IT’S HARROWING to witness a revolution happening in real time. The last time a massive uprising occurred in 2011, the Middle East collapsed into fire and chaos. The same is happening in Venezuela, as the authoritarian Chavista government works to undermine the existing constitution and centralise power. To call Venezuela ‘in trouble’ would be a galling understatement.
Protests, many violent, have been occurring on a near daily basis for weeks due to the regime’s corruption and thuggery. The National Guard fires tear gas at civilians, and are propped up by gangs that enforce extrajudicial submission. The economy has imploded, preceded by the two year old collapse in oil prices. Inflation in 2016 was at 800 per cent, so a 60 per cent wage increase announced in March looks positively meagre. The shift to centre-right government across Latin America has isolated the socialist regime.
In March, the Secretary General of the Organisation of American States, a 34 member regional organisation charged with the promotion of democracy and human rights, recommended Venezuela be suspended until Maduro holds free elections. Four-fifths of the ‘pueblo’ that Maduro’s government ostensibly represents want him out of office. Yet, the Bolivarian regime shows no signs of budging. Previous examples are instructive. One factor above all else makes or breaks revolutions: support from the armed forces.
The ideological spine of the revolution is militaryled. Army officials run 11 of the 32 ministries, with Chávez himself a commander. Venezuela has 2000 generals. For context, the United States employs 900. Until they act the regime will endure. It is too early to say the military is tone-deaf to the issues Venezuela faces, especially in the lower ranks. Factions do exist: the ‘originals’ that fought with Chávez in 1992, and the ‘opportunists’, who have profited handsomely from drug trafficking.
Yet, until the interests of the army stop being met, and they stop following orders, woe to Venezuela’s people.