Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Oct 9/13 | It's NOT the military, stupid!

Whats with the obsession of militarizing everything!

As mentioned to those on my mailing list, I have opted - por ahora  - to stop posting on the subject of Venezuela as enough is enough and there is nothing much to say about a calamity that we have grown tired and bored of predicting. Now that most people understand that we are indeed there, at the edge of the precipice, there is little chance of turning back and avoiding the fatal fall. 

The Maduro 'government' is facing a systemic crisis of cataclysmic proportions. I won't bore you with the details (there seems to be no rosy analysts and apologists left). Yet none of the exits others have used to pull out of such dire tailspin are available to a deeply corrupt and hapless regime. It cannot change the team; it cannot change policies; it cannot form a government of national unity and it cannot seek help from multilaterals. Furthermore  its foreign advisers (or is it puppetmasters?) have little understanding of the dynamics of a country defined by anarchy. So what remains as an option? The fatal fall. I see the exit sign, a sign reading SALIDA, still lit although occasionally flickering. But that red sign lies at the bottom of a very deep ravine. This tells me things will get much worse before reconstruction (and reconciliation) can start. History informs us that countries have boundaries (which may change), but they certainly do not have fathomable floors. 

Facing this dire prospect some say; 'it won't be long before the military steps in'. How simple it sounds. How flawed it is. Those making such statement have not understood that the institution most decimated by Hugo Chávez's misrule was that from which he emerged. As a mediocre, mid-level military officer who spent most of his years of active service conspiring and then flamed out in a failed and bloody coup, Lt. Colonel Chávez Frias was 100% paranoid and spent most of his waking hours tinkering with the military. He was always unsure about its loyalties. Always ready to hear and believe rumors. He tried to buy loyalty, he promoted those that could not challenge him, he purged and purged again and by the time he died he still had no clue who was with him and who was not. He politicized the Armed Forces and militarized the government. He entangled the vision, the mission and the line of command of the Venezuelan military and he called upon Cuban military intelligence to act as his eyes and ears in every military nook and cranny. 

What remains is a highly fragmented and unreliable institution that is more part of the problem than part of the solution. If there is a chance of a bloody civil confrontation in Venezuela it is because of the fragmented, politicized and corrupted state of the military. Factions abound and the dividing lines are of multiple sorts. Those that support and those that despise the so called 'Bolivarian revolution'; those that partake in the growing narcotics trade and those that are appalled by it; those that have long served in civilian positions in government (and have enriched themselves) and those that have been relegated to second rate command positions (or no command at all); those that have been promoted without merit and those that have been forced out despite their merits; those that reject Cuban involvement in national security matters and those that gleefully facilitate such inherence. The institution is so dysfunctional that it is safe to say it is out-of-control. Recently an active duty officer confirmed this when he told me he had never seen so much disorder, chaos and a sort of 'anything goes' environment in the country's main military garrison: Fuerte Tiuna in Caracas. "Aqui todo el mundo esta haciendo lo que le da la gana" ("here everyone is doing as they please'). Not a very comforting picture when one sees that the same occurs on the civilian side. 

It is always bad form to generalize and I will never state that ALL military officers have become components parts of the crisis, but, when talking about the military one usually thinks of a monolith. One single set of principles, one clear mission and one line of command. For good, or for bad, that is what being an institution demands. Fragmentation, lack of discipline and multiple command lines bode ill for a gravelly ill nation.

The re-institutionalization of the Armed Forces will be a mayor and priority task of any reconstruction. That is why the title of this post is simple and to the point. What is naive and out of context is the thought that the military will save the day, today.  PMB

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