On one of my recent trips to Caracas, my bags took about two hours to get from the plane to the baggage belt. I asked the folks from the airline about it, and they simply shrugged, saying, “the National Guard has to look through every bag.” My fellow passengers and I simply sighed, bewildered at the primitiveness of it all.
The National Guard is one of the five components of our Armed Forces. The others are the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, and Chávez’s private Citizens Militia. The GN’s motto is “el honor es su divisa,” or “honor is their currency.” But, deep down, we know their currency is the greenback. In a country where everything is rotten to the core, the National Guard stands out as one of the most corrupt institutions.
Imagine: the National Guard is in charge of the borders, public “order,” of making sure our roads are safe, and of caring for the nation’s prisons. Where do I even begin?
One of the main achievements of the National Guard – and I apologize to all the exceptions out there – is the absolute chaos that reigns in our border areas. The GN has always been in on the lucrative business of contraband, making sure that all illegal trade making its way through our pourous frontiers leaves a little somethin’ somethin’ for them. But in the last few years, their involvement in everything from gas smuggling to drug trafficking is simply too obscene to ignore.
And what does Chávez do a mere few days after he’s re-elected? He names a National Guard General to be Interior Minister. General Néstor Reverol, our new Interior Minister, is coming off a hugely successful run as head of the Venezuelan Anti-Narcotics Office. Why, Venezuela is now a beacon in the fight against illegal drug trade! I guess the Interior Ministry is not rotten enough, they had to bring in a GN to see what was the matter with them.
Now the nation’s police forces and investigators will have to answer to the military, one that comes from one of the most corrupt institutions in the Venezuelan state – and boy, that’s like being the most murderous pran in Yare. Instead of asserting civilian control over the military, we have increased military control over civilian life. That’s what Chávez promised, and it’s what the majority wants.
The sad part is that nobody in the opposition talks about this.
Instead of denouncing the National Guard as what it is – a cancer in the heart of the Venezuelan State – we promise the Armed Forces tons of goodies. Instead of speaking straight to the Venezuelan people about the dangers of the increased militarization of our society, we go ahead and promise that our Defense Minister will be an active general, something that has come to be seen as downright anachronistic in our hemisphere.
Let’s face it, in a post-Chávez Venezuela, the National Guard will be one of those institutions that will have to be audited, re-defined, and perhaps, anhilated altogether, but you’ll never hear any of our politicians say these things.
As long as we believe we are somehow electable, we will continue pandering and pretending everything is A-OK with our Armed Forces … instead of leveling with the Venezuelan people by offering them real solutions.