Photo: Diario La Verdad 

When Diosdado Cabello announced that Omar Prieto, then mayor of San Francisco municipality, would be the gubernatorial candidate for Zulia in a second election (elected opposition leader, Juan Pablo Guanipa, refused to be sworn into office by the National Constituent Assembly), something was immediately obvious: Francisco Arias Cárdenas, one of the lieutenant-colonels who, alongside Hugo Chávez, led the failed coup d’état on February 4, 1992, had been definitively displaced from power. Today, conflict is brewing in Zulia.

Arias Cárdenas was the only military officer who succeeded in the coup against Carlos Andrés Pérez, because he took over key institutions in the Zulian region and arrested governor Oswaldo Álvarez Paz, before surrendering after the broader insurrection failed.

Francisco Arias Cárdenas, one of the lieutenant-colonels who, alongside Hugo Chávez, led the failed coup d’état on February 4, 1992, had been definitively displaced from power.

Upon being released from prison, he started a controversial political career: he won regional elections in Zulia in 1995, and called people to vote for Chávez in the presidential elections of 1998; he ran opposite Chávez in the general election of 2000, and became memorable for a pathetic political ad where he used a chicken to invite his opponent to a debate; he took part in the 2002 coup d’état, famously accusing Chávez of being a power-hungry murderer who believed himself “anointed” for a “historic task”; he was rescued in 2005 by Chávez himself and returned to the ranks of the so-called Bolivarian Revolution.

“He crossed the desert,” said Chávez then, and the phrase applies today.

The first thing Prieto did after winning regional elections on October 2017 was threatening “bachaqueros”, giving them 48 hours to vanish, which was unsurprising, as it was one of his campaign promises. The interesting part of this was when he accused the previous administration of allowing these resellers to spread across the state, especially in the capital, Maracaibo.

It was the first of Prieto’s many attacks on Arias, which even prompted the former to go on a media tour to ask the governor to focus on “doing his job.” This was funny, because during his tender, Arias seldom offered interviews, mainly issuing press releases.

“I wasn’t criticizing Pablo Pérez three months into my tender” he said in an interview with Diario La Verdad, meaning his predecessor. “We can’t come and talk poorly of others, we must get there and do our job.”

It was the first of Prieto’s many attacks on Arias, which even prompted the former to go on a media tour to ask the governor to focus on “doing his job.”

Prieto’s most recent complaint is related to the electrical power crisis that causes daily outages and which he could solve by the end of June, according to Lisandro Cabello, the current government secretary.

Lisandro Cabello had the nerve to say that Prieto was the first government to take electrical problems “seriously”, so Nelson Canquiz, one of Arias’ men, demanded in his radio program an end to the blame game and the problem to be resolved.

Rumors come and go. The power game could be Arias’ downfall, just like it was for former PDVSA chairman Rafael Ramírez, major general Miguel Eduardo Rodríguez Torres and, more recently, former Táchira governor José Vielma Mora, who had to see many of his collaborators imprisoned in the anti-smuggling operation called “Paper Hands.”

Journalist Sebastiana Barráez doesn’t think this likely, though.

“There’s indeed a power struggle within the government and the actions carried out in Táchira have to do with Vielma Mora, who has very close ties to Diosdado Cabello” Berráez explained. “But I don’t believe that a similar action is likely here, because the circumstances of Arias and Vielma Mora are quite different; Vielma’s being attacked to reduce Diosdado’s influence, while Arias represents no one but himself.”

It doesn’t seem like Prieto’s attacks of Arias will stop soon, in truth, because they’ve allowed him to excuse his inefficiency and broken promises, and nobody in Maduro’s cabinet will risk their skin for the retired 4F veteran. No one writes to the lieutenant colonel indeed.

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  1. That’s no surprise, prieto’s a well known coward piece of garbage that’s deeply hated by zulians, specially after the way he’s been answering them about the recent blackout problem, which arose suspicions of it being his fault since there’s the story that claims that he’s running cryptocurrency farms wih thousands of stolen computers in warehouses across Zulia and the electric power is being diverted to those facilities while people’s food rots in their fridges.

