Zimbabwe’s military leaders claim the steps taken in the last twenty four hours do not amount to a military coup or takeover of the government. In name it may be neither of these things, yet in action there is a striking resemblance at the very least. A military presence remains in the streets of Harare, and parliament is closed, though surprisingly some aspects of daily life appear to be continuing as usual. Businesses are open, and people are on the streets. There have been no signs of fighting or violent demonstrations. ZBC, the national broadcaster remains under military control. Mugabe is being held under house arrest. The term ‘bloodless transition’ has been used on Zanu-PF’s social media accounts and seems to be the politically acceptable term to describe what is happening in Zimbabwe right now.
The era of Mugabe is ending unceremoniously. His grip on Zimbabwe lasted four decades and for better or worse, Mugabe’s face became the face of Zimbabwe during that time. His fate was sealed when he sacked vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa. It became clear that Mugabe intended for his wife Grace to succeed him instead of Mnangagwa. This did not sit well with the military. When General Constantino Chiwenga, the commander of the Zimbabwe Defense Forces, announced the military would stop “those bent on hijacking the revolution,” his comments were branded “treasonous” by the ruling party. The stage was set from that point and hours later, armored vehicles appeared in and around Harare and the ‘transition’ commenced shortly thereafter.
What comes next is anyone’s guess, yet the lack of intervention by security forces loyal to Mugabe, or his wife, is significant. Reports from inside Harare indicate that Mugabe might be negotiating a graceful departure from power while the military continues arresting members of his circle. This would increase the chances of the ‘bloodless transition’ now underway remaining so. Politically speaking, there is no guarantee that life after Mugabe will be a seamless transition for Zimbabwe and its citizens.
The rift between Zimbabwe’s leader Robert Mugabe and the nation’s military appears to be moving into a dangerous new stage. Unusual military activity including armored vehicles staked out at strategic points around the capital city of Harare is being reported. ZBC, the national broadcaster has been occupied by soldiers. Explosions have been heard across the city as well. The US and British embassies are advising their citizens in country to shelter in place while the uncertain political situation plays out. The embassies are playing it cautious with their descriptions of what is happening. However, for all intents and purposes, a coup attempt against Mugabe appears to be underway.
There has been speculation that a coup might be in the works. Mugabe’s ruling party accused one of the nation’s top military officers of ‘treasonable conduct.’ General Constantino Chiwenga had warned of possible military action after Mugabe dismissed Emmerson Mnangagwa, his vice president, last week after a flare up over succession. Mnangagwa was seen as the heir apparent to succeed Mugabe, but Zimbabwe’s First Lady Grace Mugabe has become the next in line. The rift between Grace Mugabe and Mnangagwa has split the Zanu-PF party. Supporters of the vice president have been purged in recent weeks as Mugabe appears to be setting the stage for his wife’s rise to power.
As events in Zimbabwe continue to develop in the coming hours and days I will provide updates.
Venezuela and Nicolas Maduro are making headlines once more. Early on Sunday morning armed men in military uniforms released a video calling for Venezuelans to rebel against President Maduro and his party. A short time later, a military base near Caracas was attacked. According to the government the attack was repelled and the assault force suffered casualties. It was also revealed that the surviving attackers made off with some weapons. Judging from news reports, and information from independent sources, an attack did take place. Who the attackers were affiliated with is another question entirely. The same is true for the motivations and affiliations of the men on the video. Post-referendum news coming out of the country has to be taken with a grain of salt.
The situation in Venezuela is quite fluid at the moment and Maduro and his government have an agenda to promote. Altering the political narrative to place the opposition in a villainous light would be beneficial. Some of the facts coming out of Caracas seem to back the theory that Maduro’s government is behind this morning’s events. The attack on the military base does not appear to have come as a surprise. It was defeated quickly and with relative ease. The Venezuelan defense minister has stated that the men captured this morning during the attack have already confessed to being under contract by ‘right wing Venezuelan activists who are connected to foreign governments. Powerful members of the ruling socialist party were very quick to put out statements denouncing the attack and affirming their support for Maduro. The release of these statements appears to have been coordinated for maximum effect.
The timing of the attack on the military base and the video release raise even more questions. For the duration of the Venezuelan crisis the opposition has been hobbled by disorganization, and a consistent lack of initiative. It has not lacked passion though. The emergence of an anti-Maduro movement in the military would’ve likely come before last week’s referendum. Acting now, after the assembly has been formed, is essentially locking the barn door after the horse has escaped.
