The United States must reevaluate its policy towards Venezuela.
A unified international coalition of the Organization for American States (OAS) and a group of Latin American countries backing sanctions and the isolation of Venezuela, combined with social protests and a finally unified opposition under the leadership of Juan Guaido, has generated anxiety and defection within the Venezuelan state apparatus.
However, the Maduro regime has continued to answer protests with violence and has firmly entrenched an apparatus repression that has proven effective.
Simultaneously, sanctions and international isolation have failed to remove the regime or embolden successfully military rebellions against it.
Since the beginning of the Chavez administration, the military has been co-opted with money and political favors, supported by Venezuela’s oil bonanza, drug trafficking, and other, often illegal, activities.
Those who benefited the most were high ranking officers, many of whom were also given civilian responsibilities in the political and economic spheres — including the oil sector.
However, as protests turned larger and the economic situation deteriorated, mid- and low-rank military men, many of whom had family suffering the misery brought by the regime, began to rebel. Although there have been several mid- to low-rank military rebellions in the past several years, all of them were isolated and carried out in an uncoordinated manner.
In June 2017, Oscar Perez, a forensic services officer, commanded a helicopter whose six occupants allegedly launched several grenades and fired at the Venezuelan Supreme Court building.
Perez was eventually killed by government forces.
In August of 2017, a group of military men commanded by Capt. Juan Caguaripano penetrated the military fortress Fort Paramacay, in the State of Valencia. The rebellion was put down. Caparaguano was arrested and thrown in prison, where he is reportedly being brutally tortured.
In January of 2019, 27 members of the Bolivarian National Guard carried a rebellion against the Maduro government in the area of Cotiza, close to the Venezuelan capital, Caracas. The same rebels also took credit for a drone attack targeting the presidential palace that took place the previous August.
Most recently, around 1,500 former military officers defected and fled to the Colombian border. Last July, a Navy captain, Rafael Acosta, was tortured and murdered by the regime after being accused of conspiracy against the regime.
The Acosta case demonstrates how concerned is the Venezuelan government is of a military uprising.
As the military became a problem for the regime, it began to step up its surveillance efforts with the help of Cuban intelligence operatives, a partnership between the two governments that began under Chavez.
The surveillance efforts were revamped to stir paranoia, insecurity, and fear among members of the armed forces and discourage dissidence. Intelligence agents also began arresting and incarcerated military officers they viewed as suspicious or potential "trouble-makers."
This led to deepening polarization within the military and resulted in their increasing subservience to the ruling party, with officers often following orders to work in the fields, collect garbage and perform other activities unrelated to the military mission. According to a high-ranking officer who left the country “the chain of command was broken. It is not clear who is the commander."
By the same token, Cuban intelligence apparatus along with para-military groups known as "Colectivos" became a more reliable ally of the regime than the military. In fact, the military began to become to be perceived as a potential threat to the regime.
This situation within the military, as chaotic as it seems, could be capitalized by the opposition and the United States. Although the military has no clear internal chain of command due to its increased pollicization, I do believe it has the will to remove the regime. Therefore, the time has come to organize this disorganized mass of soldiers with the goal of overthrowing Nicolas Maduro and his associates.
First, as I mentioned, it is important to locate mid-rank military officers willing to overthrow Maduro. The power of mid-rank officers to rebel should be organized to advance the cause of democracy.
The second step should be to counteract Cuban intelligence and its surveillance apparatus. The U.S and others have the cybernetic and technological means to undermine the Cuban surveillance system and sabotage its espionage system.
Third, Venezuelan officers need to organize to suppress the regime’s bastions of resistance. The goal should be to locate where paramilitary forces and the Colectivos operate and thus neutralize all the means of violence that the government controls. T
The role of the U.S. military should not be an active one, but it should help organize and train this organized Venezuelan force and provide it with all logistical support necessary.
A U.S. invasion of the country is out of the question due to opposition from the president and the American public..
This is not a coup d’état. This is about resisting those who oppress Venezuelan citizens and violate their rights. If the government acts with violence, it must be confronted.
A coup d’état is the overthrow of a legitimate constitutional government.
In this case, it would be an act of civil resistance (and would include soldiers who identify with civil suffering) in the name of the constitutional order against a government that has declared war on its citizens. This is comparable to a civil war in which the fight is for the soul and freedom of its citizens.
The downfall of the Maduro regime, which is associated with drug cartels, terrorist groups and rogue regimes, is also a vital security need and crucial for the region’s human rights.
Most recently, President Donald Trump considered declaring drug cartels as terrorist groups, which makes sense in so far as cartels use violence, threaten and weaken governments.
Why tolerate a country that is an ally of these groups and terrorizes and displaces its own population creating instability and chaos in the region?
Luis Fleischman is a professor of Sociology at Palm Beach State College, the co-founder of the think-tank the Palm Beach Center for Democracy and Policy Research and an advisor on Latin America for the Center for Security Policy. He is also the author of "Latin America in the Post-Chavez Era: The Threat to U.S. Security." For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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