Battle of Carabobo Celebration held with few troops and in an undisclosed location.
By Carlos Camacho
CARACAS -- Embattled Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro on Monday criticized an open letter Admiral Craig Faller, head of the U.S. Southern Command, sent to the Venezuelan military during a military event that has raised eyebrows in Caracas and elsewhere.
This was Maduro´s first public appearance after the weekend arrest of at least 6 active and retired military officers from the Army, Air Force and Navy.
More than 200 military officers are currently in jail as political prisoners, according to local NGO “Foro Penal”.
The arrests began taking place only hours after the United Nations Human Rights High Commissioner visited with Maduro and then called publicly for him to release all of Venezuela´s 700 political prisoners.
Faller on Sunday posted a public letter to the Venezuelan military, congratulating them on their “Dia del Ejercito”, the Army Day, celebrated every 24th of June, on the 198th anniversary of the battle of Carabobo -- the engagement that effectively ended Spanish colonial rule in Venezuela -- and asking of them that they protect not the Maduro regime, but the Venezuelan people and retirating that U.S. servicemen and women and their Venezuelan brethren remain brothers in arms.
Faller´s congratulatory appeal did not sit well with Maduro.
“Is it possible to believe the congratulations with which he tries to instill intrigue, Pharisee-ism (fariseismo), falsehood and hypocrisy? Is it possible to believe the same man that threatens to invade our country, that he respects and loves our armed forces?” Maduro asked the smaller-than-usual crowd.
Local newspaper “El Carabobeńo” noted that general public was not allowed into the event, reporting that Maduro celebrated “sin el pueblo”, without the people, in an event in which Presidents normally bask in tumultuous adoration, presiding over the pageantry of troops from the stands, arriving in a limousine wearing the Presidential sash. That was not the case on Monday. In fact, that was just one of the anomalies of the day.
WEIRD PLACE, WEIRD TIME
Maduro, a renowned late sleeper, presided over just a few military men and women Monday at the break of dawn in an event that lasted for about one hour.
“Maduro madrugó!”, noted the local Carabobo paper, Maduro got up early.
The event is usually held at mid-morning and lasts until the afternoon.
But things got even weirded: only a few units, numbering in the hundreds of servicemen and women, were summoned, when normally a several thousand soldiers are involved.
And the event was pre-taped, not live. During the broadcast, when Maduro said “it is now 6:30 in the morning” and it was being shown an hour later.
The location was also unusual: Maduro´s mentor and predecessor Hugo Chavez, a military man who graduated from “Academia Militar de Venezuela”, held the parade at the Carabobo field of battle, the Campo de Carabobo, which has been preserved and dotted with commemorating monuments.
Obviously concerned about the growing attempts by the military against him, Maduro was at undisclosed location, which state television network VTV didn´t even bother to identify.