This week, the Venezuelan military and the police essentially took over the city of Maracay, attempting to restore order in the crime ridden San Vicente barrio. While most of the news has centered on the origins of this confrontation, what I find the most interesting is that this happens to be ocurring in Maracay of all places.
You see, the city of Maracay, located about 130 Km. South West of Caracas is as much of a military enclave as there exists in Venezuela. Look up, for example, Wikipedia, and you will find the following list of “interesting facts about Maracay”:
After history and Economy and Transport, comes “Military”, because the military plays such an essential role in the life of the city. And under Military, you will find the following description:
Maracay is the cradle of aviation, Chavez led his coup from there, the 4th. Armored division is there and Venezuela’s gun production military company is there.
Despite this huge military presence, the military has been unable to protect itself from the widespread crime of the country. In fact, Maracay is among the top cities in crime per inhabitant and the crooks seem to be armed with grenades and weapons “obtained” from the many military facilities in the city. As an example, when some gang members were killed by the police, the gangs retaliated by simultaneously attacking three units of the investigative police with grenades, which led to the raid on Barrio San Vicente.
Which leads to my main point: Venezuela’s military is so incapable, so dysfunctional, that it can not even protect its own turf. You would think that a city dominated by military life would be the safest, as high ranking officers worry about their wives and kids. Instead, their inability to coordinate and execute, their lack of training and their corruption has made their own turf among the worst in the country.
In fact, the grenades and weapons come from the same factory the military runs. It is just big business to sneak out and sell a grenade here, a box of bullets there and a gun somewhere else. That’s how the gangs armed themselves.
But you can’t blame it all on incompetent military. This is in fact part of the Chávez legacy. Chávez wanted these now so-called gangs to be armed, in order to create paramilitary groups that would support him and his Government when and if the time came. Except that these groups took a life of their own, became independent enterprises, while the military found it hard to go against the Big Boss and looked the other way, while they also enriched themselves.
So now, over ten years late, the revolution tries to stop the monster it created. Reportedly, there were three dead and 800 wounded in the raid and they keep running them trying to isolate the gangs. But the big problem is that those detained will suffer the same system of injustice that has been allowed in Venezuela during the last 16 years: Jails have triple their capacity, most prisoners remain jailed without sentencing and guess who runs the jails? The same gangs that run San Vicente, kill cops at will and fight the military.
So the military is now being bitten by its own incompetence, indolence and ability to ignore even the problems that surround them. When and if this nightmare ends, one has to wonder if the military simply has to be eliminated, they seem as dysfunctional as the Chavista Government and incapable of contributing to restoring order and organization in Venezuelan society.