nobody protests in the middle of a consumption boom.

For two long decades this was the game: the officers who were most loyal —or, and this is crucial, who most successfully simulated loyalty— were richly rewarded with promotions and opportunities for graft. Those who didn’t, lagged behind.

Unión Cívico-Militar operated, on the ground, as an enormous co-optation mechanism — corrupting the military and ensuring its obedience were one and the same thing.

And for a while, it worked.

As long as the 2004-2014 oil boom lasted, a whole lot of contradictions could just be papered over with hundred dollar bills. Soldiers didn’t need to repress protests, because nobody protests in the middle of a consumption boom. They got to tell themselves they were proudly protecting a constitutional, democratic government. They got to preserve the fiction of being above and outside the political fray.

The lynchpin of Unión Cívico-Militar was Chávez himself. In his person, Chávez incarnated both sides of the equation: he was both a military man through-and-through and a pro-Cuban Marxist radical through-and-through.

The person of Hugo Chávez —his authority, his charisma, his unique mix of identities— reassured both parties to the deal that a semblance of balance would be kept. Chávez calmed fears that one side might try to dominate the other, and that was the key to ensuring its stability.

And then Chávez died.

Maduro’s Approach

The rise to power of Nicolás Maduro was always going to test the governing coalition Chávez put together. A pro-Cuban civilian radical who came up through the ranks of the fringy, pro-Cuban Liga Socialista, Maduro had no military background. As such, he was always going to struggle a bit with the men in green fatigues.

The collapse of oil prices in 2014 added the second key source of stress, as more and more army guys went after fewer and fewer opportunities for personal enrichment, amid worse and worse conditions for junior officers and the enlisted men. You know all is not well when stories start circulating about not enough food in the barracks and videos start making the rounds showing soldiers rooting around the garbage for food.

The basic Chávez-era geometry was straightforward: civilian leftists and the military were to be equal partners.

Maduro hasn’t really managed to insulate the Armed Forces from the general collapse he has set off.  That’s one key reason why tensions and discontent within the Armed Forces has been rising for some time now. But it takes more than that to open up a critical rift between the soldiers and the civilian leadership.

To do that, you’d have to do something much more reckless: you have to threaten their position as equal partners in the Cívico-Militar equation.

The basic Chávez-era geometry was straightforward: civilian leftists and the military were to be equal partners. Neither side would try to run the other out of town. But the moment one side begins to worry that this basic symmetry is under threat, the logic of preemption takes hold and the system becomes very unstable indeed.

Now, Maduro’s four years in power have given the military plenty to worry about. Sure, lots of military men still occupy high positions of state, but more and more real power is in the hands of civilian leftists. And these are not your garden variety civilians leftists.

From the very beginning of his presidency Maduro purged and sidelined most of the old leftists that hopped in the Chavéz bandwagon in the late nineties. These are, by the most part, the ideologues whose claim to power arose mostly out of their personal bond with Chávez: the Giordanis, Navarros and Ana Elisa Osorios, who always held important positions in the cabinet. They were replaced, on the civilian side of the equation, by and large, with a younger generation of radical leftists who understand politics through the Cuban lense.

Key here is the heavily Cuban-tinged Frente Francisco de Miranda (FFM), the nationwide network of tens of thousands of civilian political activists that has come to serve as Maduro’s go-to organization within the ruling party. As the FFM is empowered, as figures close to FFM take on positions of more and more power, the basic power symmetry suggested in Unión Cívico-Militar comes under greater and greater strain.

And then, Maduro made a move that threatened to dynamite the entire arrangement.

The Constituyente as Detonator

On May 1st, Nicolás Maduro called for a Constituent Assembly to govern the country singlehandedly while it redrafts Venezuela’s constitution. The plainly illegal call has led to a volley of international condemnation and street protests. Lost amid the hubbub is the reaction within the Armed Forces, where the constituyente can only be felt as a clear and present threat.

Why? Because Maduro has scoured the membership lists of the Frente Francisco de Miranda for Constituyente candidates. This implies that total supra-constitutional authority will be vested on just one of the two sides of the Unión Cívico-Militar equation, and it ain’t the military side.

