Sunday, February 20, 2011

When armies decide

A truly fascinating analysis that applies so well to Venezuela that it leaves one's mind reeling.  In this NYT article we can read how the army was in the end the main decider for the political fate of all countries and how in some cases (China notably) it shot people, remained in control and became the main economic power.

The application to Venezuela is almost straight forward: a servile minority is large enough to maintain Chavez in office, for the time being, while his real support base are the military who enjoys all the benefit of power without having had to make a coup.  Some of their guys (Diosdado Cabello) have become fabulously rich by simply forcing people to sell off their assets through "offers they could not refuse" and buying them through money they stole form the state.  The difference is that unlike China the military in Venezuela is not in the business of developing the economy but on skimming the country of any wealth, while on the side adding significant revenue from narco activities.  So we know one thing for sure, the final outcome will not be like South Korea or China (to illustrate the two extreme outcomes).  In Venezuela the final result will come from the ability of the army to generate enough income to keep in line at least a 30% of the country behind Chavez.  That and a little bit of repression and a tad of electoral cheating should do the trick in their mind.


  1. The question is how deep is the support in the army;not so much of the top military and other officers, but of the common soldiers themselves ?

    If a situation presents itself once again where there are large demonstrations, the officers might be willing to order their troops to fire on the demonstrators to protect their privileges, but for the troops themselves to kill their fellow citizens they need to have an authentic belief in the virtues of Chavez's revolution.

    Although the troops are drilled in saying "Socialsimo Patria or Muerte", they also have family living in the barrios and to the degree that the support for the government weakens in the barrios, it takes away the aspect of class warfare that Chavez promotes.

  2. Anonymous5:02 PM

    Good analysis FP.
    But this is Venezuela where norms do not apply.

  3. I agree with Firepig on this one. I think I said it in another comment a week or so ago, but it bears repeating. Armies are composed of citizens. They do not exist in a vacuum and are influenced by the political climate of the country.

    Even if the top brass wants to support a tyrant, if the lower ranking officers and enlisted men will not obey the orders to fire on their own people, the military becomes useless as a tool of oppression. When this happens, assuming the top brass want to keep their jobs, they are forced turn on their boss and "decide" that the existing regime's days are finished.


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