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?’
In the wake of the failed coup attempt last week, Turkish President Recept Tayyip Erdogan has cast a wide net across Turkey’s armed forces, police and other civil services. The purge under way right now in the military is resulting in thousands of enlisted men, NCOs and officers all being detained. The officer corps especially has been ruthlessly dealt with. Politically, the actions of Erdogan’s government make sense. The military was the driving force behind the coup attempt after all and it is unclear deep the betrayal runs. This will not be a short term action. Erdogan is driven to remove all vestiges of opposition to him from the services.
Unfortunately, the purge will bring about significant consequences for Turkey’s military posture and national security. As hundreds, if not thousands of Turkish officers are arrested, morale in the military is already plummeting. Effective and popular commanders are being placed in detention whether or not they had anything to do with the coup. Their replacements will be officers who’s only qualification for the job is loyalty to Erdogan. Those officers who are left will be too busy looking over their shoulders to run their units properly. As morale plunges, military readiness will follow close behind at a time when Turkey needs its armed forces to be prepared and vigilant against potential threats such as ISIS, what remains of Syria’s military and Russia.
In the coming weeks, Turkish intelligence and law enforcement services will be working to determine how deep the coup ran while Erdogan’s government uses the uprising as justification for a nationwide crackdown. Turkey’s attention will be inexorably focused inward. How will Ankara’s external enemies and rivals try to use this to their advantage? More significant is how NATO and the European Union could inevitably respond to Erdogan’s crackdown.
The attempted coup in Turkey is faltering at this hour as the military faction that seized control earlier today had failed to consolidate its hold on power. Turkish President Recip Tayyip Erdogan’s call for his supporters to take to the streets appears to have been answered. Erdogan’s aircraft has landed in Istanbul and already spoken to the nation. Erdogan claims the coup was launched by a minority group in the Turkish military. He called the uprising an act of treason and those responsible will face punishment.
News reports paint a picture of violent clashes between protesters and the military in Istanbul earlier in the morning resulting in 6 deaths and 100 wounded. The city appears to be calm right now, while the situation in Ankara remains unclear. The fact that Erdogan went to Istanbul instead of the Turkish capital indicates that the capital city might not be secure. Earlier a bomb exploded at the Turkish parliament building killing 12 and coup supporters have reportedly seized control of CNN Turk. There have been numerous other reports of clashes between military units and police units loyal to the government leading to casualties.
The situation is still somewhat fluid and Erdogan’s return to power is not yet guaranteed. When he arrives back in Ankara it will be a concrete sign that he has resumed his duties and has full control of the military once more.