But also because the Constituyente threatens to further inflame political protest on the streets, threatening to draw the military more and more directly into front-line management of political conflict. This is something we tend to overlook: through its first 113 days, the protest movement of 2017 has been repressed almost entirely by civilian Police and the National Guard, with other service branches kept resolutely in their barracks. The Army, the Navy and the Air Force have been spectators to the bloodletting, not participants. And they are deeply institutionally averse to getting involved in the melée directly.

The military will be left to deal with a huge fire, while the government keeps throwing gasoline on it

For this reason, the Army brass has been a consistent voice urging the civilian authorities to de-escalate, stretching back to the Referendum Revocatorio fight of last year. Again and again they’ve urged the civilian leadership to adopt a cautious, conflict avoiding stance towards the crisis, to de-escalate and seek arrangements to stabilize the country without them having to get directly involved. Again and again they’ve been rebuffed, ignored and —in the eyes of some— just plain humiliated.

And they know, from recent experience, that when as conflict intensifies both before and after July 30th, they won’t be able to count on the government to dial it down a notch: the whole purpose of the Constituyente is to radicalize the revolution and to stomp on the opposition. The military will be left to deal with a huge fire, while the government keeps throwing gasoline on it.

Maduro’s Choice

The choice facing Maduro in the next few days is stark. To go ahead with a constituent assembly is to threaten the basic power architecture of the chavista state. Amid chronic instability on the street, Maduro needs the loyalty of the Armed Forces more than ever — but his strategy for quashing those protests, involve drafting an armed institution created to hunt down pro-Cuban radical leftists to crack the skulls of people mobilizing against giving total power over everything to a group of pro-Cuban radical leftists.

On the other hand, cancelling the Constituyente would mean throwing the Frente Francisco de Miranda troglodytes —increasingly Maduro’s real base— under the bus. These guys have fully bought into the idea that they are now a week away from their lifelong dream: total control of the state, carte blanche to annihilate the ‘fascist right wing opposition’. Telling them it was all a bluff this late in the game would be like cancelling Christmas on December 22nd.

Whether he realizes it or not, the bigger problem Nicolás Maduro faces right now is not the opposition: it’s that he now risks an outright break with the one institution whose support he absolutely cannot do without.

Short of money, short of food, short of respect and feeling absolutely neglected, much of the Armed Forces is in no mood right now to go cracking skulls and violating human rights just to preserve the power of a government that isn’t minded to respect the basic rules of Union Cívico-Militar powersharing. Nor does getting past July 30th really solve this problem for him: with every new controversial decision, every move that empowers radicals and mobilizes dissent, he’ll be pouring salt on the military wound.

The real threat for Maduro now comes from them, not us.

52 COMMENTS

  1. Nice analysis. Still it leaves me with some questions. If we look at the line that Padrino is following, it looks like the Armed Forces are on Maduro’s side. Also, the ranks have been closed if there is any truth to the telegram that Padrino sent. Furthermore, I believe the Cuban influence within the Armed Forces is way bigger than we might think. At least that is what my sources tell me.

    The only way out of this mess is full scale revolt. Anything in between will not be sufficient. There is a plan for everything and the main goal of the dictatorship right now is to buy time with any means necessary. Luisa, Muerte Suspendida etc. everything is used to buy time for the rigged constituyente. After that we live in a cuban run dictatorship which will stay in power until the light crude will stop to flowing Castro’s and the other powers.

  2. The “Unión Cívico-Militar” was not a creation of Chavez. It has its origins in the 1945 coup, the resistance against Perez Jimenez as well as in left-wing tactics during the Lucha Armada (the Carupanazo and Porteñazo are consequences of that). They were almost sucessful. Since the Armed Forces defeated that AND THEN defeated urban and rural guerrillas, the FALN retreated. But a split from that, led by Douglas Bravo, remained in the hills, seeking to ALSO promote left-wing cadres among the FFAA. They were close to taking power in 1992.

