Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro is giving guns to upwards of 400,000 of his supporters in hopes of squashing opponents’ demands for free and fair elections.
The guns would increase the 100,000 pro-Maduro militia members to roughly half a million in the short term, though Maduro spoke of “one million” militiamen in the long term.
On Sunday night, Maduro ordered the National Bolivarian Militia, a coalition of armed socialist civilians empowered to enforce Maduro’s will, into the streets to stem the tide of opponents calling for elections to replace him. He promised “a gun for every militiaman” and the quadrupling of his civilian force, from 100,000 to 400,000, as soon as possible.
According to Fox News/AP/EFE, Maduro is framing his gun giveaway as a means of fighting outside forces controlled by America seeking to remove him from office.
Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez said:
The excessive ambition of [our] enemies threatens the peace and stability by carrying out a criminal agenda loaded with hate that includes terrorist acts, disturbances, looting, vandalism, different forms of violence against innocent people and public health facilities.
Padrino said the protesters are creating “anxiety in the public, anarchy and chaos, with the ignoble aim of toppling the democratic government.”
Venezuela banned the sale of guns to private citizens in 2012 during the tenure of the late dictator Hugo Chávez.
On June 1, 2012, the BBC reported that private citizens with a license/permit to own firearms would lose their rights, their permits invalid for purchasing or keeping weapons they already owned. “Only the army, police and certain groups like security companies [would] be able to buy arms from the state-owned weapons manufacturer and importer,” the BBC noted. At that time, “Hugo Chavez’s government [said] the ultimate aim [was] to disarm all civilians.”
The law has prevented most civilians from keeping firearms, though they are readily available on the black market, and criminals are known to be well-armed. Caracas is the world’s deadliest peacetime city, with shootings a regular occurrence nationwide. In prisons, inmates often keep firearms and, in one notable incident, made a cell phone video showing off an arsenal of weapons to honor a dead thug.
During his Sunday night call for the military to take to the streets, Maduro framed his message in terms of protecting the “Bolivarian Revolution” of 1999. AFP quoted him saying, “From the first reveille (on Monday morning), from the first rooster crow, the Bolivarian National Armed Forces will be in the streets… saying, ‘Long live the Bolivarian revolution.'”
The move was partly in anticipation protests Wednesday. As the Los Angeles Times reports, “opponents of President Nicolas Maduro flooded the streets of Caracas… for what they’ve dubbed the ‘mother of all marches’ against the embattled socialist leader.” In the past two weeks, five people have died during protests, most attributed to police brutality. On Wednesday, a sixth victim – a teen student in Caracas – died of a gunshot wound to the head, which witnesses attributed to socialist gangs.
AWR Hawkins is the Second Amendment columnist for Breitbart News and host of Bullets with AWR Hawkins, a Breitbart News podcast. He is also the political analyst for Armed American Radio. Follow him on Twitter: @AWRHawkins. Reach him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.