We have to grant something to Chavez: he was political enough to be careful to pretend to hide that we were a military dictatorship. For example in very visible posts he put a lot of women that were mere errand boys (chief "justice", attorney general, minister for elections). Real power always rested in his hands and a counted machos, often working in the shadows. And most of them were military with a sprinkling of Cuban attachés like Maduro. But we knew, the more so if you needed to deal a lot with the high administration, that real power was always behind the desk of some military "on leave". Without looking further, 12 governors today, 50%, are military or military related. To which you can add the chair of the Nazional Assembly and a few ministers. Nothing major happens in Venezuela without the army knowledge and approval.
The difference this year is that it is becoming an in "your face" siutation. Today was tops: Maduro announced that he will reintegrate to the army all the officers that participated in the 1992 coups and had thus received a dishonorable discharge. And to add insult to injury, they will get back in the armed forces with a superior grade than the one they were discharged with. I am sure that they will receive "back" benefits though I am sure they have stolen enough money not to be in any need of those.
Not even Chavez, during his life presidency, dared to do so, notwithstanding his constant threats to proceed on that matter.
But that is merely the necessary footnote for a year into which Maduro had to yield lots of benefits to the army. You know, to thank them for allowing him to steal the election of last April. The fact of the matter is that 2013 was littered with evidence of military power inside the regime. I can comment for example on the constant meetings that Maduro must hold with them, publicly, something that Chavez did not have to do as much; or did because he enjoyed the limelight and medal glitter. But I will limit myself to two items.
El Nacional publishes the staggering number that since 1999 1614 military have been named to positions of authority inside public administration. Of this 368 alone have been appointed by Maduro in barely a year. 'nuf said!
Of course, such power outside of any control is an open invitation to a major corruption of the armed forces. Since there is no justice and that there is no way you can sue and have a military investigated inside Venezuela today we must resort to indirect evidence. Drug trafficking is one. Many military generals are in the eye of the DEA in the US and several are already in the list of folks that, well, better not travel outside of VeneCuba.... Not to mention that some are already starting to find the way on their own to the US before they get shot during some drug traffic "settlement" inside Venezuela (Aponte, Isea and ?)
But for me the most illustrative moment was when an Air France civilian plane was loaded with more than one ton of cocaine in 30+ pieces of luggage, obviously overweight but no baggage handler complained the way they do elsewhere forcing you to unpack your bags in public in front of the registration counter. So far, the regime has been very successful at trying to hide the scandal in Venezuela by inculpating small fry. But such an operation could only have been carried with the acquiescence of very high ranking military, not only at Caracas airport but all the way along from Colombia to the airport. Yet, Maiquetia president, General Luis Graterol, has not been questioned that we know of. I know, he may be lily-white innocent but why has he not resigned for not keeping a tight lid on his staff? Why have we not read substantial declarations from him? Guilty or not, he is a general and he cannot be bothered. He is out of reach whatsoever. That privilege is what makes a military regime.