    So it was not a harebrained scheme. It is current military doctrine.

  3. The real choice for the military is: who are they better off with, really, the fringy left loonatics who need them or the opposition, who would certainly take power and graft opportunities from them? This is why I fear they will stay loyal, even through cubanization.

    On the other hand, there is even a third, scarier choice: maybe the military ought to just take over. A “transitionary” military government

  4. You make an excellent point showing that Maduro’s ANC power grab also threatens the military privileged status quo. There are no apparent guarantees for the men in green either. However, my impression is that the military is acting like a ‘deep state’ actor. Furthermore, whatever the ANC produces will be under the tutelage of the military. If nothing else, interpret Padrino Lopez jingoistic appearances.

    In the last few weeks, Prodavinci has run a couple of sobering interviews with Rocio San Miguel and recently retired Chavista General Alexis Lopez Ramirez. I read from them that indeed the Venezuelan military is, after 18 years in the making a truly Chavista organization. The are no ideological differences between the rascals in power and them. I am sure, that they may be more realistic and play the game in a more realpolitik, tinged with their cultural fascist tendencies. So my expectations is that the military will take over and, in their mind, get Chavismo right once they dispose of those effete civilians.

    Moreover, the take over will probably be bloody, because the reigning click knows that the retirement plan for them is jail or death. Godgiven no se va por las buenas.

    Finally, the perfect take over time is this weekend. They are having Plan Republica which means the troops are out in town with their guns.

    • I read that interview in ProDavinci to Alexis López as well. His words sound like one of a man with a lot to hide. He’s probably terrified to death of whatever the regime might do to him, so it is better to toe the Chavista line (even a mild one) than to incriminate himself and be left with no cover.

      As far as Godgiven is concerned, we all know he’s a rat. If you want to believe on what was written on “Búmeran Chávez”, he’ll probably cooperate with the DEA as a protected witness in exchange for immunity and a cushy asylum the second the regime’s collapse is all but certain.

      • Even Pablo Escobar understood that being at the top of the pyramid, cooperation in exchange for leniency was not going to work… The US had amassed sufficient incriminatory evidence, which if we believe Sen. Rubio, it is probably the case now with our peeing Pablito (Godgiven)…

        So it would take a Houdini dissapearing act to escape the long arm of justice… He must be paying very well those reportedly 60 – 80 bodyguards…

        If any entity or individual has been identified as a clear and present danger to the US,..and region, what is the next step?

  5. Interesting point of view, we could see some of the fractures you mention in the lack of part of the army in the military celebration of July 5th, however, I still think that the military IS the dictatorship

  6. @LTF it does not matter if it is Maduro & Co or a military power grab. Both will have the same outcome; a Cuban run dictatorship. If we look at Cuba, we can see who are well of, and that is the Armed Forces. They can do anything they want and have their “get out of jail for free cards” for the last 50 years or so…

    • I am not sure that a Cuban dictatorship is assured after a military takeover. The likes of Luisa Ortega shows that there is a part of Chavismo that understands itself as democratic. When they think of Chavismo they see this wholesome movement that won MANY elections that the pueblo just loves (the Chavez bueno, Maduro malo crowd). There is a distinct possibility that they may take over for a while and then yield to an election.

      • I think the likes of Luisa are a ploy. The fact is that there is no arrest warrant or anything else blocking her. Seems staged to me.
        If I am wrong than we still have the problem of chavismo staying in full control. Which will not result in any election what so ever.

  7. Good analysis. It makes sense albeit it would have been great to discuss the alleged support of the military to the results of National Assembly election, the internal sentiment of being “advised” by the Cubans and the issue that a good chunk of the military comes from poor or lower middle class homes. It also misses to mention that certain high profile military that waited until they are out of the guiso to denounce precisely the corruption of the system: Cliverlito, Miguelito, and the worst offender Raulito. What is the current role of these former men in green?.

    At the end of the day, you are right the military may not be too concerned on who’s in the government as long as the checks keep coming. That is a very unfortunate culture that it is quite engrained and Chavez/Maduro fostered to keep the insurance for unplanned coup. But the military is a close nit community even if they go stray in one way or the other, and their families close and far continue to be civilians suffering the strife like anyone else.

