New evidence of criminality in Venezuela’s military emerges

AEIdeasBy Roger F. Noriega

11/01/2017

A leaked internal memo obtained by the Miami Herald reveals the prevalence of theft and corruption perpetrated by soldiers in the Venezuelan military. In the memo to the Venezuelan Minister of Defense, chief prosecutor of the military Edgar José Rojas Borges raises his concerns over the frequent incidents of criminality soldiers engage in with impunity.

According to the Herald, Borges reports that this criminality has been encouraged by superior officers who actively intervene to protect soldiers from legal proceedings and hide their crimes. The memo requests the creation of a special working group tasked with addressing “the problem which is deteriorating the National Bolivarian Armed Forces.”

Amnesty International also recently reported that Venezuelan soldiers and police have engaged in a series of illegal nighttime raids on homes and private residences. Researchers received reports of 47 incidents occurring between April and July of this year alone. During these illegal raids, soldiers reportedly regularly assault residents and steal jewelry, clothing, and electronics.

Such revelations should come as little surprise to those who understand the nature of the government of former President Hugo Chávez and current President Nicolás Maduro. Under their leadership, Venezuelan officials have stolen hundreds of billions of dollars from the public coffers with impunity, hastening the dramatic economic crisis the country is suffering through today. A probe by the opposition-led National Assembly last year found that corrupt officials had stolen $11 billion from the state-run oil company PDVSA between 2004 and 2014.

Venezuela’s heavily politicized security forces also have a long history of criminality that goes even beyond the violent repression of protesters. As AEI chronicled earlier this year, the military has actively engaged in narcotrafficking for years, turning Venezuela into a major transit hub for cocaine and other illicit products. Numerous current and former Venezuelan military officials are under indictment by the United States for their role in drug trafficking. As the AEI report stated, “The spread of corruption and criminality throughout the government has been facilitated by the centralization of power under the presidency; the politicization of the military and the judiciary; and the breakdown of transparency, accountability, and the separation of powers.” …

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During the last several decades, the United States has invested billions of dollars in trying to help the governments of Latin America and the Caribbean deliver better lives for their citizens. This has meant helping them increase internal security by combating the illicit growing and trafficking in narcotics and the activities of terrorist groups, as well as helping them to shore up their democratic and free market institutions.

Unfortunately, in recent years, continued progress in these areas has been threatened, not least by the elections of radical populist governments in Venezuela, Bolivia, and Ecuador. These governments have instituted retrograde agendas that include the propagation of class warfare, state domination of the economy, assaults on private property, anti-Americanism, support for such international pariahs as Iran, and lackluster support for regional counter-terrorism and counter-narcotics initiatives.

We are a group of concerned policy experts that fear the results of these destructive agendas for individual freedom, prosperity, and the well-being of the peoples of the region. Our goal is to inform American policymakers and American and international public opinion of the dangers of these radical populist regimes to inter-American security.