Venezuela: Where The Mafia And The Military Come Together

 Members of the National Guard near the Miraflores Palace in Caracas, Venezuela. (GETTY IMAGES)

Members of the National Guard near the Miraflores Palace in Caracas, Venezuela. (GETTY IMAGES)

Fermín Lares  reports:  For the Venezuelan President, Nicolas Maduro, the murder of a former beauty queen wasn’t so much a tragedy as an opportunity. Although Venezuelans have become accustomed to violent crime – at an annual average of 79 per 100,000, the country has the world’s highest homicide rate after Honduras – the horrific murders in Carabobo, involving as they did a much-loved celebrity and her family, convulsed the entire nation in shock. Enter Maduro, who loudly declared that he would use an “iron fist” against Venezuelan criminals.

[See also:  Venezuela Jails 100 ‘Bourgeois, Barbaric, Capitalist Parasite’ Businessmen in Crackdown]

Sure enough, within days of the killings, seven men said to belong to a gang known as “Los sanguinarios del Cambur”  (“The bloodthirsty ones of Cambur”) were in custody. But if Maduro was expecting plaudits from a country whose citizens are even more fiercely divided than during the rule of his predecessor, Hugo Chavez, he must have been sorely disappointed. The swift response of the authorities in the Monica Spear case was a stark contrast to the thousands of other murders – there were a total of 24,763 murders in 2013 alone, according to the independent Venezuelan Observatory of Violence (OVV) – that are seldom investigated or resolved.

To the casual observer, it is not immediately clear how the various strands that compose Venezuela’s current economic and political crisis relate to this fundamental breakdown of law and order. What therefore needs to be understood is that, after 15 years of Chavista misrule, the Venezuelan state is not an enemy of the criminal networks that have conquered the country, but their ally.

Indeed, the regime that presides over the gravest economic crisis in the country’s history has been completely penetrated by criminal elements. Maduro has created a long list of enemies whom he blames for the fiscal meltdown, including “speculators” who supposedly drive down the value of Venezuela’s currency, the Bolivar, small merchants who stand accused of price-fixing, and – of course – the CIA, which is daily charged with launching sabotage operations. But conspicuous by their absence are those whose actions lie at the root of the catastrophe enveloping Venezuela.

This group includes the so-called “Boliburguesía” — a contraction of the words “Bolivarian” and “bourgeoisie,” denoting the sizeable Chavista elite that has amassed extreme wealth through corruption. Concentrated in banks, brokerage houses and insurance companies, this Chavista business class provides revenues for state officials by illegally circumventing exchange controls. As Carlos Tablante, a former parliamentarian, documented in his recent book on corruption in Venezuela, an average of 40 percent, and as much as 70 percent, of the capital behind these businesses is drawn directly from public funds.

However, every time opposition leaders demand an end to this criminality, the stock-in-trade response of the Chavistas is to accuse them of corruption in turn.

A principal reason why this culture of impunity prevails lies in the Venezuelan military. Though Chavismo likes to present itself as a socialist movement whose aim is to redistribute wealth to those in extreme poverty through “social missions”, its enduring legacy will be the economic empowerment of the military, and the violation of constitutional provisions preventing military involvement in politics…

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