    I believe lots of military are afraid of what may happen to them once Maduro is not more. Lots of them have a level of illegal activities. Some are really invested in the corruption schemes and some know that their prospects of military career are pretty much over once there is a new government. One way to bring them to support getting rid of Maduro is to offer ample pardon for some crimes: drug/food trafficking, customs mishandling, even treason (the fact remains that we were conquered by the lesser nation of Cuba in the nose of our “defense” forces).

    The point here is negotiation, I believe there has been lots of discussions and whatnots. But the military know that with Maduro things would stay more or less the same. That is a dangerous thought.

    If we use statistics, you may say that Maduro has a very low chance of success on becoming dictator. Most dictators across history share something in common: the were military men, Maduro is not.

  8. Your statement “military will be left to deal with a huge fire, while the government keeps throwing gasoline on it” is brilliant.

    I am concerned that too many of the military will fear prosecution for their corruption and narco business to let this government fall.

  9. Excellent article.
    The hope that the military will break with the regime is tempered because of the Cuban infiltration into the Venezuelan military. The corruption that is rampant within the top brass does not bode well for a military coup. Most likely one corrupt leader would be replaced by another corrupt leader.
    I have not been a proponent of sanctions against Venezuela as a whole. I preferred the targeted sanctions against the individuals most responsible for the damage and suffering of the people. Recently my opinion has changed. Should Trump decide to use economic sanctions against the Venezuelan oil industry, I don’t believe the Venezuelan people will suffer any more than they already are suffering. In fact the suffering of the people may be eased if this forces the regime to allow humanitarian aid into the country.
    US money from oil exports is supporting the Maduro and Castro regimes. People that are familiar with my previous comments are aware that my hope is that the fall of Maduro will cause the fall of Castro. Severe sanctions from the US may do exactly that.
    If Castro is unable to bleed any more money from Venezuela will he be able to maintain the troops that have infiltrated the military?
    Cuba is bankrupt. Trump has already taken steps to slow the US tourists traveling to Cuba. This leaves Castro with no option for income once Venezuelan support is removed.
    The reality of Venezuelan oil supplies coming into the US is much less than many sources claim. The US also exports finished products and light crude to Venezuela. The net oil coming into the US is in the range of 700,000 barrels per day. It is significant. Outside of a temporary price fluctuation, there will not be much impact on the US oil supply. Venezuelan production has fallen to around 2 million barrels per day. Russia and China are taking 800,000 – 900,000 barrels per day as debt repayment. Oil is supplied to Cuba and other allies of the Maduro regime at reduced prices or as gifts of foreign aid. Domestic consumption has declined considerably but is still sold at a price below production / importation costs.
    The bottom line is that Venezuela is only realizing around $750 million per month ( $9 billion per year ) gross on Venezuelan oil sales. The net is much less than people realize. The sales of Venezuelan oil are only 50% of what is produced. This doubles the realized lift cost in comparison to sales due to so much oil being exported or consumed domestically without any corresponding revenue.
    Without any access to debt markets and no more assets to sell, severe sanctions may be the shove that the regime needs to put it over the cliff.

      • Chavez threatened to stop all oil sales to the U.S. many times during his 13 years in power. Maduro should be ecstatic and dancing about making Chavez threat come true even if it is the U.S. closing the spigot.

        When will OPEC realize that the U.S. can be oil independent, if needed, in a few months? Maduro’s real enemy is the frackers in the U.S.

  10. The Pope holds the future of Venezuela in his lips. He will have to answer to a higher authority either way.

    But Venezuela is just a small part of it. There is an overall breakdown of society led by Trump on one side and Francisco on the other. Neither one is happy with the world that resulted from the fall of the Berlin wall.

    • Hey MUD your comments are worthless!!!!!!!!! Get the F out of here!!!!

      Hey, are you a Cuban G2 troll???

      Obviously your English sucks and most Chavista monkeys are poorly educated and refuse to learn other languages.

