The Inflection Point: Venezuela’s Military Begins To Defect, March With Protesters

Sunday, May 7, 2017
By Paul Martin

by Tyler Durden
ZeroHedge.com
May 7, 2017

One month ago, when discussing the latest “explosive” turn in Venezuela’s political situation, we predicted that the worst case for president Nicolas Maduro who has so far managed to keep the army on his side even as Venezuela faces now daily violent and in some cases deadly protests, would be the start of the local army turning on the regime, and defecting to join the protesters. Well, according to Thor Halvorsen of the Human Rights Foundation, this decisive turn of events may have started when he observed in a Tweet that “the military in parts of Venezuela has begun to defect. They are now marching *with* the protesters. Dozens of soldiers are under arrest.”

Touching on this topic, overnight the NYT mused why have Venezuela’s “powerful political and military elites stuck by President Nicolás Maduro”, noting that “the country would seem to be a prime candidate for something scholars call an “elite fracture,” in which enough powerful officials break away to force a change in leadership.”

“The fact that it hasn’t happened in the last two years is the biggest puzzle of all,” said Steven Levitsky, a Harvard University political scientist. “If it happens next week, all of us will say, ‘Yeah, it was bound to happen.’”
The NYT further notes that the government has been preparing its defenses since 2002. That year, amid major protests, Hugo Chávez, Mr. Maduro’s predecessor, ordered the military to impose order.

It instead removed him in a coup that was quickly reversed. After that, Mr. Chávez packed the military with allies. The military also gained vast patronage streams, which some local officials say include control over gold mining.

The impossibility of fully predicting how the military might decide in another crisis, along with growing unrest that could again test it, has left the government nervous.
All that may now be changing. In March, a video spread on social media showing three lieutenants who said they no longer recognized Mr. Maduro’s authority. The next month, they turned up in Colombia, where they requested asylum. The Venezuelan government has publicly demanded their return, which Mr. Levitsky called “pretty clear evidence that the government is worried about some sort of conspiracy” within the ranks.

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