The timing of these events is extremely beneficial for the government and ruling party. The video conveniently paints a belligerent challenge to the government. The failed attack underscores a need for swift, decisive action to nip the ‘threat’ in the bud. The constituent assembly has justification to provide the tools needed for Maduro to expand the arrests of opposition members, and infringe on the constitutional rights of Venezuelans in the name of national security.
What’s happening in Venezuela is a text book example of a ruling party consolidating its hold on the government with no intention of relinquishing control anytime soon. Sunday’s actions did not stem from a desperate attempt to jump start the opposition and invigorate them It stemmed directly from Maduro’s desire to tighten his grip on power. His fingerprints are all over Sunday’s events, not the opposition’s.
Democracy is all but dead in Venezuela.
Democracy in Venezuela has been on life support for an extended period of time. The ruling and actions by its Supreme Court Wednesday night may have pulled the plug. The court ruled that the nation’s elected legislators are ‘operating outside the law’by defying previous court ruling. As a result, the legislature is to be dissolved. The Supreme Court will assume legislative duties for the time being. The judicial body is firmly in the camp of embattled President Nicolas Maduro and its latest actions are nothing short of a coup that all but assures the nation will be under One-Man rule.
Venezuela’s opposition-controlled National Assembly has been regarded by many as the last hope for democracy in that country. It was beginning to push back against Maduro and his United Socialist Party’s already tight grip on power. With the loss of the legislature, however, the opposition has been removed from the equation. The government is clearly operating outside of the constitution but now there is no system of checks and balances to repair the imbalance. The three branches of government will all be controlled by the United Socialist Party.
The nation is facing a nearly unprecedented humanitarian crisis, the result of the continuing economic meltdown Venezuela is enduring. Food, basic goods, and medicine are running dangerously short. Staggering inflation is making currency essentially useless and the bulk of Venezuela’s monetary reserves will go towards debt repayment.
Regional reaction was overwhelmingly negative. Peru reacted to the ruling by recalling its ambassador to Caracas and is considering the full suspension of diplomatic relations. Mexico, Colombia, Argentina and Chile all denounced Maduro’s government. The Organization of American States (OAS) also denounced the Supreme Court’s ruling. OAS Secretary General Luis Amalgro accused the Venezuelan government of attempting “a self-inflicted coup d’etat” The United States joined in by releasing a statement condemning the court’s “decision to usurp the powers of the democratically elected National Assembly. … We consider it a serious setback for democracy.”
How the opposition, and Venezuelan citizens respond will reveal much about the future of Venezuela. As the heartbeat of democracy there fades it becomes painfully clear that nothing short of a powerful, perhaps violent, jolt will keep it alive. Venezuelans need to act decisively and do it now. Otherwise, the nation will permanently fall into the dark peril of dictator rule.
A New Phase in the Turkish Purge
The Turkish government had dismissed another 10,000 civil servants and shut down 15 media outlets over suspected links with Fethullah Gulen, the US-based cleric who has been blamed by Ankara for being behind the failed coup in July. Since the coup attempt, over 100,000 government employees have been fired or suspended and 37,000 arrested. This latest batch of dismissed employees learned of their fates when two executive decrees were published on Saturday. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has long defended the continued crackdown, citing it as essential to removing Gulen influence from the state government. Opposition parties view the purges quite differently, with one even calling it a coup in itself. Turkey’s Western allies are concerned that Erdogan is using the failed coup as justification to remove eradicate dissent.
Immediately following the failed coup, the Turkish government declared a state of emergency and used it as a blanket to go after Gulen supporters and Kurdish militants, citing both as major threats. The state of emergency has been extended until January, 2017 and could be pushed out even beyond that, as Erdogan has hinted that authorities will need even more time to contend with the alleged threats.
Advance Into Mosul Underway
The battle for Mosul is entering its third week and finally showing signs of significant progress. Today, Iraqi units broke through ISIS defenses in the eastern suburbs of the city and fighting has expanded into the city limits for the first time. Iraqi army Counter Terrorism Service troops are now fighting in the Karama district. The offensive to liberate Mosul started on 17 October and has progressed slowly since then. Peshmerga fighters and Iraqi government forces have taken on the lion’s share of the effort to retake Mosul with US airstrikes supporting them. On Saturday, pro-Iranian militias joined the effort, attempting to cut off the transportation network between Mosul and Raqqa. ISIS has been attempting to slow the coalition offensive down with mortars, sniper fire, car bombs and scorched earth, as well as more conventional defensive tactics. The question now appears to be not ‘will Mosul be liberated?’ but ‘How long will the effort take and how many heavy will the casualties be?’