      This is a constructive and thoughtful message board for intelligent conscientious people who care about the future of Venezuela–a country your scum has destroyed.

      MUD Fuera!!! Fuera!!! Fuera!!! Fuera pa Cuba MMG!!!

  11. Very glad you guys brought in the Elephant in the Room. The Armed Forces.

    They hold they key to solve the conflict other than foreign intervention.
    But we are left still with more questions than answers.

    1. How embedded and real control Cuba has over the Military?
    2. Role of the Military in the 2015 AN opposition victory and why they let it go through?
    3. The day after Maduro leaves, if ever, what to do with the Military, would they have to leave too? If not how the coexistence would work after all that has happened?

    By the way, I don’t know how your post comes to the conclusion that Maduro is taking power away from the armed guys, it makes absolute no sense to me. Maduro + Military is the only way for him to move forward. Dictatorship or any other regime needs support of the gun. Assuming Maduro is capable of some rational thinking.

    I have read other views and the story goes like Maduro (the chosen one) is just a puppet of the Armed Forces and Castro’s to keep riding the Chavez populist wave while sucking $$ as fast as possible.

    It looks as if nobody has complete control while the Venezuelan bus is heading full speed ahead to a cliff.

  12. Olivier is right–the “Union Civico-Militar” was NOT an invention of Chavez, but was a tacit agreement during the 40 years of Punto Fijismo democracy, and became heavily-infiltrated by Leftists over time post-Caldera “pacification”, because of Castro influence behind the scenes, and Guanabana laxity. The Military, as Renecuajo says, are not going to lose power (they ARE the power) post-ANC, since key figures would go to jail internationally, 1/3 or more are Ministers/Governors/et. al., and CAMIMPEG (and narcotics) are their cash cow, similar to the Castro-Cuban “Civico-Militar” structure. Mid-/lower-level troops are constantly being spied-on/controlled by many of the 15m/more (Almagro, dixit) Cubans resident in Venezuela. The ANC will, composed of majority Party faithful/minority ignorant “Pueblo”, simply follow the dictates of the Central Govt. since that is their only real source of funding (plus ravaging what’s left of non-enchufado private property/business). It is essential that severe economic sanctions be placed on Venezuela internationally to cut off the Regime’s lifeblood economic funding, and this was even favored by Almagro, in his recent Senate Sub-Committee testimony, since he believes that internal conditions in Venezuela are already at sanctions levels (and, if they’re not imposed/cause Regime change, things will get even more intolerably worse). In the absence of successful: Ven. military fracture; economic sanctions; or civil war, Venezuela’s final solution will be imposed on it from the outside, with sorely-needed restoration of democracy/order–Hemispheric stability/security will demand/necessitate this….

    • NET, agree on most of what you wrote. However, Almagro said he was not sure if sanctions would ultimately work or not according to historic data. In my opinion sanctions would hurt everyone including the US. In my view the conditions are ripe for a unilateral military intervention with the approval and cooperation of some countries bypassing the dysfunctional OAS and UN.
      A foreign military intervention is the only way to bring Maduro and his cronies to justice and more importantly to restore the military from scratch into a defender of Democracy.
      Would be interesting to see another worldwide referendum if Venezuelans approve of a foreign military intervention. I think the answer to that would be a 10 Millions Si !!!

      • ToroV, you’re right about Almagro saying external sanctions normally need internal support to be Regime-changing–in Venezuela’s unique case, however, 95% of hard currency/a large majority of food consumed depends on single commodity oil exports, which, if they could be severely impinged, could force Regime change (but, as Almagro also said, the complicating factor is the enormous amount of narco moneys filtering to the Civico-Militar ruling cupula). As some entendidos have said, the external military option would be a last resort, but, contrary to some opinions, would be used if necessary….

      • There wil be no foreign military intervention. Status quo is still good enough to all parties involved although it is a tight power balance (US, China, Russia). If there need to be chnge the change must come from within.

