Trending

Newsletter

The Progress of Militarization in Venezuela

By: María Teresa Romero - @mt_romero - Jul 25, 2013, 8:00 am

The fourteen years of commander Hugo Chávez Frías’ government installed a militaristic system in Venezuela. Today, the power of the armed forces in matters of public management and all political life overly surpasses the traditional duties of national safety and defense. This prominent role of the military is evident in several constitutional provisions; in a growing number of appointments of active and retired members to key public offices; in the mandatory subject of pre-military education for middle school, high school, and college students nationwide; as well as in the Organic Law of the National Armed Forces — a constitutional statute that has not ceased to exist even after three months of President Nicolás Maduro’s presidency, but on the contrary has gained prominence.

After only a few days in power, President Maduro announced a plan of gradual militarization of the country under the name of the “Safe Country Plan.” Maduro deployed 30,000 servicemen from the National Army, the National Bolivarian Police Forces, and other regional troops to carry out a plan that started immediately in the state of Miranda, currently governed by opposition leader Henrique Capriles Radonski.

The Government supports the operation, saying it is meant to protect citizens from the increasing levels of insecurity nationwide. (The Ministry of Internal Relations registered 6,050 homicides from January until May 2013.) Instead of making the Chávez’ administration accountable for the situation — given that it prohibited state police forces — Maduro continues to blame opposition governors and leaders. However, the Internal Ministry of Justice governs the police forces of our country.

The truth is that the illegitimate government of Nicolás Maduro is looking to achieve the militarization of our society, and with it, to silence and frighten the political opposition and the general population that regardless of the socioeconomic challenges are showing discontent towards the government by means of massive street protests. This militarization plan has also a lot to do with the upcoming municipal elections on December 8, 2013. It is no secret that the military forces have favored the government in every voting process. But now that the troops will be on the streets carrying out safety duties, it will be even easier to express their preferences. Finally, the specific goal is to continue the militaristic project of establishing a totalitarian regime, originally planned by Hugo Chávez Frías.

In April, the then appointed president Nicolás Maduro — even before winning the presidential elections with only a slight difference in votes and with evidence of fraud — had the National Guard posted in all electrical stations because of an alleged opposition plan (never proved) to shut down electricity in the country. Maduro had also threatened to use the army to stop an alleged destabilization plot (also not proved), planned by the opposition and the United States. These supposed conspiracy claims and boogeymen have not stopped during his three months in office. In fact there are weekly government announcements of military invasions or coup d’etats planned by the “opposing right” with the aid of the “Colombian oligarchy” and the “American empire” against the Bolivarian Revolution.

The reality is that from the very beginning the “Safe Country Plan” has not only not reduced homicides or crime as the government claims — violence in Venezuela has increased in the past 2 months, according to the Venezuelan opposition — but has also increased the number of cases of power abuse from military members to puzzling levels. There have been cases of young people hurt and tortured, as well as citizens murdered at the hands of the National Guard. The most recent was the case of a house wife and her daughter who were murdered by a number of gunshots while riding their car in the streets of the state of Falcón. The group of military agents that witnessed the shooting did not stop or warn the victims before the shooting, pleading that they “had confused” the victims with other suspects.

This new safety plan is another failure, just like the past ten safety plans put forward by the chavismo.

It is not by chance that different Human Rights Organizations have questioned Venezuelan government’s decision to use the military forces to solve the safety problem. Indeed, the military is not prepared for such task. According to the most recent Annual Report of the Venezuelan Program of Education-Action in Human Rights (Provea), the National Guard and the military forces in Venezuela are involved in 44.44 percent of the torture cases attributed to government armed forces. Similarly, given those records of power abuse, the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights has filed a request for the Venezuelan authorities to stop making use of military and police members in the war against crime.

María Teresa Romero María Teresa Romero

Romero is a journalist with a PhD in political science, specializing in international politics. She's a professor at the Central University of Venezuela, a columnist in several Venezuelan and international newspapers, and the author of several books. Follow her at @MT_romero.