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A worrisome speech by Venezuela's General Raul Baduell

By Miguel Octavio

To me, it is quite scary to hear what Gen. Baduell said yesterday in the Carabobo battlefield in the commemoration of the battle that gave Venezuela its independence. While I believe that the country should be concerned on how to insert itself in the global community, these guys are fighting imaginary and irrelevant battles, which really mean nothing to a prosperous future for Venezuela. While I would hate to compare it with what is going on in Iraq, in its essence it is not too different. Extremists in Iraq disliked Saddam Hussein as much as they dislike the US; the solution is to kill people at random as a way of making their point.

While in Venezuela we have not reached that level of violence, I do not discard it in the future given the views and the ideological nature of what is today the ruling party in Venezuela. One has to wonder what will happen if they should lose control of power when and if Chavez loses the recall referendum. It may sound too pessimistic, but when a former Vice-President is the leading speaker for the radical Tupamaro group, Lina Ron is invoking violence if Chavez is revoked and Chavistas within the Government view Chavez as being too timid, one has to worry.

Baduell has certainly been a disappointment. He is reputed to be the man that brought Chavez to power in the name of institutionality in 2002. As such, he was expected to be an important force behind the scenes in maintaining Constitutional order. Apparently he has played that role to a certain extent, but at the same time he has also allowed for politics, nepotism and friendship to dominate decisions within the military, including the promotion of Gen. Garcia Carneiro to the highest rank ever given to a General in the country’s military history. Garcia Carneiro had a very poor career within the military, but his unconditional loyalty to Chavez helped him into the highest military post in the nation.

Meanwhile Raul Baduell has played a secondary role. Once in a while Baduell has given statements supporting institutionality. But on Thursday, he was given the spotlight as the leading speaker on the grounds of the Carabobo battlefield and rather than sending a message of institutionality, Baduell gave a militaristic speech aligned with the anti-US-globalization paranoia of his supreme boss Hugo Chavez.

As soldiers and armored cars marched to the sound of his speech, Baduell said that the Venezuelan armed forces were ready to confront four types of war, including any aggression coming from abroad, particularly by a multinational force. Coincidentally at that point in his speech a tank broke down right in front of the podium where Baduell was addressing the crowd.

Baduell gave a strong militaristic speech, sounding as if the country was ready to be invaded. He talked about fourth generation wars, in which countries are destabilized, he mentioned coups, subversion, as well as actions by separatists (??), groups promoted by transnational corporations and other groups. He mentioned regional conflicts under the disguise of backing against violence. Finally, the General mentioned military interventions under the leadership of the OAS, the UN, or even worse, without the approval of any of these institutions.

Baduell charged the last scenario would be supported by “globalization” backers who consider Venezuela a threat to their interests. According to Baduell the Bolivarian state is against that globalization which promotes anarchy. He said there are groups in the country that are confused between foreign and Venezuelan flags and have turned into instruments of foreign interests.

Baduell’s speech seemed eerie in the context of a country whose economy has failed to move forward to provide the prosperity needed for the poorer classes, despite huge windfall profits from record high oil prices and revenues in the last few years. But it reflected the mindset of the Government. Chavez himself in the same event called the US the biggest enemy of the country, so that it was clear Baduell was simply following his boss’s speech.

The fact is that these men believe that any support for the recall or elections is a threat to their beloved and failed revolution. While Chavez rose to power on the coattails of a democratic revolution, that same revolution now threatens to kill his failed Bolivarian project. Baduell was simply trying to raise the consciousness of the disgruntled armed forces, but instead, stroke a cord that does not resonate with the Venezuelan population. For five years, Venezuelans have heard how the armed forces will help bring prosperity to the masses. In those same five years, the armed force have gone from being the most respected institution to the least respected one, as corruption and ineffectiveness have ruled their leadership.

Unfortunately, men like Baduell remain in important positions with strong personal ambitions, under a very simple logic: If Chavez can do it, so can I. Unfortunately he is probably right and while we are worried about Chavez, Gen. Baduell may be planning his own agenda for the time when Chavez’ recall is approved by the Venezuelan people. It may be the only true hope for the survival for this empty and failed revolution.

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