        I agree that oil sanctions and as a result bankrupting the country would be of great help. But I do not think that the US would go through with it as Venezuela has a significant in US oil imports. Even if it is the stated 700000 barrels per day, especially if it is light crude like they ship to Cuba.

        And please remember that according to official sources, Venezuela ships about 30 million barrels of light crude per month to Cuba. Yes that is light as in the good stuff. So for the Castros there is a lot at stake. But it is about time for a change, if it does not come soon only god can help us.

        • I believe, though maybe a low-ball aberration, that only 494m bbls/da. were exported to U. S. in June. As RD said, Trump can mitigate loss of Ven. bbls. short-term by selling out of U,S.Strategic Oil Reserve. Of course, outside military intervention is a last resort, and a lot of worsening has to happen first; but a Castro-Communist permanent Regime in Venezuela will not be allowed to stand. And, yes, Cuba sees Venezuelan current/similar Regime survival possibly as the survival of their own Regime, which makes the wicket even stickier….

          • Venezuelan crude sales to the U.S. fell in June to lowest in 14 years.
            HOUSTON (Reuters) – Venezuelan crude exports to the United States fell to 491,340 barrels per day (bpd) in June, the lowest monthly level since early 2003, because of fewer sales by state-run PDVSA to its unit Citgo Petroleum, according to Thomson Reuters Trade Flows data.

            Venezuela’s crude production has sharply decreased since 2012 amid a lack of investment and payment delays to oil service companies, affecting exports to PDVSA’s customers, including those in the United States.

            PDVSA and its joint ventures sent 29 crude cargoes to the United States last month versus 42 cargoes in May, a 29 percent fall in the shipped volumes. Compared with exports in June 2016, the decrease was 25 percent.

            The main U.S. recipient of Venezuelan crude last month was refining firm Valero Energy. Sales to Citgo Petroleum [PDVSAC.UL] declined almost 66 percent versus May to 68,400 bpd in June.

      • The two most widely known US sanction actions were against Iran and Cuba.
        Russia stepped in to prop up the Castro regime until the fall of the Soviet Union. Between the collapse of the Soviet system and the support from Chavez, Cuba was in dire straits.
        For many reasons long term sanctions on Iran were slower to impact the Iranian economy. Many outside observers felt that the sanctions were becoming very effective at the time they were lifted. This may have been what ultimately brought Iran to the negotiating table.
        Venezuela is a completely different situation. Chavismo and Maduro have done more damage in the last 20 years than economic sanctions ever could have done on their own. Other countries that were targets of economic sanctions have had some reserves or expectations of support from allies to help mitigate the impacts. None of this exists for Venezuela.
        I do not see Russia or China coming to the rescue of this regime. Rosneft is trying to find different collateral other than Citgo to recover their bonds after the inevitable default.
        China has already refused Maduro’s requests for more loans when he was in a much less precarious situation. China seems to only be concerned with obtaining as much oil as possible to repay the current loans they have extended Venezuela.
        The remainder of Maduro’s international supporters are all net beneficiaries of Venezuelan largess and are in no position to support the government any farther than offering asylum. Additionally the US is discussing suspending US aid to countries that support the Maduro regime.
        I believe that US sanctions could be the deciding factor. Luis Almagro spoke about the need for internal as well as external pressure being needed for regime change. The internal pressure will increase as people continue to starve and the regime continues its oppression.
        Trump will never allow Venezuela to become a Cuban satellite. It is Ironic that all the talk about Yankee Imperialism never mentions the reality of Cuban Imperialism.
        Another point to consider is that the banks and financial houses that are holding the Venezuelan debt have considerable political influence. It may be that Maduro emptied the treasury in an effort to appease the banks and not have them lobby for regime change. Default is a foregone conclusion and the regime can not avoid it even without sanctions.
        MUD needs to appoint a transitional government as part of the response to the ANC.
        The new government needs to make public its road map for recovery of Venezuelan society and the Venezuelan economy.
        This will give the politically influential bondholders another incentive to support US and international intervention.

        • John, excellent post!

          Indeed, as far as sanctions go, we have to treat apples like apples and oranges like oranges.

