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  HOME | Opinion (Click here for more)

Carlos Alberto Montaner: Loyalty in Venezuela in Times of Crisis
Latin American genius Carlos Alberto Montaner on Leopoldo Lopez, Vladimir Padrino Lopez, and loyalty in Venezuela.

By Carlos Alberto Montaner

Leopoldo López says that some generals came to his home to express some kind of solidarity. It must be true. For now, Manuel Ricardo Cristopher Figuera, the former head of the SEBIN (Bolivarian Intelligence Service), is hiding. López fled his home, where he was under house arrest, thanks to the complicity of some SEBIN members.

It is very difficult to be loyal to Maduro. He is not a serious guy. What he does best is to dance salsa with his not-so-holy wife, the narco-aunt Cilia Flores. Everyone knows that Maduro talks to the birds and suffers from severe dyslexia mixed with a mild expression of Tourette Syndrome that leads him to confuse the “loaves and fishes” with the “penises and the fishes” while addressing the “miembras” (female members) of his party.

Nobody ignores the episode of the narco-nephews or the “disproportionate” corruption of Maduro and his regime. Chavismo has stolen more than 300 billion dollars. Just walking in Venezuela is enough to notice that it is the worst governed country in the world. The blackouts, the hyperinflation, the lack of food and medicine, in one of the richest nations of the planet, can only be explained by a combination of absolute incompetence and the shameless theft of public resources.

Loyalty and obedience originate in respect or fear and Maduro is neither respected nor feared. Not only the opponents maintain that attitude. It is shared by military leaders, the regime’s apparatchiks and those people around who serve them. That’s why Maduro only trusts “the Cubans”. They made him the heir of the “eternal Commander” and they keep him in power.

It’s the same thing that happened to Hugo Chávez in April 2002, when he was forced to relinquish power. The most servile military were conspiring. It was since that episode that Chávez totally surrendered to Fidel Castro. The Cuban dictator didn’t feel respect or fear, but there was a loyalty with a price. Fidel despised him, but at the same time he needed him. After the death of Ubre Blanca, Fidel’s dairy cow, Chávez was the replacement.

Mike Pompeo does not totally lie when he says that Maduro was ready to leave for Cuba and the Russians forbade it. That, surely, was communicated by a Venezuelan high-rank source to his CIA “handler.” It was his best excuse to explain the obedience of Venezuela’s high officials toward Maduro, a man who is not feared nor respected.

However, John Bolton, the US National Security Advisor, is wrong when he says that the military will not shoot at the people. As long as the structure of command is kept, the armies are disciplined killing machines. They are trained to become that. It was evident when armored cars deliberately crushed several demonstrators.

Besides, the “Milgram and Zimbardo experiments” leave no room for doubt. Just an order from “the authority” is almost always enough to make disappear the moral judgments of those who have to fulfill the order. This sinister characteristic of human beings became evident in the concentration camps during World War II. Murder and vileness are at everybody’s reach. Armies kill and disembowel if they are forced to do it.

The phenomenon disappears when the chain of command is broken. I was able to experience it when Batista fled from power on the night of December 31, 1958. The next day, on January 1, 1959, a police patrol stopped us after a monstrous violation of traffic regulations (I and three other boys were in a car driving on the sidewalk, full of joy after the dictator’s flight). The day before we would have been shot. That day they treated us with courtesy. They respectfully recommended that we go on the street, not the sidewalk, they asked for the revolutionary bracelets and they gave us a military salute. The chain of command had broken.

President Juan Guaidó and Leopoldo López, his political boss, are right when they say that soon there will be a new military attempt, and another, and another, until Maduro comes out of power, dead or alive. They do not fear him or respect him. But to achieve this, it is very convenient that Venezuelans do not leave the streets and ignore the proposal of Padrino López (now the man from Havana): leave Maduro, but do not allow a foreign intervention. That obscene proposal would mean the permanence of the narco-dictatorship, as the analyst Jorge Riopedre points out.

Carlos Alberto Montaner is a journalist and writer. Born in 1943 in Cuba and exiled, Montaner is known for his more than 25 books and thousands of articles. PODER magazine estimates that more than six million readers have access to his weekly columns throughout Latin America. He is also a political analyst for CNN en Espanol. In 2012, Foreign Policy magazine named Montaner as one of the fifty most influential intellectuals in the Ibero-American world. His latest novel is A Time for Scoundrels. His latest essay is "The President: A Handbook for Voters and the Elected." His latest book is a review of Las raíces torcidas de América Latina (The Twisted Roots of Latin America), published by Planeta and available in Amazon, in printed or digital version.


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