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.
So, after what transpired in La Paz, Bolivia, Maduro is consolidating his power and removing any military officer that isn’t considered 100 percent loyal. Using Russian purge tactics he said in his interview that “permanent intelligence” is in place to detect attempts to “divide and weaken” the armed forces.
In trying to use the fear of a U.S.-led intervention to rally the people behind him, Maduro said that the military “will not kneel ever again before the gringos, nor is it ever again going to put itself at the service of the oligarchy of this country.” Meanwhile, in a bizarre move, he has embraced the move toward “dollarization” of the Venezuelan economy after forbidding the use of U.S. currency in the country a year ago.
With over 4 million Venezuelans fleeing the humanitarian crisis in the country, hyperinflation is ruining the Venezuelan bolivar, which has depreciated by over 90 percent in the last year alone. Maduro will certainly be thankful for the American dollar.
Speaking of this “dollarization” of the economy, Maduro in a stunning admission admitted, “I don’t see it as a bad thing … this process that they call ‘dollarization.’ It can help the recovery of the country, the spread of productive forces in the country, and the economy … Thank God it exists,” he added.
According to a report from Reuters, most of the transactions in the country are now being carried out in dollars as Venezuelans eschew their own currency. Recently, Caracas-based consultancy Ecoanalitica estimated that 53.8% of transactions in the first 15 days of October were carried out in dollars, according to a sampling of the country’s seven main cities. That number reached 86% in the oil-rich city of Maracaibo, which has been badly hit by power cuts.
Guaido, speaking soon after the television interview aired, said that Maduro just admitted another defeat. “The failure in Miraflores, acknowledged today, is that the country is dollarized … he recognizes that our currency cannot even hold value,” he added.
Guaido led a protest rally in front of the Bolivian embassy calling on the people to keep the pressure on the Maduro government. “They thought they were going to put the Venezuelan people to sleep, they thought they had instilled fear into our hearts,” Guaido said to his supporters. “We are not going to give up. Bolivia took 18 days, we have been at it for years. I ask all of Venezuela to keep protesting … every day on the street until we achieve it,” he added.
Meanwhile in Bolivia, the interim government has cut ties with Venezuela and ordered Cuban doctors, who it claimed were interfering with internal issues, to leave the country.
After losing his closest ally in the region, Maduro will probably grow increasingly more reliant on the Russians for his security and on the Chinese for investment in Venezuela’s failing infrastructure.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons