Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Maduro Faces Dissent From the Military

The past two weeks have seen a number of reports on growing fissures between  Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and members of the left wing of the ruling Socialist Party (PSUV). But in addition to Chavista intellectuals, there is significant frustration with Maduro among the country’s armed forces, as illustrated in two quotes in today’s press coverage:
“What Nicolas [Maduro] is looking for is for us to become partners in this disaster with him, from a propaganda point of view, and none of us is willing to assume the cost, nor will we [...] As there is no longer much strength within the party structure because it is undergoing a process of disintegration, the armed forces are the only thing left and the armed forces are not going to assume responsibility for this mess with him.” 
“In the FANB [armed forces] there is a moral and ethical reserve which must enforce the Constitution; the military is not there to fill its pockets with dollars and then flee the country. They have to assume a historic responsibility to save democracy.”
The first of these comes from an anonymous source in the 4F military movement that joined Chavez in his failed coup attempt in 1992, who told El Nuevo Herald that a growing number of his comrades see the Maduro administration as a failure. He pointed to a recent Supreme Court ruling allowing armed forces personnel to participate in rallies and gatherings in support of the PSUV as a clear example of the government attempting to bind itself to the military, which some in the army leadership are none too happy about.

The second quote is from Yoel Acosta Chirinos, who, alongside fellow 4F comrade Carlos Guyon told El Nacional that they believed it was time for Maduro to step down and for new elections to be held in the country. The eventual renunciation of the president is “inevitable,” according to Acosta, who called on the armed forces to support a peaceful transition.

While both Acosta and Guyon have been critical of the government for some time, their remarks showcase the struggle that President Maduro has faced in securing the support of the armed forces.

Ever since taking office Maduro has increased the role of the military in government, appointing officers at the head of institutions ranging from the national police to the ministry of finance. He also attempted to buy loyalty by launching four new companies under direct military control in September 2013, including the armed forces’ own television channel, TVFANB.

Ultimately, if the sentiments voiced above truly resonate with Venezuela’s military command despite all of Maduro’s efforts at appeasement, his political future could be limited after all.

News Briefs
  • Panamanian President-elect Juan Carlos Varela will be inaugurated today in a ceremony attended by Secretary of State John Kerry and a number of regional heads of state. According to Milenio, Mexican Foreign Minister Antonio Meade took advantage of the event to meet with the presidents of El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala yesterday at the urging of the U.S. to discuss cooperation over the recent surge in migration from the region.
  • As the debate over immigration reform heats up -- with President Barack Obama announcing yesterday that he will seek to bypass congress to overhaul much of the U.S. immigration system via executive orders --the debate over the main causes behind the waves of unaccompanied children on the border has continued. The Miami Herald reports that interviews with many child immigrants in the U.S. suggest gang violence and domestic abuse are major factors behind the trend. Fundar, a Mexico City-based NGO, has a compiled a comprehensive fact sheet on the phenomenon that also emphasizes the role of poverty and family reunification in fueling immigration, and calls on the region as a whole to recognize that the situation “is a humanitarian crisis that impacts the lives of children and adolescents, not a national security crisis.”
  • A Chilean judge has ruled that U.S. officials played a key part in the murder of two Americans at the hands of military officials following the 1973 coup that brought Pinochet to power. The decision found that U.S. Navy officer Ray E. Davis identified the two victims to his Chilean counterparts based on based on an intelligence report on the political activities of Americans living in Chile at the time. As the NYT reports, the ruling confirms what the victims’ families have long believed.
  • When a new law that lifted restrictions on automobile purchases in Cuba for the first time in half a century was announced, it was hailed as the latest advancement in economic reforms on the island. But as Reuters notes, a subsequent markup at dealerships has meant that new cars are well outside the price range of the vast majority of Cubans, and just 50 vehicles have been sold since the law took effect.
  • Mexican authorities yesterday told reporters that a shootout between soldiers and unidentified gunmen in Mexico State left 21 dead, all assailants. The L.A. Times notes that the clash was unusual for its proximity to Mexico City, while security analyst Alejandro Hope told the NYT that he believes these kinds of gunfights may increase as President Enrique Peña Nieto increasingly adopts a military-heavy approach to citizen security.
  • Guatemalan newspaper La Prensa Libre has published an investigation detailing the role of retired military officers in the administration of President Otto Perez Molina. The paper notes that many key figures in the executive branch have military ties, and describes the power networks that revolve around military classes, or “promociones.”
  • Writing for news site OZY, James Bargent looks at Jose Luis Merino, a political powerbroker in El Salvador’s FMLN with ties to Venezuela. Because Merino has been accused of money laundering and intercepted emails have linked him to arms transfers to Colombia’s FARC rebels, analysts have identified him as a potential link between the Salvadoran government and the criminal underworld of Latin America.
  • Argentina’s failure to make a payment to holders of its negotiated debt yesterday initiates a 30-day grace period, which officials will use to avoid the country’s second default in 13 years. Yesterday, an Argentine motion to hold a regional meeting of foreign ministers on the matter passed at the OAS, and the meeting will be held on Thursday, according to Telam. Meanwhile, the holdout creditors in the case have accused the country of refusing to negotiate, as the Wall Street Journal reports.

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