Venezuela's defense minister would like socialist dictator Maduro to resign

In Venezuela, the main thing we hope and watch for is the whole disaster ending.  The people are starving.  The aid is not getting through.  The oil is gone.  The cocaine is out of control.  The terrorists are running wild.  The torture has started.  The oil infrastructure is collapsing.  The currency is rotten, with inflation in seven digits.  The corruption tops Mobutu's.  The country is selling itself out like a raddled street whore to hostile powers in exchange for military weapons and foreign troops to base there, and getting itself into deep-dive debt.  Millions are fleeing.  The neighbors are angry.

Disasters always do end at some point.  But as in the case of Cuba, which incidentally runs Venezuela, that could be a very long time.  So the natural thing is to watch for the cracks forming, to watch the opposition for a critical legislative maneuver or, more likely, a Venezuelan Spring – to watch the neighbors, to watch the military, to watch anyone out there who can force some kind of change in the hellhole.

You know that dictator Nicolás Maduro, who just swore himself into office for another term after a fraud election, is busy torturing troops and their relatives.  So it certainly leaped out to a lot of us that Maduro's defense minister, Vladimir Padrino (perfect name for a mafia-state functionary, given that "padrino" means "godfather," and Vlad, well, you know...), reportedly told Maduro behind closed doors, but not beyond U.S. eavesdropping capacities, that he needed to step down and get the hell out.

Here's Reuters, as linked on the Voice of America website:

Venezuela's defense minister told socialist President Nicolas Maduro to step down last month, and said he would offer his own resignation if he did not, the Washington Post reported on Wednesday, citing an anonymous U.S. intelligence official.

Both Maduro and Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez are still in office.  Maduro is set to be sworn in for a second six-year term on Thursday, though several countries in the region have warned him not to take office, calling his May 2018 re-election vote a sham.

Discontent within the military's ranks has grown as Venezuela's economic collapse has deepened, prompting millions to migrate. 

The Reuters report seizes on the meatiest detail derived from this credible Washington Post report, which reads:

According to a U.S. intelligence official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss ­sensitive matters freely, Maduro's defense minister, Vladimir Padrino López, told the president last month to step down or accept his resignation – a threat he has yet to act on.

The Post placed that information lower down in its story, probably on the grounds that Padrino hadn't carried out his own threat, which was to leave himself if Maduro didn't step down.

But as the Reuters report demonstrates, the news nevertheless stands out, given that the Venezuelan military situation is one of shambles, of soldiers fleeing, of retired military men hurling strong criticism at Maduro, lots and lots of talk of hopes the Venezuelan military will step in and overthrow the country's ruling thug, and lots more talk abroad of military base setups nearby and not taking military intervention off the table.  Seems everyone is watching Venezuela in military terms.

Could change be in the air?

The most obvious parallel, and one that a lot of people are hoping may prove most durable, is that of Chile circa 1973.  The Wikipedia entry incorrectly calls it a "coup d'état," which it wasn't, given that General Pinochet's military intervention was explicitly and quite legally ordered by Chile's top court and its legislature.

Could Venezuela get itself one of those, given the signs of discontent in the military?  The sense of my sources is no, given the Castroite "Black Legend" about the dreadfulness of Pinochet that's so strongly ingrained in Venezuelan culture (although there are quite a few reports that that is fading as the country falls apart, and lots of people there would welcome a Venezuelan Pinochet), and more importantly, the fact that the military was politicized and corrupted quite early by then-president Hugo Chávez.  There apparently are no good people left.

And yet, and yet, we have Padrino telling Maduro to get the heck out, or else Padrino will.

The fact that he hasn't followed through suggests he was bought off, or he has no place to defect to (he'd have to defect, given the torture of military dissidents going on, and his high rank is no protection), or that he's afraid, either for cowardly or not so cowardly reasons.

Venezuelan statesman, Diego Arria, has just tweeted that it amounts to a power vacuum, which is likely accurate.

It's still uncertain what's going on.  But the news is out there, and the two stories show that U.S. intelligence thinks that's a useful piece of information to get out.  One can only hope it's the tiny thread that might just unravel the ruling mantle of that country's suffocating dictatorship.

Image credit: Biblioteca del Congreso Nacional de Chile, CC BY-SA 3.0.

