OE Watch Commentary: In March 2017, counterintelligence personnel arrested a number of officers in the Bolivarian National Army (Venezuela). According to the first accompanying source, those officers were convicted this month of treason and sent to prison. The second accompanying reference is exemplary of many reports of a new set of arrests just made this March. The men arrested this time were also mostly lieutenant colonels, the apparent leader being a highly accomplished commander. Given that Hugo Chávez’ political career was launched by a coup attempt that got him arrested when he was a lieutenant colonel, it is no wonder Nicolas Maduro would have a heightened concern, especially about young commanders in charge of considerable weaponry. It would be valuable to remember, nevertheless, who is who. Chávez left prison to later run as a candidate in actual elections. Presidential elections are coming in Venezuela, perhaps this May. Few people, if anyone, thinks they are going to be open or fair. They will more than likely reaffirm choices made by party leadership in the Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela (United Socialist Party of Venezuela, PSUV) and the Partido Comunista de Cuba (Cuban Communist Party, PCC). Those nuclei might decide that it is time to retire and replace Maduro, and it may be that the military rumblings will have had an influence on such a decision.
In any case, our analyses of the possibilities of a military coup in Venezuela cannot reasonably be drawn without consideration of other milestones noted in this month’s OE Watch, in particular the elections in Cuba. Elections there reaffirmed party control and commitment to the revolution, but still presented a change in public personalities at the top. As such, it could give color to the notion of peaceful systematic change of leadership in Venezuela as well. Considering how much power the Bolivarian National Army already has within the Venezuelan government and society, it seems unlikely that we will see an actual military coup, even while the elections might herald more public leadership by uniformed men. Still, many in Venezuela see things are getting worse and more curious all the time. End OE Watch Commentary (Demarest)