Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro is purging high-ranking members of his military as fears within his government grow that they may lose of the institution vital to his power.
Talking to El Nacional, Hugo Chávez’s former Minister of Defense Raúl Salazar and the president of the NGO Control Citizen, Rocío San Miguel, said that Maduro’s recent purge of high-ranking military figures was a sign that he was nervous the military could soon turn on him.
“Power is a disease that we all want to suffer and the government does not want to lose it. That’s why he acts like he does,” said Salazar. “The recent arrests of a group of soldiers for conspiracy make no sense if no crime was committed, nor did any military movement materialize, as it did in 1992.”
“Meanwhile, the government remains silent, does not echo anything and the information is known only by the relatives of the accused,” he continued.
San Miguel added that Maduro’s purging of military officials was unprecedented, having previously received loyalty from all high-ranking commanders.
“For the first time, Nicolás Maduro, out of fear, has decided to go against ‘command officers’ who lead units with firepower,” he said. “This is unprecedented.”
The comments come a week after Maduro released a presidential decree announcing that 24 soldiers had been demoted or dismissed from the military over alleged attempts “by violent means to damage the Republic.”
The decree accused them of “creating a state of imbalance and anxiety thus threatening the freedom and independence of the nation,” as well as the “excessive and disproportionate misuse of weapons of war that endangers the independence and sovereignty of Venezuela.”
Although the purge is a sign of his crumbling authority over his military apparatus, Maduro still maintains the loyalty of many high-ranking officials the Venezuela military, especially as he continues to appoint military leaders to powerful government positions.
However, increasing numbers of low-ranking military personnel are deserting the military as the regime fails to provide them with adequate food rations or living essentials that they have traditionally enjoyed.
In January, former Venezuelan presidential candidate and head of the U.N. Security Council Diego Arria urged members of the military to show a “demonstration of disobedience” that would “allow Venezuelans to rescue freedom” as the Maduro regime transforms the country into a Cuban style socialist dictatorship.