In Venezuela, the main thing we hope and watch for is the whole disaster ending.  The people are starving.  The aid is not getting through.  The oil is gone.  The cocaine is out of control.  The terrorists are running wild.  The torture has started.  The oil infrastructure is collapsing.  The currency is rotten, with inflation in seven digits.  The corruption tops Mobutu's.  The country is selling itself out like a raddled street whore to hostile powers in exchange for military weapons and foreign troops to base there, and getting itself into deep-dive debt.  Millions are fleeing.  The neighbors are angry.

Disasters always do end at some point.  But as in the case of Cuba, which incidentally runs Venezuela, that could be a very long time.  So the natural thing is to watch for the cracks forming, to watch the opposition for a critical legislative maneuver or, more likely, a Venezuelan Spring – to watch the neighbors, to watch the military, to watch anyone out there who can force some kind of change in the hellhole.

You know that dictator Nicolás Maduro, who just swore himself into office for another term after a fraud election, is busy torturing troops and their relatives.  So it certainly leaped out to a lot of us that Maduro's defense minister, Vladimir Padrino (perfect name for a mafia-state functionary, given that "padrino" means "godfather," and Vlad, well, you know...), reportedly told Maduro behind closed doors, but not beyond U.S. eavesdropping capacities, that he needed to step down and get the hell out.

Here's Reuters, as linked on the Voice of America website:

Venezuela's defense minister told socialist President Nicolas Maduro to step down last month, and said he would offer his own resignation if he did not, the Washington Post reported on Wednesday, citing an anonymous U.S. intelligence official.

Both Maduro and Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez are still in office.  Maduro is set to be sworn in for a second six-year term on Thursday, though several countries in the region have warned him not to take office, calling his May 2018 re-election vote a sham.

Discontent within the military's ranks has grown as Venezuela's economic collapse has deepened, prompting millions to migrate. 

The Reuters report seizes on the meatiest detail derived from this credible Washington Post report, which reads:

According to a U.S. intelligence official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss ­sensitive matters freely, Maduro's defense minister, Vladimir Padrino López, told the president last month to step down or accept his resignation – a threat he has yet to act on.

The Post placed that information lower down in its story, probably on the grounds that Padrino hadn't carried out his own threat, which was to leave himself if Maduro didn't step down.

But as the Reuters report demonstrates, the news nevertheless stands out, given that the Venezuelan military situation is one of shambles, of soldiers fleeing, of retired military men hurling strong criticism at Maduro, lots and lots of talk of hopes the Venezuelan military will step in and overthrow the country's ruling thug, and lots more talk abroad of military base setups nearby and not taking military intervention off the table.  Seems everyone is watching Venezuela in military terms.

Could change be in the air?

The most obvious parallel, and one that a lot of people are hoping may prove most durable, is that of Chile circa 1973.  The Wikipedia entry incorrectly calls it a "coup d'état," which it wasn't, given that General Pinochet's military intervention was explicitly and quite legally ordered by Chile's top court and its legislature.

Could Venezuela get itself one of those, given the signs of discontent in the military?  The sense of my sources is no, given the Castroite "Black Legend" about the dreadfulness of Pinochet that's so strongly ingrained in Venezuelan culture (although there are quite a few reports that that is fading as the country falls apart, and lots of people there would welcome a Venezuelan Pinochet), and more importantly, the fact that the military was politicized and corrupted quite early by then-president Hugo Chávez.  There apparently are no good people left.

And yet, and yet, we have Padrino telling Maduro to get the heck out, or else Padrino will.

The fact that he hasn't followed through suggests he was bought off, or he has no place to defect to (he'd have to defect, given the torture of military dissidents going on, and his high rank is no protection), or that he's afraid, either for cowardly or not so cowardly reasons.

Venezuelan statesman, Diego Arria, has just tweeted that it amounts to a power vacuum, which is likely accurate.

It's still uncertain what's going on.  But the news is out there, and the two stories show that U.S. intelligence thinks that's a useful piece of information to get out.  One can only hope it's the tiny thread that might just unravel the ruling mantle of that country's suffocating dictatorship.

Image credit: Biblioteca del Congreso Nacional de Chile, CC BY-SA 3.0.