The regime gunmen that fired over a dozen shots in Cotiza yesterday at presidential candidate Henrique Capriles Radonsky set off shrill alarm bells at senior levels of the Venezuelan armed forces.
The “chavista” shooters have been identified positively as full-time members of a motorcycle militia that is commanded directly by former Libertador District Mayor Freddy Bernal (2000-2008), who now serves as a PSUV deputy in the National Assembly. Current Libertador District Mayor Jorge Rodriguez also has authority over the gunmen on bikes, I’m told.
Senior Army military officers reportedly warned Bernal quietly today that he will be “neutralizado” (i.e. whacked) if he doesn’t rein in his gunmen immediately. Current Libertador Mayor Rodriguez and other “chavista” killers who entertain nihilist passions, like Pedro Luis Martin and Miguel Roriguez Torres, also reportedly have been warned to leave Capriles and other opposition candidates alone.
Venezuela’s professional Army officers, at least the majority that have not been corrupted by chavista and/or drug trafficking, strongly oppose all direct and indirect attempts by the regime to stoke political street violence.
The Army is not looking for a fight; in fact, even its toughest officers shudder at the possibility that a violent armed confrontation could erupt someday between conventional military units and armed irregular groups. The Army isn’t worried about losing any battles with the irregulars. If it comes to a shooting war, the Army is certain that it can kill the majority of the irregulars quickly and arrest or chase the rest into the hills.
But the Army’s pros know that urban firefights between military forces and trained irregular armed groups like the Tupamaros, La Piedrita and Alexis Vive could kill and maim a lot of people on both sides, and likely cause a great deal of human collateral damage in the “barrios” where most of the fighting would occur.
However, the Army’s pros also know that they must maintain Venezuela’s political stability and public order at any cost, particularly in this volatile presidential election year in which the incumbent candidate, President Hugo Chavez, probably will be felled by his spreading cancer before the 7 October election day.
The Army’s commanders cannot afford, for their own political and professional survival, to keep their troops in the barracks while armed “chavista” street thugs attack the opposition presidential candidate or any other opposition figures, for that matter.
If the army’s commanders fail to act, they could be held legally accountable as accomplices in criminal acts of violence inflicted on civilians by armed criminals affiliated with, and supported financially and politically by, the Chavez regime.
As a result, Bernal and other nihilist extremists who command the regime’s armed irregular civilian groups reportedly were quietly warned today: stand down or be put down.
This might not have been a big issue for the Army as recently as one month ago, when President Chavez tried to co-opt the military’s institutional support by offering them unlimited largesse and presenting himself to the officers as the only viable political option in Venezuela.
Chavez assured his military commanders that the MUD’s presidential primaries would be a bust for the opposition, with a very small turnout choosing a weak candidate that Chavez would defeat easily next October. Chavez also assured his commanders that he had won his fight with cancer.
But Chavez was wrong on both counts. Over 3 millon voters in the 12 February MUD presidential parties nominated Henrique Capriles Radonsky by a landslide of over 64% of the ballots cast. And Chavez’s cancer returned with a vengeance.
The MUD’s primaries and the president’s cancer recurrence altered the political topography. Suddenly, the military’s commanders have new options that they did not have just over a month ago when Chavez told his generals that they’d best hitch their wagons to his because he was the only viable political force in the country.
The military commanders now know with certainty that Chavez is road kill; it’s just a matter of a few months before the president’s growing, metastasizing cancer knocks him out of the presidential election.
The military’s commanders also have in Capriles Radonsky a presidential option that did not exist a month ago, someone with whom they believe they can negotiate because one of his chief political mantras is “inclusion and conciliation.”
The Chavez regime’s toughest senior capos and street commanders – men like Diosdado Cabello, Bernal and Rodriguez, to name three – apparently believed that the Bolivarian Army would support, or at least be officially indifferent to, the kind of street violence personified by the gunmen who fired at Capriles yesterday. But the gangsters miscalculated.
Of course, it’s unclear if Bernal and gang will take the Army’s quiet warnings to heart.
These guys are loose cannons who overestimate their own toughness after more than 13 years of Chavez rule in which officially-sanctioned lawlessness has come to be seen as normal politically, socially and even culturally. They have gotten away freely with multiple murders for years, and expect to remain invulnerable to criminal prosecution in the future. Their sense of impunity, confronted with the Army’s determination to maintain public order, could trigger public clashes with lethal consequences for some.