HomeNewsBriefIs the Venezuelan Military Eyeing a Power Grab?
BRIEF

Is the Venezuelan Military Eyeing a Power Grab?

VENEZUELA / 13 APR 2012 BY GEOFFREY RAMSEY EN

A former US diplomat claims that a group of high-ranking officials in the Venezuelan military are planning to declare martial law if President Hugo Chavez’s health deteriorates and causes instability in the country.

In an opinion column for Foreign Policy entitled “After Chavez, the Narcostate,” former Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roger Noriega paints an alarming picture of Venezuela’s political landscape. As well as claiming that Chavez’s health is extremely fragile, he alleges that a group of high-level military officers (a “revolutionary junta”) are waiting in the wings to take power if there are signs of unrest.

According to Noriega, “sources inside the presidential palace [claim that] Minister of Defense Gen. Henry Rangel Silva has developed a plan to impose martial law if Chavez deteriorating condition causes any hint of instability.”

He argues that General Rangel — who the US has accused of involvement in drug trafficking — and several other military leaders are behaving like a “de facto regime,” and would not recognize an opposition victory in the upcoming presidential elections in October.

InSight Crime Analysis

It is true that Venezuela’s military leadership has given worrying signals about their stance on the upcoming elections. In 2010 Rangel said that the military would not accept a change in government, but he has adopted a more conciliatory tone since being appointed defense minister in January. Earlier this month, the general declared, “We are going to recognize whoever wins the October 7 elections. We’re not just going to recognize whoever says they won.” This ambiguous statement suggests the military might dispute an opposition victory.

However, Noriega’s warnings should be taken with a grain of salt. So far there is no evidence that the military intends to seize power, and talk of succession has focused on figures in the civilian leadership. Noriega’s “inside sources” have not always provided the most reliable information in the past. In November, he claimed to have been told by a government insider that Chavez had less than six months left to live. Five months later, the president is still battling with cancer but appears to be far from his deathbed, making regular public appearances and energetically attacking his critics.

However, if the president’s health deteriorates, or if he loses the election, there is a high chance that Venezuela will become increasingly unstable, whether or not the military take control. This could allow organized crime to increase its hold on the country. One possible point of comparison is Honduras, which has become an increasingly important site for drug trafficking organizations since the 2009 coup.

Compartir icon icon icon

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Tags

Related Content

VENEZUELA / 21 DEC 2012

Venezuela announced it seized over 45 tons of drugs in 2012, although the nation is still believed to…

COLOMBIA / 16 NOV 2014

The Colombian border town of Cucuta has smuggling coursing through its veins, underpinning its economy and strengthening organized crime, which…

PRISONS / 8 AUG 2011

The new Venezuelan Minister of Correctional Services, Iris Varela, has put a hold on the admission of inmates into prisons…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

We Have Updated Our Website

4 FEB 2021

Welcome to our new home page. We have revamped the site to create a better display and reader experience.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Events – Border Crime: The Northern Triangle and Tri-Border Area

ARGENTINA / 25 JAN 2021

Through several rounds of extensive field investigations, our researchers have analyzed and mapped out the main illicit economies and criminal groups present in 39 border departments spread across the six countries of study – the Northern Triangle trio of Guatemala, Honduras, and El…

BRIEF

InSight Crime’s ‘Memo Fantasma’ Investigation Wins Simón Bolívar National Journalism Prize

COLOMBIA / 20 NOV 2020

The staff at InSight Crime was awarded the prestigious Simón Bolívar national journalism prize in Colombia for its two-year investigation into the drug trafficker known as “Memo Fantasma,” which was…

ANALYSIS

InSight Crime – From Uncovering Organized Crime to Finding What Works

COLOMBIA / 12 NOV 2020

This project began 10 years ago as an effort to address a problem: the lack of daily coverage, investigative stories and analysis of organized crime in the Americas. …

ANALYSIS

InSight Crime – Ten Years of Investigating Organized Crime in the Americas

FEATURED / 2 NOV 2020

In early 2009, Steven Dudley was in Medellín, Colombia. His assignment: speak to a jailed paramilitary leader in the Itagui prison, just south of the city. Following his interview inside…