On Monday I found myself asking what the end game in Venezuela might look like, with one sad possibility being that the starving citizens might eventually have to rise up and overthrow President Nicolas Maduro by force. I’m not going to suggest that the dictator reads the Spanish language version of Hot Air with his coffee every morning, but somebody seems to have put that same idea in his head. Fox News reports that Maduro is getting ready to make a major investment in his regime, but it has nothing to do with feeding the hungry masses. He’s preparing to arm up to 400,000 loyalists to serve in his “militias.”
This situation is building toward what could be a truly horrific culmination.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said he will expand the number of civilians involved in armed militias, providing guns to as many as 400,000 militants.
The announcement came as Maduro’s opponents are gearing up for what they pledge will be the largest rally yet to press for elections and a host of other demands Wednesday…
Speaking to thousands of militia members dressed in beige uniforms gathered in front of the presidential palace, Maduro said that vision remains relevant as Venezuela continues to face “imperialist aggression.”
“A gun for every militiaman!” he cried.
These so-called militias have been in place since the regime of Hugo Chavez, but not on this scale. They also shouldn’t be confused with American militias from the revolutionary war era. Far from being patriotic citizen soldiers who stand ready to set aside their farming implements to defend their homeland from invaders, these are the thugs who receive favorable treatment for remaining on the good side of the socialist regime and making sure none of their neighbors get out of line.
Unfortunately, the rank and file citizens do not enjoy such opportunities. Private gun ownership was banned under Hugo Chavez back in 2012. At that time he said that, “the ultimate aim is to disarm all civilians.” It was ostensibly done to crack down on the rising violent crime rates in urban centers such as Caracas, but it certainly worked out well for Chavez in terms of establishing an iron fist of control. It’s estimated that there are still plenty of black market guns in private hands, but most of the people remain unarmed.
As was reported over the weekend, Venezuelan protesters are already having a tough time of it, with as many as a half dozen having been killed during clashes with government forces in the past week. If Maduro can manage to arm up nearly a half million more in the major population centers the protesters likely won’t stand a chance if they’re looking to attempt an actual uprising. But this isn’t going to make Maduro any more popular. The average citizen should already be asking where he’s getting the money for all of these weapons and stockpiles of ammunition, followed by the inevitable question of why he wasn’t spending it on food and medicine for his people.
We have all of the components of an unfolding humanitarian disaster on display in Venezuela. For the moment it seems as if Maduro holds all the cards and will be able to suppress any domestic attempt to topple his failing socialist regime. But the costs to his people could turn out to be extraordinary.