Venezuela Weekly: Maduro Courts the Military

In the context of a collapsing economy, President Nicolás Maduro has reaffirmed what we already knew: he sees the military as a bulwark against threats to his presidency. Just ten days after the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights released a scathing report including extensive violations of human rights by the Venezuelan Armed Forces, Maduro promoted 16,900 soldiers to reward their “loyalty.” A month ago, Maduro obliged members of the Armed Forces to sign a document swearing that loyalty. So far this year the Venezuelan military has received 11 “additional credits” from the National Constituent Assembly (ANC). This budget instrument is meant to address extraordinary needs. But so far this year, these extra credits already amount to more than the entire 2018 national budget.

The context of this is an ever-worsening economic crisis, with hyperinflation predicted to reach 100,000% by the end of 2018. Venezuelan business group, the Federation of Chambers of Commerce, suggested that Venezuelan industry is running at only 25% of capacity. The nurses’ union has rejected the government’s offer of a 10% raise and doctors have threatened to join and make the strike into a nationwide healthcare shutdown. Health workers are demanding the same salaries as military officials–a colonel in the Armed Forces currently earns about 80 times as much as a civilian doctor.

The Maduro government is getting some relief from China. The latter has committed to invest $250 million in in exploitation of the heavy oil in Venezuela’s Orinoco Belt. This is on top of the $5 billion loan for oil production, recently agreed upon. However, experts suggest much more than this will be needed to stem the decline in production. Venezuela’s oil output has dropped by almost 1/3rd over the past year, descending to 1.3 million barrels per day in June. The situation of Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA will likely get worse as a US district court judge ruled that Conoco-Philips can include PDVSA’s US affiliate Citgo, in its efforts to recover $2 billion awarded by international arbitration.

The Venezuelan opposition also continues to grant Maduro some breathing room through divisions and paralysis. Henry Ramos Allup, secretary general of Acción Democrática (AD)—Venezuela’s traditional social democratic party—announced AD was leaving the opposition coalition, the Mesa de la Unidad Democrática (MUD). The MUD is apparently in internal discussions trying to come up with a viable organizational structure to recover its unity.

International engagement

The Associated Press revived the story that US President Donald Trump was exploring military action against Venezuela last August by revealing that he had discussed the possibility with his own aides, as well as regional presidents, all of whom discouraged the possibility. (See WOLA’s press release on Trump’s statements, as well as the joint declaration of Venezuelan civil organizations, from August 2017.) These new revelations, of course, fed Maduro’s propaganda machine this week. President of the ANC, Diosdado Cabello suggested Venezuela would be “another Vietnam” if the US tried to invade. Over the weekend, Pedro Carreño, a member of the ANC and one of the military officers who threw the February 4, 1992 military coup with Hugo Chávez, discussed on national television, Venezuela’s possible responses to a US military invasion or aggression from Colombia.

  • In a statement delivered to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, more than 50 countries urged Venezuela to restore the rule of law and facilitate humanitarian assistance. The initiative was led by Peru and included the other members of the Lima Group and the entire European Union.
  • The European Parliament passed a resolution on July 5, urging the European Union to increase its aid destined to Venezuelans fleeing the country and urging the Maduro government to allow humanitarian aid in. In June, the EU pledged $40 million for humanitarian aid inside of Venezuela.
  • Maduro’s call for Ecuador to cease its persecution of former president Rafael Correa led Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno to respond that his country’s tolerance has limits and that Maduro would do well not to challenge them. He said their approach has been moderate and respectful but that they also know how to do politics in “other ways.”

Venezuelan migration

  • The two US Senators from Florida—the state with the most Venezuelan immigrants—called on The Trump Administration to grant asylum to Venezuelans soliciting it and give “Temporary Protected Status” to eligible Venezuelans already in the US.
  • Peruvian police rescued 12 Venezuelan women including two minors, from a sex trafficking ring. They had been provided a $300 ticket from Bogotá to Lima and then obliged them to pay $1000 for it by prostituting themselves. Two Venezuelans and one US citizen were arrested.
  • The Colombian government has begun a process of updating their registry of the 181,000 Venezuelans that have a Special Permanence Permit (PEP) with the goal of developing a policy for humanitarian assistance.
  • Brazil has confirmed 460 cases of measles in two border states which they are attributing to migrants from Venezuela, where the disease has made a comeback. There are fears measles could decimate the Yanomami indigenous population on the border of Brazil and Venezuela.

Human rights

The goal of Venezuela Weekly is to provide a news digest that is brief yet highlights concrete information. As such most of our links will be to local and regional Spanish-language press. English-language links will be highlighted in bold.

Did I miss something important or get something wrong? Let me know at [email protected]