    So prieto (better known as “pleito”) is using the standard chabizta practice: To blame everything on someone else to keep his image of being “a revolutionary saint”

  2. Cool article. The background information is fascinating, and (I would guess – I can’t say) the characterizations of the men discussed is well done. This is important, because it is these men and men like them who will have to have influence later on. How much influence, and where, depends on a lot of things, but they aren’t going to simply disappear. That is, men like Arias may be the ones running things for a while if and when the current regime falls, so the character of their lives will be important. Will they be capable of making changes necessary to contribute? Those here who will be following what happens post-regime, as Santos has forecast (like a weather report, or not), will be better informed.

  3. The regime seems to be getting very concerned about a military intervention.
    Yesterday a person that I am not familiar with Jesus Silva R, wrote an article in Aporrea claiming that opposition supporters were legitimate military targets in the event of foreign military intervention.

    Japanese General Tojo, who was executed by the US after the end of WW 2, issued a similar order to kill all prisoners once the inevitable invasion of Japan began.
    Tojo’s order was a desperate attempt to delay the end of the allied advance. Just as Jesus Silva’s assertion that the regime has the right to murder Venezuelan citizens is an attempt to stop any intervention.
    The backstabbing and leaking of private conversations that the Trump administration is plagued with, makes it hard for me to believe that any plans have been formalized. Especially involving other OAS member countries. There are simply too many people that would be involved in an intervention for the US media to not be reporting it.
    The regime’s paranoia is fueling hysteria. Hysteria creates panic. This may be the beginning of the long awaited split that so many have hoped for. At the very least it should seriously impair the command and control of the military.

    • Holy shit, that self-proclaimed marxist professor really did say that in his scenario all opposition supporters should be rounded up and murdered.

      • I read that guy’s articles from time to time. He is a smug, insufferable egomaniac, and would fit right in on any American/Canadian college campus. Claims to be communist, but brags about how he makes his own money to pay for his international travel to places like Disneyworld. One of his recent articles was about his having powdered milk he was bringing back on some trip stolen from his suitcase. “Didn’t those people know who he was?!”

        Another Aporrean has rightfully called him out on his death threats. This woman does not post very often:

    • I read that article, and I read him more than I care to admit.

      He is a total self indulgent, pompous ass hole. He aspires to be the “rector” of the UCV.

      A few months ago he wrote a piece explaining the reason that Maduro and the revolution were to govern forever.

  4. in his scenario all opposition supporters should be rounded up and murdered.
    Ahh….the good old days….the lines are being drawn ….get your your popcorn hand wringers….😃

    • Tracers work both ways. Someone advocating the murder of civilians should be targeted by opposition forces.
      It seems that enforcement of the hate speech law has much ambiguity when it comes to regime supporters.
      I think the hysteria surrounding this rumored imminent intervention is revealing the weakness and paranoia among the regime that may be bordering on panic.
      The military may not be relied on to support the regime. The National Guard may be reluctant to commit any abuses that can be attributed to individual soldiers or commanders. The deteriorating morale that is exacerbated by the disparity between the troops and the leadership will further erode trust and loyalty.
      The foundation of military might that supports this regime may be crumbling more quickly than we realize.
      The first major defection may bring everything tumbling down as the players jockey for a position to save themselves.

  5. Arias, while displaying wisps of military competence (Zulia 1992) and ethics (Chavez murderous gallina post-2002), proved himself just another opportunistic aprovechador w/o principles re-joining Chavez in 2006–now, he’s part of NM’s cleaning out of former Chavez stalwarts to try to create NM’s own politico-military power base. As for Arias being consequential in post-apocalyptic Venezuelan reconstruction–esta mas que re-quemado.

    • Well, they took Miguel Rodríguez “tiro en la cabeza de los estudiantes” Torres in, so no one should be surprised they pick up that garbage that’s Arias the triple-toad chicken.


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