In the wake of two months of massive violent protests throughout Venezuela, the nation’s riot police has been stretched to the breaking point, with many seeking a way out, according to a recent report by the Wall Street Journal. The piece also notes that riot police are offered the most meager rations, deprived of sleep, and have been confined to their barracks in off-duty time, due to recent desertions.
Strongman Nicolas Maduro, who has completed Hugo Chávez’s vision of turning Venezuela into a socialist dictatorship, has relied on the support of the military and the police to prop up his increasingly totalitarian regime as it navigates the most dire of straits. Faltering loyalty to his administration on the part of the military and/or police would spell doom for his attempts to cling to power, potentially signalling his impending exit.
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The opposition protests have taken place nearly every day for the past month, as hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans take to the streets to protest food scarcity, shortages, insecurity, and corruption. The Maduro regime’s recent decisions to attempt to dissolve the National Assembly, thwart regional elections, and ban opposition politician Henrique Capriles from the nation’s political life have only served to further deepen the chaos and instability.
Fewer than one in five Venezuelans currently support the regime, and Maduro has recently announced plans to upend the nation, yet again, by holding a new Constitutional Assembly, which he is certain to pack with his own supporters, in attempt to trample the opposition, which holds a large majority in the National Assembly.
Protests have grown increasingly violent, featuring molotov cocktails, rocks, rubber bullets, and teargas. The front lines of the battle lie in Caracas, between the opposition-dominated eastern neighborhoods, and the downtown, which has traditionally been supportive of the regime.
In the Wall Street Journal‘s report, rank-and-file officers interviewed suggest that support for the regime is wavering, a situation only hastened by insufficient food, water, medical care, and wages. Yet riot police also bear the brunt of jeers and ridicule from their neighbors, with many removing their uniforms on their way to and from work. Working for the Maduro regime now comes with a severe social stigma, a fact that could prove catastrophic for the socialist government.
Thus, the question remains: Will Venezuela’s state security rank-and-file desert their posts and/or turn on the government despite the consequences?
Source: Wall Street Journal