          Iran’s domestic industrial and agricultural sectors were not destroyed by almost 20 years of Chavismo. Sanctions could not bring Iran to her knees because Iran was already standing firm. Venezuela however is on the ropes. The knees are wobbly, cant see straight and we only need to land that final good punch for the KO.

          HARD SANCTIONS ARE THE KO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

          Maduro and Co can continue to repress and shove the prostituyente down our throats till October. But when they are broke they cannot pay off those who they need to pay off the most…

          We have already suffered long enough. We are tired, yet as Naky says: “we go on.”

          Please we need to land that knockout punch ASAP!!

          Hard sanctions will lay these scum flat out cold on the ground.

    • Agreed NET, unless something happens this weekend, it will go down to sanctions. Once they cant pay the soldiers-more than they already are not paying them- why go along with this bullshit revolution.

      I have a friend who went to Ciudad Bolivar and stayed the night on a military base there for a sporting event. Yes, typical Venezuelan military base. However the soldiers are not paid jack. There is rampant drug use among the soldiers. Soldiers are not segregated by gender, so lots of hanky panky going on. There is even a casino on base. I am sure many make extra bsf by selling drugs on the side. Even a few might steal guns and sell to malandros. That said, it is more or less an impoverished dormitory.

      I did not ask anything about political ideology and the like, but it is obviously they would rather be on base partying rather than putting out the flames that Maduro and co are pouring gasoline on.

  13. Superb article. Very well written, clear and highly informative precisely about the most obscure and most important aspect of Venezuela’s crisis.

    Nonetheless, Toro’s questions and comments above are valid.

    My only comment.. (gotta pick on something about this great post), is that you – and too many people – keep mentioning Maduro – a retarded Colombian bus driver – as the big decision maker, responsible for everything. That ain’t so. You should be referring to a large group of Chavistoide thieves allied to some extent with Maduro’s faction of the criminal narco-regime.

    You see, it’s not “Maduro’s Choice” as stated in the title of the your last paragraph. Not at all. Maduro is by all accounts a puppet of various forces,, including the military, the Cubans (not just Raul Castro either), plus mega-crooks like Tarek, Rodrguez and Cabello. Not to mention Cilia, la que lleva los pantalones..

    “El pueblo” tends to think that when Maduro falls, it’s all peaches and cream. In fact there are dozens of very powerful thugs contributing, when not making all the important decisions. So we shouldn’t be talking or writing ‘Maduro this’, Maduro that”, he’s nothing but a weak, under-educated, dumb puppet with zero charisma. And with much less real power than many seem to attribute to the clueless bastard.

    Thanks for this post, it answered many key questions. Looking forward to a follow up on the military’s mysteries.

  14. Good piece but leaves one key question unanswered: would the alternative be better for the military? Would a new government restore a balanced equation? The piece seems to draw scenarios in absolute terms. But reality is relative. To put it in familiar terms: it’s about repeal and replace, not about repealing only.

  15. “There will be no foreign military intervention. Status quo is still good enough to all parties involved although it is a tight power balance (US, China, Russia). If there need to be change the change must come from within.”

    True Dat, as my nephew says. The world has changed a lot since the 80’s, Panama or Grenada.

    And those who still talk about the somewhat leftist, laughable Pope being a factor.. dream on. Almagro and the lamentable OEA are almost as useless as the highly corrupt Vatican. By enlarge, the “International Community” does almost nothing, all talk, no concrete actions.

    Now about Economic measures against the Criminal Narco-Kleptocracy, that could work. At least for a while, now, on a key moment: If the USA and India decided to stop paying and buying Vzla’s heavy oil, and stopped selling us light crude and gasoline, that would really be devastating for the Genocidal Petro-Regime.
    Surely Russia, China and a few other twisted countries would come to the rescue, but it would take some time to replace the USA and India’s money flow, light oil and gas. At this crucial juncture of the crisis – la Hora Zero – it could prove overwhelming

    It could be “la gota que desborda el vaso”, the final kick to overthrow Chavismo, along with even larger MUD pueblo protests, and a few fed-up military dudes.

