Loyalty and Fear: The Link between the Military and Maduro Prevents Venezuela from Repeating What Occurred in Bolivia

Loyalty and Fear: The Link between the Military and Maduro Prevents Venezuela from Repeating What Occurred in Bolivia

By Ricardo Guanipa D’erizans/Diálogo
December 20, 2019

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After weeks of protests in Bolivia, service members of the Andean country changed their position and supported the protesters. William Kaliman, commander of the Bolivian Armed Forces, urged Evo Morales to step down to ensure peace in the country, leading to the president’s resignation on November 10.

Bolivia’s events might have fueled some hope among Nicolás Maduro’s opponents in Venezuela, yet service members continue to support the regime. To discuss the issue, Diálogo spoke with Venezuela’s Bolivarian National Guard Brigadier General (ret.) Marco Ferreira, in exile in the United States since 2002, who headed the Administrative Service of Identification, Migration and Foreigners, formerly known as ONIDEX under Hugo Chávez.

Diálogo: Why, despite the numerous protests that have taken place in Venezuela, doesn’t the National Bolivarian Armed Force (FANB, in Spanish) demand Nicolás Maduro’s resignation?

Bolivarian National Guard Brigadier General (ret.) Marco Ferreira: Military leadership in Venezuela is weak, highly politicized, and blackmailed by the Maduro government. The wrongdoings within the Venezuelan Armed Force [have gone on] for many years. Classes that have graduated [in recent years] aren’t purely military. There is no military vocation; most of them enrolled seeking economic benefits, rather than to defend the nation.

Diálogo: Juan Guaidó has been recognized as Venezuela’s legitimate president by more than 50 countries. Why, despite his efforts to get closer to the FANB, has he been unsuccessful in influencing their loyalty to Maduro?

Brig. Gen. Ferreira: The military leaders are not only enemies of the opposition but also friends of Nicolás Maduro. There is complicity in the higher echelons, and there is fear and resentment in the lower ranks.

Diálogo: Do you think that the FANB might feel hopeful that the success in Bolivia, meaning Evo Morales’ exit, might be replicated in Venezuela?

Brig. Gen. Ferreira: The Armed Forces are heavily influenced and subjugated. The leadership is 100 percent loyal to Nicolás Maduro.

Diálogo: Has the FANB become Maduro’s political party?

Brig. Gen. Ferreira: That’s not true; the Armed Forces continue to be an institution ruled by the norms of obedience, discipline, and subordination, but we should also add fear and extortion. Venezuelan service members don’t have the strength or desire to revolt.

Diálogo: Has the FANB’s destruction been orchestrated by the regime to guarantee their loyalty?

Brig. Gen. Ferreira: In all honesty, they are victims like the rest of Venezuelans, due to the destruction of the country’s productive means. Most service members are resorting to smuggling anything they can; they sell their service firearms and ammunition; they steal fuel from official vehicles to send it to Colombia. They are not an armed force anymore, really, but a filibuster group trying to survive. The regime forgives all these lapses and crimes, but the one thing it does not forgive is insubordination against Maduro.