Just in time for next year’s election, Hugo Chavez increases the ranks of his Bolivarian militia:
At The Economist:
A Caribbean Tripoli?
Hugo Chávez grooms a militia
A year ago Mr Chávez assembled more than 30,000 uniformed, gun-toting militiamen and women for a parade in the centre of Caracas. Unsheathing a sword that belonged to Simón Bolívar, Venezuela’s independence hero, he led them in an oath to work tirelessly to “consolidate…the socialist revolution”. Officials claim that the militias total 125,000, and that the goal is to reach 2m. Sceptics put the number trained so far at under 25,000.
Under the new law, the Bolivarian militia will now have its own officers and will be commanded directly by the president. That is something the army previously resisted. But General Carlos Mata Figueroa, the defence minister, insists that the militia is a “complementary”, not parallel, force. According to Carlos Escarrá, a chavista legislator, it is “disingenuous” of opponents to suggest that the militia “will be a sort of praetorian guard for the president”.
Mr Chávez’s own statements suggest otherwise. The president has always said that his leftist “revolution” is “peaceful, but armed”, and that violence would ensue if it were to be thwarted. In December 2012 he faces a presidential election which opinion polls suggest he might lose. But both he and his top general, Henry Rangel Silva, have said that the armed forces would resist the orders of a post-Chávez government. According to General Rangel, the high command is “wedded to the political project” of Mr Chávez.
The officer corps may not be. A recently retired military dissident says only 10% are unconditional chavistas, with 20% constitutionalists and the rest pragmatic. If so, Mr Chávez’s decision to strengthen his paramilitary force may make sense to him. But it bodes ill for peace in Venezuela.
Like Colonel Qaddafi, Mr Chávez also has foreign fighters he may be able to count on in a fix. Venezuela has an unknown number of Cuban military advisers. Some sources say the Cubans give orders and (with Russians) run the intelligence service. But tens of thousands of Cubans, all with military training, have been deployed across the country as medical staff, sports instructors and the like. Many have defected and fled abroad. But some might defend the revolution, guns in hand.
the students would be sent as builders to the regions of Venezuela where the population speaks Russian:
“In addition, there is Belzarubezhstroj, and these two organizations are organizing two tours of duty, the first one in the framework of the construction gang, and the second one in the framework of young professionals’ career assignment. Most likely there will be two Russian-speaking groups of workers. We know that it will be work with new construction technologies.”
What “new construction technologies” can the Russians be utilizing that they do not want the Venezuelas themselves to know about in their own country remains a mystery, especially when you consider that the students will be receiving free room and board, internet, and a monthly salary of $1,500 a month, five times that of the minimum salary in Venezuela. (For more on Venezuela-Belarus ties read Desarrollo Sostenible Para Venezuela).
Allow me to point out that there is enough of a Russian presence in Venezuela to require importing Russian-speaking workers. Why?
But back to the subject of the Bolivarian militia:
Will this militia act as the militia in Libya that fired against protestors? That is the fear:
Many Venezuelans fear that the militia is really aimed at Mr Chávez’s domestic opponents. The president accuses the opposition leadership, almost daily, of being a fifth column for foreign capitalists desperate to grab the country’s oil. From there, it is a short step to imagining the chavista militia, armed with Russian Dragunov sniper-rifles, taking aim at counter-revolutionaries. “It is not possible to stage an unarmed revolution against this bourgeoisie,” Mr Chávez told his militia rally last year. Mere bravado, perhaps, but many Venezuelans fear he may be serious.
Chavez’s bellicose message against “the empire” (i.e., the USA), his unsavory weapons deals with Russia (totaling $4.4 billion worth since 2005), his assault on the independent media, the many instances where members of the opposition have been mugged and beaten and peaceful protestors are met with tear gas and water cannon, and his regime’s constant urging to the workers “to unite in a concrete way to build socialism” are only markers on the road to a totalitarian dictatorship.
A totalitarian dictatorship with an armed militia ready to serve Hugo’s will.