Minister of Defence Vladimir Padrino Lopez spoke in today’s edition of Jose Vicente Hoy, a popular Sunday morning political talk show that tends to attract high-ranking PSUV officials. During the interview, Padrino Lopez reiterated the military’s unquestioning support for the Maduro regime, and called the National Bolivarian Armed Forces a “revolutionary” organisation.
When asked about calls from some opposition leaders for the army to carry out its constitutional duty and help protect the document from the Maduro regime’s habitual violations, Padrino Lopez said:
This strategy [of calling for military intervention] has been designed well within the framework that is non-conventional warfare (…) which seeks to weaken the government. This has the intention of going against the people’s moral foundations, [against] the revolutionary leadership of the National Bolivarian Armed Forces. In other words, this part of the strategy.
The National Bolivarian Armed Forces should be left as they are. The National Bolivarian Armed Forces as a Bolivarian, revolutionary institution, and one that is profoundly humanist. It believes in the Constitution and in democracy, and we know that we are following the Plan de la Patria [the “Homeland Plan”, the name of the PSUV project for Venezuela], and the Constitution.
Padrino Lopez’s comments stand in direct contradiction to the letter of the constitution, which prohibits the military from aligning itself with any political movement (emphasis mine):
Article 328: The National Armed Forces constitute an essentially professional institution, with no political orientation, organized by the State to guarantee the independence and sovereignty of the Nation and ensure the integrity of its geographical space, through military defense, cooperation for the purpose of maintaining internal order and active participation in national development, in accordance with this Constitution and the law. In performing their functions, they are at the exclusive service of the Nation, and in no case at the service of any person or political partisanship.
Maduro: Carnet de la Patria Will Bring About “Great Popular Power”
Speaking on his Sunday television show Los Domingos con Maduro, Maduro spoke on the carnet de la patria [“Homeland I.D.”], a new identification card that will allow holders access to government services and food subsidies.
On the new card, Maduro said:
The carnet de la patria is the new instrument of great popular power.
Today’s edition of Los Domingos con Maduro is being held in Guayana state, at the headquarters of the SIDOR steel company. Maduro said:
We are in SIDOR, which is the heart of the industrial effort to build productive, efficient and effective socialism. And it’s the heart of the working class.
Once a manufacturing giant, SIDOR has been reduced to a mere shell due to chronic government neglect and a restrictive and inefficient currency exchange system. The company produced only 6% of its installed capacity last year.
Despite Rhetoric, Frustration, Desperation Surrounds Carnet
In order to receive a carnet de la Patria, Venezuelans must sign up at their local registration centre. For many, the registration process has been frustrating and marked by a sense of desperation.
El Nacional sent reporters to a registration centre in Caracas yesterday, and reported that some people there had been in line for seven hours.
One such resident was Marbella Rojas, a 70 year-old whose time in line had prevented her from eating both breakfast and dinner. Rojas told the newspaper:
Everything is really disorganized. We’ve been here since 6:00 AM and it’s 1:00 PM now, and they [the registrars] haven’t started to work yet. They’re going around saying that the machine doesn’t work and they’re keeping us waiting.
Rojas also said that she hoped that getting the card would mean that she would be able to receive food:
I don’t really know how it’s going to work, but they’ve told me that president Nicolas Maduro is going to help us more. I’m getting my card so that they can give me food, so that I can get my CLAP bag [containing subsidized food]. That’s what we want. But this has been a disaster.
An unnamed woman said:
We have to get our cards by February 5. If not, we’ll be left out. They [the government] won’t give us anything else and we have needs.
Magaly Peña, a PSUV supporter, explained her reason for getting the card:
I’m chavista and I came to get my card because the president said that we had to do it. I want to have it in case I need it later. Some people who got it got their Homeland Homes [a subsidized housing program] card afterwards, and now they’re getting some money.
Economist Victor Alvarez told El Nacional that the card claims to grant services that were previously easily available, suggesting that the card is simply a new mechanism of state control.
For political scientist Victor Maldonado, the carnet de la patria is an example of what he calls “institutional blackmail”, since an individual who does not agree with the PSUV’s policies and does not want to register for the card will have no choice but to forego whatever services it provides.
Alvarez agrees with Maldonado, and said:
[The card] exchanges political loyalty for donations and prebenda [roughly, “social services”]. People suppress their freedom of though, their freedom to critique because they fear losing access to basic necessities.
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