Socialist dictator Nicolás Maduro held a massive military parade to celebrate Venezuelan Independence Day on Friday, before announcing a shakeup of senior military personnel over the weekend.
“We celebrate a new anniversary of our Independence, demonstrating all the capacity of the Military Power of the Army, Navy, Aviation, National Guard and Bolivarian Militia, together in defense of the peace and territorial integrity of the Homeland,” he posted on Twitter along with images of tanks and soldiers participating in a patriotic march.
Celebramos por todo lo alto un nuevo aniversario de nuestra Independencia, demostrando toda la capacidad del Poder Militar del Ejército, la Armada, la Aviación, la Guardia Nacional y la Milicia Bolivariana, unidos en defensa de la paz y la integridad territorial de la Patria. pic.twitter.com/5azHdFXtWi
— Nicolás Maduro (@NicolasMaduro) July 5, 2019
The celebrations were an obvious attempt at showing the strength of the Venezuelan military, which remains the most important factor in the Maduro regime’s survival.
“Extraordinary demonstration of the unbreakable and perfect Civic-Military union,” he later added. “We will move the Homeland forward, conquer National Peace and definitively guide Venezuela towards greatness and prosperity.”
Extraordinary demonstration of the unbreakable and perfect Civic-Military union. We will move the Homeland forward, conquer National Peace and definitively guide Venezuela towards greatness and prosperity. pic.twitter.com/hgPOnrxNJp
— Nicolás Maduro (@maduro_en) July 5, 2019
In an address on state television, Maduro announced the appointment of Remigio Ceballos as commander of the Operational Strategic Command of the Armed Forces, General Fabio Zavarse as the new general commander of the Bolivarian National Guard, and General Manuel Bernal Martínez as the new commander of the National Bolivarian Militia.
— VTV CANAL 8 (@VTVcanal8) July 8, 2019
That same day, senior military officials used speeches to condemn the alleged massacres carried out by right-wing governments in the 1980s, perhaps as an attempt to divert attention away from the recent United Nations report charging the current regime with “gross human rights violations” such as torture and extrajudicial killings.
“There were no international organizations, they did not issue statements or question the violation of human rights,” said Major General José Avelino Ornela Ferreira at another military ceremony. “We asked ourselves, where were the national and international institutions defending human rights? This is because they were accomplices of the neoliberal governments, while they now demonize governments that genuinely watch over the rights of their people.”
The Maduro regime regularly refers to crimes allegedly carried out by the security forces under the presidency of right-leaning Carlos Andrés Pérez in 1989, when hundreds of people were killed and injured during a series of protests and riots known as “Caracazo,” as a means of distracting from their own dismal human rights record. The demonstrations were primarily a reaction to the government’s neoliberal economic reforms that included ending subsidies for gasoline and transportation.