  16. Nice article. However, the statement “The types of people who went into the military academy…..were relatively conservative young men enamored of guns and hierarchy” might not reflect important aspects, one of them, their own capabilities. More often than not, they were not able to get into the higher educational universities/programs and ended up in the military academies – and at the lowest level being the infamous Efofac (GN factory).

    In what appears to be a deceiving game, Venezuela has been keeping an untested armed force which was never called/required to demonstrate its worth. The leftist attacks (including the infamous Machurucuto Cuban invasion) were mere skirmishes. Maybe the fly over by F16s over “Los Monjes” – does not take more than a few minutes from Base Libertador – as a show of force to deter Colombia, but real action over the past 100 years?

    Which begs the question: Do we need these armed forces? and, are we prepared to bear the cost of keeping them? Does the State need tutelage by the military?

    It is like being in a condominium and having to keep several tenants that never pay their dues (and substantially contribute to the wear and tear). I know this is controversial, but an eviction (and replacement with new tenants might be in order.

    • That is the weakest argument i have ever heard. Does he even know the bs he is saying?

      “i wish Venezuela was sanctioned , that would screw the rich bankers that live in Washington”

      Seriously? who do you think gets fucked with sanctions to the country instead of individuals? the millionaire elite who already are millionaires or US. the people who live week by week trying to get by?

      That guy must live on Miami or in Narnia. Like always, the people calling for interventions, radicalism and draconian stupidity are the ones who don`t see themselves affected.

  17. Good article, it shows chavismo by what it actually is: The tendril which was used by the cubans to colonize Venezuela through a bunch of traitors and brainwashed agents who sold themselves for a slice of the oil pie.

  18. I just can’t conceive of military intervention anytime soon by US forces. If the goal is to strike fear in the hearts of narco-generals, then have a Seal team pluck Godgiven Hair’s ass out of the country one night and have the videos ready of him handcuffed and doing the perp walk into a NYC federal court.

    With that you’ve accomplished the goal of putting an indicted drug kingpin under arrest and shown the narco-generals that none of them are safe anywhere in the country. Of course, you’ve also removed the de facto shadow military dictator from the equation.

  19. Breaking News: Rebelious Militares to Maduro, Diosdado and crew: “we will accompany you to the cemetery, but we will not go in it with you.”

    From Imprissioned Coronal Jose de Jesus Gamez Bustamante

    Thesis: US Sanctions will cause major social unrest that the military cannot and will not want to deal with this situation. Sanctions will break this state and will cause major chaos for this government. Venezuela will become ungovernable. Not just the opposition is coming for you, but people from the barrios will be looking for skulls to crack as well. They do not want to go down with the ship for the ideologues.

  20. Mr. Popo agrees with your breaking news Jim, chaos from Caracas to Valencia, a major PSUV figure dead, and more big names parting ways with Maduro this week.

    My woman swears by the guy. LOL

  21. This article offers a fresh perspective of the current situation. Until now the Armed Forces have been a disappointment especially in their passive role in not insisting that the recall referendum of the president be held last year. Although the situation described in the article appears bleak, one would hope that not everyone within the Armed Forces has been corrupted. Mottoes such as “honor is their badge” perhaps still mean something to some of their members who have remained, against all odds, idealistic and untainted. The Venezuelan people have been extremely patient of all sorts of abuses by their government. Let’s pray that this time the Armed Forces help to rescue them from this tyranny.

  22. Many of the letters published here call for sanctions on Venezuela if the National Constituent Assembly is installed. Let’s not forget that there is already an embargo set in place by the Venezuelan government that prevents aid in the form of food and medicine from entering the country. Let’s break that embargo and help the Venezuelan people. A multi-national effort modeled on the Berlin airlift of 1948-49 would air drop packages by parachute to the neediest areas of Venezuela, followed by the symbolic gesture of rolls of toilet paper unraveling from the planes down to earth. This airlift would do wonders to physically and spiritually energize the Venezuelan people to bring back freedom to the country.

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