Last week Venezuela took a first step towards a military dictatorship when Nicolás Maduro declared “All the ministries, all the ministers, all the state institutions are at the service and in absolute subordination” to the head of the armed forces, Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino.
It means that Venezuela is now run by a quasi-military junta with the general sharing power with Mr. Maduro. Gen. Padrino will also head the newly created “Great Mission of Sovereign Supply,” which will manage the supply and distribution of food. The military also took over the country’s ports, which until now have been under civilian control.
Latin Americans call this kind of handover of power a “self-coup,” because it shifts authority from elected officials to outsiders who are not constitutionally in line to succeed the president.
It is unlikely that this was Mr. Maduro’s idea. Rather, having taken note of the president’s unpopularity, his Cuban handlers are making adjustments. Though the 53-year-old Gen. Padrino once trained with the U.S. military, he has found favor with the Castros. In February the general was named to head a new military-industrial mining, oil and gas company that will rival the state-owned oil company PdVSA.
Venezuela is also adjusting its socialist economic model, using a template the Castros borrowed from Russia’s Vladimir Putin. With the assistance of Mr. Obama, they are inviting in U.S. capital investment so they can consolidate power for the next generation.
My answer to the question, ‘Who Will Stop Venezuela’s Slow Self-Coup?’ is, no one.
But then, I’m a pessimist.