The cellphone video made the rounds on Twitter yesterday. It shows a group of the rebel National Guardsmen in Cotiza, north of downtown Caracas, talking to a Major General seated on the floor, in the typical landscape of a Venezuelan military facility: trees with whitewashed trunks and high walls. A soldier, off camera, speaks to the high ranking officer and he responds:
“Maybe you’re right about how some of your needs are not being addressed…”
“Our needs and those of all Venezuela!” interjects the soldier.
“Okay, all Venezuela. But, have you listened to the last statements of the United States?”
#AHORA Efectivos de la Guardia Nacional sublevados en Cotiza: "Nosotros le vamos a enviar un mensaje a toda Venezuela de que nosotros también estamos padeciendo lo mismo" #21Ene https://t.co/TEe3tzaieC pic.twitter.com/s7qKmRwC05
— NTN24 Venezuela (@NTN24ve) January 21, 2019
The Major General circles back to this point all through the recorded conversation; the official myth, completely in-sync with the old castrista school, that all difficulties in Venezuela are the consequence of U.S. sanctions.
The off camera soldier, says “how can it be possible that, in October, I lost my four-month-old baby, due to this whole situation. Four months old, mi Mayor General! Tomorrow, she would have been seven months old!”
The soldier is respectful but tenacious: he doesn’t want to go down the dead end of anti-imperialist clichés. The other soldiers push on the subjects they want to talk about, and the superior officer tries to stop them, without success.
And then, the main voice in the dialogue, the off camera soldier, says “how can it be possible that, in October, I lost my four-month-old baby, due to this whole situation. Four months old, mi Mayor General! Tomorrow, she would have been seven months old!”
This is a parent who lost a child. Every parent’s worst nightmare, one hundreds of parents in Venezuela face.
And what is the answer of the Major General?
Does he say “oh, that’s terrible, I am very sorry for your loss”?
No. He does not.
Instead, he asks, again, why does he think the country is in such a situation?
But the soldier keeps going, and he adds that he hasn’t received his salary since December and that he, a father of three, has no home, and no means to even build a shanty.
“After seven years in the Guardia, I can’t buy a zinc roof for my wife and children. It’s shameful for me to say, mi Mayor General, pero ando del timbo al tambo.”
I don’t know what will come next from the dark realm of the Venezuelan military.
But this video—way more relevant than any recent pronunciamiento recorded by unarmed former soldiers in Peru or Colombia—tells us several things that are critical to this moment in Venezuelan history, and that could serve to foresee what may be about to happen.
It shows that the discontent among troops we’ve been talking about is now so intense that it’s spilling beyond the maniacally surveilled forts, and that most of the forces’ personnel is experiencing the same hardships that the people they are defending the ruling elite from.
This video tells us several things that are critical to this moment in Venezuelan history, and that could serve to foresee what may be about to happen.
It exposes the gap between low and middle ranks and the isolated brass, which is the case of this Major General who seems to think that the soldiers are so stupid they can explain away the death of a child with vague talk about U.S. foreign policy. It captures, in real time, the breakdown of the premise that the chavista propaganda apparatus has worked on for years: they are ignorant, so let’s feed them absurd lies forever.
And this video allows us to think, especially, that even the Guardia Nacional has people who would not obey orders to shoot protestors in the days ahead.
The chain of command—the chain that keeps Maduro tied to his menaced throne—is breaking. How broken it is, we are just about to learn.
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