Military Members Who Back Maduro Must Be Held Accountable: Van Hipp

Van Hipp is Chairman of American Defense International, Inc. He is the former Deputy Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Army and author of “The New Terrorism: How to Fight It and Defeat It.” He is the 2018 recipient of the Queen Elizabeth II September 11 Garden Leadership Award for National Security.

It was the early part of 1992 and I was in Caracas, the capitol of Venezuela.

The United States had just completed training the initial units of the newly created Venezuelan Reserve Force and I had the honor of giving the graduation address to the new officers. After Operation Desert Storm, the Venezuelan military had come to the Pentagon and asked our help in creating a reserve force patterned after ours. They knew how well our “Citizen-Soldiers” had performed and liked the fact that we could train and equip 3-4 Guard and Reserve troops for every 1 active duty soldier.

I was impressed with Venezuela, her people and culture. It was not a third world country, but rather a beautiful land rich in natural resources, including gold, oil, diamonds, and other minerals.

Now, after some 20 years of socialist reign under the Chavez and Maduro dictatorships, millions have fled and it is a nation on the verge of collapse. As a result of 2 million percent inflation, Venezuelans are trying to get food and basic medicines just to sustain life.

The people of Venezuela want their country back. In 2015, the Venezuelan people rose up and in the parliamentary elections took back their parliament, known as the National Assembly, by a wide margin over Nicolas Maduro’s ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela. In a 2017 referendum, 98 percent of the Venezuelan people said they didn’t want the Maduro regime hijacking their constitution, they rejected Maduro’s proposed bogus Constituent Assembly, and they demanded that the National Armed Forces support the decisions of the National Assembly.

According to CBS News, a new poll this year shows 82 percent of Venezuelans want Maduro out.

On January 10, 2019, the National Assembly declared Maduro’s sham 2018 reelection invalid (many major opposition parties were banned from participating) and declared National Assembly President, Juan Guaido, as Venezuela’s interim President.

On January 23, 2019, speech to the masses, Juan Guaido declared himself interim President.

Shortly thereafter on the same day, President Trump recognized Guaido as the legitimate President of Venezuela. In addition, the Trump Administration has imposed sweeping oil sanctions and financial measures on the Maduro Government. Further, America has organized humanitarian efforts which have been blocked by troops loyal to the Venezuelan dictator. President Trump’s bold actions have shown real American leadership, with most of Latin America and Europe following the United States’ lead.

Venezuela’s Marxist dictator Nicolas Maduro

Not surprising, the usual suspects — Russia, China, and Iran remain steadfast in support of the socialist dictator. The least reliable NATO ally, Turkey, has also thumbed its nose at the USA and helped the Maduro regime funnel $900M worth of gold to Turkey for processing.

Russia and China have invested billions and billions in Venezuela. Russia is also building a cyberwarfare base on La Orchila Island off Venezuela’s coast. China, through its telecom company, ZTE, helped Venezuela build the “fatherland card,” a new identification card that allows Maduro’s illegitimate government to spy on the Venezuelan people and monitor their activity.

Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) suggests that China, much more so than Russia, may see the handwriting on the wall and wants to cover its bets. In fact, there are reports that China is now negotiating with Guaido over the Venezuelan debt, believed to be in excess of $20 billion.

President Trump has made all the right moves to this point. He has been aided by his “A-Team”—Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton. And he has smartly sought the counsel of U.S. Senator Marco Rubio. Quite frankly, Rubio understands the situation in Venezuela better than any other member of Congress.

While President Trump has many cards still to play, all effort should be placed on the discord within the Venezuelan military.

There are more and more defections almost every day. Last month, there was an uprising of 30 members of the Venezuelan National Guard. General Francisco Yanez of the Air Force’s High Command has defected. Guaido says that 90 percent of military families support regime change, but don’t say anything out of fear. Maduro is feeling the heat. His staged videos with the military are all prerecorded and Russia’s Special Forces are imbedded in elite units to help prevent defections.

Guaido, who is in contact with military elements, has warned the military that blocking humanitarian aid from entering the country is a “crime against humanity.”

There are real cracks in the Venezuelan military and it is teetering in its support for Maduro. Now is the time, through the use of psychological operations and other means, to make sure those who remain with Maduro understand they will be held accountable. There will be no second chance. The time for choosing and picking a side is now.

No tyrant or dictator can extinguish freedom’s flame in the hearts of men. There comes a point when that flame grows and others, young and old, see freedom’s light. Today, the march to freedom is on in Venezuela.


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