Embattled Venezuelan President Nicholas Maduro, who has maintained a tenuous — and some say illegal — hold on power with the help of the Russians, has begun to purge anew his military. Maduro saw what happened to his closest regional ally, Evo Morales of Bolivia, and moved quickly to consolidate his power. 

Maduro announced on Sunday that he has ordered the arrest of members of the military who conspired with Colombian and U.S. endeavors to oust him from power. Maduro, who according to the opposition party led by Juan Guaido, fraudulently stole the most recent Presidential election, is working to wipe out any real or imagined sniff of disloyalty toward him.

During a television interview on Sunday, Maduro said that the military has shut down or “dismembered” 47 different attempts by the U.S. and Colombia to recruit officials to move against him. He didn’t provide any details besides claiming that the purged servicemen were asked to steal missiles, and to sabotage Sukhoi aircraft, radars, naval torpedoes and missile defense systems. He also tried to stir fear of a U.S. intervention, and blamed Washington and Bogotá for his woes.

Maduro was bound to act after what happened to Morales, who had been in power in Bolivia for 14 years.

Morales falsified the results of an election as auditors from the Organization of American States (OAS) found numerous acts of tampering and refused to verify the elections. Widespread protests began, violence erupted and the country was shut down. 

Morales, in a final desperate attempt to hold onto power, called for new elections. But the military and police, which had stood by and didn’t act against the protesting citizens, finally had enough and forced him from power. 

These scenarios plagued Maduro earlier this spring, but he kept a leash on the military by investing heavily in its senior leadership — most of them have been bought off. He also uses an arbitrary and inflated promotion system where, once officers are promoted to flag rank (General or Admiral) they are given highly inflated salaries and many perks, like homes and land.

Venezuela has about 3000 flag officers for an active military force of fewer than 300,000 troops. To put these numbers in perspective, the U.S. that is considered very top-heavy currently has 920 flag officers with a total active force of about 1.3 million troops.