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A sergeant in the Venezuelan Armed Forces has released a video calling for his fellow soldiers to rise up against dictator Nicolás Maduro and reject orders to attack unarmed civilians, the latest indication that Maduro is losing the support of the military amid a wave of violent crackdowns on dissidents.
First Sergeant Giomar Alexander Flores Ortiz identifies himself with his legal military number in the video before accusing Maduro’s socialist government of being an “illegitimate president” and telling soldiers to “not follow the abusive and unconstitutional orders that our superior give us.”
“I consider myself a rightful soldier regarding upholding my duties, with strong values and professional ethics,” he said in the video. “I always stick to the rules and regulations of the Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.”
“In the fulfillment of this function I am at the exclusive service of the country, with absolutely no political partisanship,” he asserts. “I hereby ratify my rejection of Nicolás Maduro Moros as an illegitimate president of the republic and I do not accept his dictatorial regime, which does not respect the Constitution and instead defies its principles and disregards human rights.”
“My call is to you, my dear comrades in arms. … We must respect the laws and be on the side of the people, and turn our backs on the tyrant that has so harmed the country. We cannot fear him. We must fulfill our duty to defend our nation against the abhorrent actions committed by these immoral and corrupt officials,” he says.
Flores Ortiz goes on to demand the freedom of all of Venezuela’s political prisoners, in particular, the opposition party leader Leopoldo López, “who we all know is innocent.” López is currently serving a 14-year prison sentence for having organized peaceful anti-socialist protests in 2014, for which he was convicted of arson and inciting violence.
The soldier concludes by expressing gratitude to “our almighty Father, who has a plan for us”:
Throughout the past two months of protests against the socialist regime, Maduro has relied heavily upon the armed forces to attack, suppress, and kill peaceful protesters. Bolivarian National Guard (GNB) soldiers have used tear gas, rubber bullets, and armored tanks to intimidate and injure protesters. In one incident caught on video last month, soldiers drove their tanks into a crowd of protesters, running them over.
As a result, small pockets of public resistance have formed within the military. In April, three soldiers fled to Colombia and published a video on YouTube similar to the one by Flores Ortiz, urging soldiers to defect. Opposition leaders have reported hearing of dozens of cases of soldiers within the army ranks criticizing Maduro and facing military tribunals for insubordination. To prevent any further uprising, Maduro acted against the nation’s most prominent military dissident, General Ángel Vivas, last month. Vivas had spent the better part of a decade opposing Chavista socialism, and the past several years locked in his home with his military firearms, which he refused to give up despite the warrant against him. Maduro’s police thugs
To prevent any further uprising, Maduro acted against the nation’s most prominent military dissident, General Ángel Vivas, last month. Vivas had spent the better part of a decade opposing Chavista socialism, and the past several years locked in his home with his military firearms, which he refused to give up despite the warrant against him. Maduro’s police thugs raided Vivas’s home last month, beat the 60-year-old, and whisked him away to military jail. His family has told international media that the senior official’s health has deteriorated significantly in prison, but he has yet to receive appropriate medical care.
The opposition has called for a complete uprising within the military against Maduro. “We are asking today that the armed [forces] of the Republic exercise their sovereignty … and tell Nicolás Maduro to call for elections or the streets will continue to protest. Either you call elections or your soldiers will have to murder the entire people,” opposition legislator said José Manuel Olivares said on Monday. Freddy Guevara, the acting head of Popular Will during López’s imprisonment, issued a similar call, saying, “To leave this dictatorship we need the FANB (Bolivarian National Armed Forces).”
Lilian Tintori, López’s wife and an opposition leader herself, published a letter to the armed forces in April demanding they cease to use force against protesters. “You, just like me, have a mother, probably have children or are married, maybe have siblings, and I am sure that they, just like my family, are unjustly suffering through the horrors all Venezuelans are facing these days,” she wrote.
Minister of Defense Vladimir Padrino López has denied that the military is divided and urged soldiers to stay out of politics generally. His latest posts on Twitter emphasize his military’s “obedience, subordination, and loyalty”:
— MPPDefensa (@prensaFANB) June 1, 2017
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