CARACAS, Venezuela – Between February 10 and 15, Venezuela holds the largest and most important military exercises in its history, a way to demonstrate reactive power against possible invaders.
The Military Civic Exercises “Bicentennial of Angostura 2019” were officially described as a demonstration of strength and a message to foreign hostilities against the government of Nicolás Maduro. However, some analysts point out that the military movement also has an internal focus to increase popular support and among generals, who are being courted, according to reports.
“From the external point of view, it is a sign that the country has a deterrent capacity, that the war would be very costly and that the country enjoys important international allies, especially Russia and China,” explains Diego Pautasso, a professor of International Relations of the Military College of Porto Alegre.
Pautasso also adds that there is interest in publicly demonstrating military support to the Venezuelan government to strengthen popular support.
“Second, demonstrate that the armed forces continue to support the Maduro government and at the same time strengthen the patriotic feeling of the population in the face of this hybrid war situation that the country is subjected to, based on embargoes, sanctions, recognition of parallel governments, etc,” he said.
#EnVivo 📹 | “Aquí están los soldados de Bolívar que les harían pagar caro al imperio estadounidense cualquier osadía de tocar el sagrado suelo de la Patria venezolana”, enfatizó el jefe de Estado @NicolasMaduro #BicentenarioDeAngostura2019 pic.twitter.com/kMpLnYW8Yj
— Prensa Presidencial (@PresidencialVen) February 10, 2019
The beginning of military exercises on Sunday was held at the Military Fort of Guaicaipuro, in Charallave, in the central region of the country. On the date, Nicolás Maduro made an emphatic speech under the aura of Simón Bolívar’s historical discourse during the Congress of Angostura that 200 years ago paved the way for the independence of Venezuela and other countries in the region.
“There are Armed Forces here, and here is a people to defend the honor, dignity and decorum of a country that has been struggling for its future for more than 200 years,” said Maduro. He also said that “Bolivar’s soldiers would pay dearly for the US empire for any boldness to touch the sacred soil of the Venezuelan homeland.”
Diego Pautasso points out that support from the military sector and institutions is crucial to maintaining a government.
“If we do not have the support of the Armed Forces, of the Legislative Power, it will be difficult for the government to persist for a long time,” he says.
The Venezuelan people would be a ‘key element’ in the maintenance of Chavismo.
The researcher points out that in the case of Venezuela, support for Chavismo has been popular, and exercises such as Angostura are a way to encourage this support.
For him, the connection in Venezuela between the Armed Forces, state power, the Bolivarian militias and the people themselves has been “a key element in the persistence of Chavismo in power.”
Does Brazil need to worry about military exercises in Venezuela?
“These maneuvers have a deterrent spirit and are directed not only at the United States, which is, let’s say, the mentor of destabilization in the country, but is targeted against neighbors, which sometimes signal support for Washington’s agenda. This is a demonstration of strength also towards the neighbors,” says International Relations researcher Diego Pautasso.
According to him, despite the movement of troops within Venezuela, hostile countries like Brazil have not demonstrated intentions to venture into a military invasion. Among the reasons for this attitude is the recognition of the difficulties of such a measure in view of the popular character of Chavismo.
The invasion of a country with popular support would be of a “very complicated” character, according to the professor of the Military College of Porto Alegre, which he believes to be recognized by any “minimally consequential analyst.”
Pautasso also recalls the difficulties faced by the Brazilian army during the support to the peace mission in Haiti and points out that the situation in Venezuela in case of invasion would be much more complicated.
“In the Brazilian peace operation in Haiti, which is a completely unstructured country, with support from the United Nations, which was accepted by the country, it was already a difficult task to pacify certain neighborhoods, imagine in a country with 30 million inhabitants, with hills and favelas on all sides and with solid support in these peripheral regions,” he explained.
Under these conditions, the professor points out, any measure of aggression would open the door to catastrophe and the insertion of the region into the global geopolitical tension.
“So it would be a catastrophic scenario, right? It does not seem to me a consistent position of Brazil to internalize, above all, the rivalry between the United States versus Russia and China for its immediate frontier,” he continues.
Brazilian intelligence would recognize Maduro’s popular support.
“The speech is always the lack of legitimacy in the Venezuelan elections, censorship … this is the rhetoric that the mainstream media has employed, that the Brazilian government – and the Colombian government – by its alignment with Washington ends up coordinating and converging with these narratives and perspectives.
“Now, certainly, the Brazilian army and government have intelligence – I say intelligence for information services – to know that the Venezuelan government has won more than two dozen elections, most of which have been followed by international organizations and that, therefore, the cost of an intervention would be gigantic,” says the researcher.
Pautasso suspects that the Armed Forces would not be willing to “sacrifice in favor of an agenda that is primarily external to Brazilian interests.” He further reaffirms that the government has knowledge about popular support for Maduro and that the difficulty generated by this situation is not of interest to Brazil.
“It not only recognizes popular support but recognizes these forms of organization, these militias know of the external support that Venezuela has, it knows of the country’s public and military deterrent capacity and calculates the size of the energy that would have to be spent in a war that would compromise the Brazilian budget, the energies and that could throw sand in the gear of the current government,” he says.
The professor of the Military College of Porto Alegre concludes that an invasion by the United States would also have difficulties in obtaining support in Washington, since the US president, Donald Trump, has not had a good relation with the North American Congress.