Today, Maduro oversaw a military event in Caracas to mark the seventh anniversary since the creation of the National Bolivarian Militia (NBM). The militia is made up of ordinary citizens who have volunteered to undergo military training and provide their fighting services in the event of a war. The NBM forms part of the National Bolivarian Armed Forces, and is believed to be at least 100,000 strong.
During the event, Maduro stressed the importance of having a strong militia, since Venezuela could “never again” experience the events of April 11, 2002, when Chavez was temporarily removed from power via a coup d’etat. The coup ended when Chavez was returned to power on April 13 due in part to his supporters taking to the streets of cities around the country and demanding his return.
Maduro also drew a line in the sand to separate those who support his regime from those who do not, saying:
This is not a time for traitors. It is not a time for treachery, or for indecisiveness. Everyone must decide if they stand with the homeland or with betrayal against the homeland, if they stand with the historical people of Bolivar or with those who kneel before factors of imperial power [sic]!
In the event that his government should face some kind of existential threat, Maduro was clear in his instructions to the thousands of militia members gathered before him. Maduro said:
If you see one day, or if you wake up one day and see news that the ultra-right wing’s betrayal has resulted in some kind of coup d’etat, come out as you did on [April] 13 to take total control of the Republic. Insurrection from all of the popular and military forces of the homeland! Don’t doubt it even for one second.
Calling his followers “the humble people of the earth”, Maduro thanked Minister of the Interior Vladimir Padrino Lopez and the National Bolivarian Armed Forces for their continued support, saying that “love is repaid with love, and loyalty is repaid with loyalty”.
During the event, Maduro announced that he had approved a plan to expand the NBM to 500,000 members, and that he had approved additional resources in order to properly outfit each militia member, including giving “a rifle” to each of them:
Maduro: … I have granted the Minister of Defense and General-in-Chief Vladimir Padrino Lopez some plans to expand the National Bolivian Militia this year to 500,000 members with all of their equipment, and to guarantee via the National Bolivarian Armed Forces one rifle for every militia member! A rifle for every militia member! The resources has been approved.
At least some of the militia members began their day by dancing to military drill music that had been turned into a song praising Hugo Chavez through the addition of lyrics. Below, a video of militia dancing and clapping along to the song:
The militia members also marched along the Paseo Los Proceres in Caracas early this morning:
Below, more images from today’s event.
Militia running in a square:
Maduro drives throw a multitude of militia members:
And a video showing the same event as above:
Maduro greeting some militia members:
A video showing the stage from which Maduro and Padrino Lopez spoke, showing the mass of militia members who heard the speeches:
Another image, this one showing the militia lined up on a street:
A close-up of some militia members:
Padrino Lopez: Violence Against Protesters Is Not “Repression”
Speaking at the same event, Minister of Defense Vladimir Padrino Lopez said that violent state repression of opposition protests “cannot be called repression”, since it is done in the name of “restoring public order”. Lopez also stressed that the policing of protests in Venezuela is with “respect for human rights”.
Opposition protests are often repressed violently by state authorities, and sometimes with lethal results. Over the past three weeks, three people have been killed by official state security forces during protests: two were shot to death by police, and one was asphyxiated by teargas inside her own home. In the past, both the National Guard and the National Bolivarian Police have been criticized by organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch for their indiscriminate use of tear gas.
Padrino Lopez also made it abundantly clear that his National Bolivarian Armed Forces remained unquestionably loyal to both Maduro and the Bolivarian Revolution:
The National Bolivarian Armed Forces maintains its monolithic and granitic unity, and ratifies its unconditional loyalty to the president.
Calling Maduro an “authentically chavista” president, Padrino Lopez said that he was “profoundly admired” by the men and women of Venezuela’s military.
~180 Cuban Doctors Defect from Venezuela, Seek Asylum in U.S.
Spain’s EFE published a video today in which it highlights the plight of a group of Cuban doctors who escaped Venezuela for Colombia, where they applied for asylum at the United States embassy in Bogota. In the video, the doctors describe that they lived under terrible conditions in Venezuela.
The publication claims at there are at approximately 180 escaped Cuban doctors in Bogota currently in this situation.
Below, the video along with my translation
Narrator: Nearly 180 Cuban doctors, odontologists and nurses are in Colombia awaiting their United States visas after they deserted medical appointments in Venezuela due to a lack of support. Oscar Alonzo is a doctor and a spokesperson for the group, and he spoke about the tense situation that they live.
Alonzo: It’s a super terrible situation, because in Cuba we’re persecuted political because we’ve deserted from a Cuban medical mission that is political.
Narrator: Maria del Carmen Torres is a pharmacist who grew tired of the situation in Venezuela, and told EFE the risks of the humanitarian mission.
Torres: They can even have you killed. We were living a very, very bad situation there. We had to be very careful. We couldn’t leave our homes. We had to be in our homes by 6:00 PM, practically under lock and key, because we couldn’t be seen on the street.
Narrator: The Cuban doctors had to contend with the Venezuela [National] Guard, as well as overcome a number of obstacles while crossing the border with the goal of reaching the U.S. embassy in Bogota, where they hope that their situation will be resolved.
Venezuela and Cuba have been close allies since Chavez became president in 1999. One of the many agreements that the two countries have involved Cuba sending doctors and other medical professionals to work in the health misiones [literally, “missions” or programs] in Venezuela. The misiones are well-intentioned initiatives to bring healthcare to the poorest regions of the country, but have suffered tremendously from the same kind of corruption that has effected virtually every other facet of the Venezuelan state.
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