Military mutiny in Venezuela: It Has Started

It's working.

The global effort to persuade the Venezuelan military to begin to revolt against their commanders - by phone calls, web postings, other means, is starting to kick in. The Venezuelan dictatorship said it put down its first revolt from a National Guard unit out in a really miserable slum of Caracas called Petare. Here's the details of what went down in Caracas from the Associated Press:

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Venezuela’s government said Monday it put down a mutiny by a National Guard unit in a poor neighborhood a few miles (kilometers) from Venezuela’s presidential palace.

The uprising triggered protests in the same neighborhood, which were dispersed with tear gas as residents set fire to a street barricade of trash and chanted demands that President Nicolas Maduro leave power.

The armed forces in a statement said that it had captured all those involved in what it described as “treasonous” acts motivated by “obscure interests tied to the far right.”

It said at around 2:50 a.m. (06:50 GMT), a small group of guardsmen took captive a captain in charge of a police station in western Caracas and then moved across the capital in two military trucks to the poor neighborhood of Petare, where they stole a cache of weapons from another outpost.

They met resistance and were caught hours later at a national guard outpost 3 kilometers (2 miles) from the Miraflores presidential palace.

The armed forces said all the weapons had been recovered and the mutinous troops captured.

A few hours earlier, a group of heavily armed national guardsmen published a series of videos on social media saying they won’t recognize President Nicolas Maduro’s government, which has come under increasing domestic and international pressure over a newly launched second term that the opposition-controlled congress and many nations consider illegitimate.

Do you notice that the slum dwellers are protesting against the government, not the mutineers? That's not a good sign for Maduro, just for starters. Back when Maduro's predecessor, Hugo Chavez, was thrown out in an attempted coup in 2002, the poor marched to the palace in Chavez's defense and Chavez and his allies later made political hay from that. That's not what's going on here.

Look at the specific details:

“You asked to take to the streets to defend the constitution, well here we are,” he said in a video shot at night in which several heavily armed men and a national guard truck can be seen in the background.

“You wanted us to light the fuse, so we did. We need your support,” he added.

At daybreak in the adjacent neighborhood of Cotiza, a group of shirtless young men, some with their faces covered, built a barricade across the street with a burning car, heavy sewer grates and a large chunk of concrete.

An angry group of women shouted that they have lived for too long without running water.

“Freedom! Freedom!” they chanted. “Maduro has to go!”

“We must defend our homeland,” Maria Fernanda Rodriguez, a 36-year-old manicurist, told The Associated Press, her eyes welling from the tear gas.

The revolt, which took place in Petare, is not surprising. I've been to Petare and the place is wretched, the full stereotype you imagine of a cinderblock shantytown with corrugated metal roofs, houses angling off mudslide-prone hills precariously and satellite dishes out the glass-less windows, except so much bigger and more overwhelming. Yet, several years ago, the Petare neighborhood dumped and rejected its Chavista orientation and started voting for the opposition, that part of town became a vanguard, one of the first poor areas to utterly reject Chavez and his communism. That's where the revolt happened and it took a lot of bravery to do it.

Petare, via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 1.0

What it shows that the global campaign to offer cover to Venezuela's military for throwing out what is internationally recognized to be an illegitimate president is beginning to catch steam. And it probably should be catching steam. The troops are being offered cover and support from abroad, through a campaign of phone calls, (Latin American military men to the Venezuelan counterparts they already know), to get out there and revolt. There also is a plan in place to inaugurate a new president, as prescribed by the Chavista constitution (the man, National Assembly president Juan Guaido, happens to be a very brave non-Chavista democrat). Foreign countries such as regional bigfoot Brazil are recognizing Guaido, and others are cutting ties with the Maduroites. The U.S. and Canada are coming close to doing this as well, with U.S. officials openly calling for Venezuela to get rid of this crew and get a new government.

As I argued earlier, it's Operation Boot Maduro, and it's obviously working.

The next step must be to keep the mutinies coming. Hot pursuit is critical. The international community should be right out front in offering support to the mutineers who are undoubtedly being tortured in Chavista dungeons as I write this. Anything to keep problems coming for Maduro are what it's going to take to get him out of there if this what the plan is. One can only hope that more military men will be encouraged by the act and begin to take things into their own hands. For the entire hemisphere, this can't come soon enough.