One of the big questions in the wake of Hugo Chávez’s death was whether Nicolás Maduro, who had never served, would be able to maintain the support of Venezuela’s military. While it remains a significant question, one that will most likely last beyond April 14’s election, it seems Maduro has at least some military support.
[I]n a move that has elicited criticism from opposition leaders who say the Constitution bars the armed forces from taking sides in political campaigns, the top military official in the cabinet, Defense Minister Diego Molero Bellavia, has already explicitly backed Mr. Maduro by calling on voters to “give a good thrashing to all those fascists” of the opposition.
The head of the National Assembly, Diosdado Cabello, a former military officer who took part in Mr. Chávez’s 1992 coup attempt, has also pledged to support Mr. Maduro. Mr. Cabello, who is one of the most powerful figures in Mr. Chávez’s political movement and has broad support in the army, is often viewed as a potential rival to Mr. Maduro.
Certainly, these views belong to powerful men in the military, but it should go without stating it seems unlikely that they perfectly reflect the entire military institution’s attitudes. It’s a good sign for Maduro that he has such support, but, should he win the election, whether or not he will be able to maintain it will be a key issue in his administration. And, unlikely as it may seem, should Capriles win the election, the stance of some in the military indicates he himself will be in a difficult position. Either way, the Venezuelan military will have plenty to say in politics, be it through vocal declarations or through silence.