Venezuelan socialist dictator Nicolás Maduro’s grip on power is slipping as his regime is now failing to provide adequate food supplies to its loyal military apparatus.
A series of internal documents viewed by The Miami Herald reveals that growing numbers of soldiers are deserting the armed forces.
“There is unrest, and there’s a lack of discipline. The soldiers are demoralized,” former Maduro cabinet minister Gen. Herbert Garcia Plaza told the Herald. “Military installations have declared a state of alert, which is not normal [at this time] because there are not even street protests now. It seems like they think the enemy is inside.”
He added that around 800 National Guardsmen and 1,200 soldiers had failed to return to work following the Christmas holidays.
Another document viewed by the outlet describes Army Commander Gen. Jesus Rafael Suarez Chourio instructing his military command to “improve their relations with subordinates, listen to their opinions and motivate them to remain loyal.”
Venezuela is currently experiencing the worst economic, humanitarian, and political crisis in its history, with the monthly minimum wage packet now equivalent to under one dollar a month as hyperinflation ravages the value of its bolivar currency.
Amid the unrest, the regime is reportedly desperate to increase the benefits provided to military personnel, which compared to the employment packages of the country’s wider population are extremely generous.
“There was an order to expedite the enrollment of soldiers and officers in all the [social assistance] programs possible,” journalist Javier Ignacio Mayorca said. “There was an order to point them to the banks where they can enroll, and reduce the hurdles to enrollment as much as possible because dissatisfaction is pretty high.”
Military personnel is typically provided with sufficient food to eat within their barracks, although recently the government has been forced to cut food supplies by 40 percent, meaning many soldiers are eating under three meals a day.
Tensions have also recently flared between the military and Venezuela’s investigative police agency, known as the CICPC, following the assassination of the rebel militia leader Óscar Pérez, which sparked outrage among the country’s already disenchanted population.
Other documents from a meeting of the armed forces high command reveal military leaders being encouraged to “an information campaign” aimed at subordinates to “counteract the mass of opinions published in the news media and social networks” about Pérez’s death and other government-related atrocities.
Having lost the support of the general population, Maduro has used the country’s military and national guard as a repressive apparatus against political dissidents. A United Nations report conducted last November found “extensive” human rights abuses at the hands of the military, which include numerous cases of torture and excessive violence against civilians.
Maduro recently called a presidential election which observers widely acknowledge will be rigged, with the majority of opposition candidates barred from standing. However, should he lose the support of the military, the “Bolivarian Revolution” initiated under Hugo Chávez could collapse sooner than anticipated.