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Wednesday 20th
posted by James Tweedie in World

Defence minister assures delegates that no coup is coming

VENEZUELA’S defence minister has said that its “anti-imperialist and anti-oligarchic” armed forces would stand with the country’s people against foreign and domestic attempts to overthrow the government.

General Vladimir Padrino was addressing a gathering on Monday in Caracas to mark 12 years of an initiative to increase co-ordination between the services, set up by late president Hugo Chavez.

Commanders and service members of the army, navy, air force, national guard and Bolivarian militia were joined by delegates to the Todos Somos Venezuela (We Are All Venezuela) international solidarity conference.

Gen Padrino lauded the civic-military union launched by Chavez after the short-lived April 2002 coup, which was defeated by a combination of popular protests and an uprising from the middle and lower ranks of the armed forces.

“Chavez said we would change the concept of the armed forces to an integrated force for peace,” he said.

“It is not possible for the military to grow on one side and the people on the other,” he said, adding that 19th-century colonial liberation leader Simon Bolivar “recognised the army must be with the people.”

“Defence is not just a matter for the armed forces, it is a matter for all the homeland.”

Gen Padrino said that Chavez “injected the values of humanism into the armed forces.”

Without that, the recent four-month rampage by opposition “terrorists” would have resulted in “more than a thousand deaths, like we saw in 1989,” when the government of Carlos Andres Perez put the army on the streets to shoot down anti-austerity protesters.

“More than ever I feel proud to be Venezuelan,” he said. “Venezuela has become a reference point of dignity and respect in the world.”

After the speech, army commander Major General Jesus Suarez told the Morning Star he was not so much preoccupied as “occupied” — busy — with the threat of military action from the US.

“We are a single united fi st of the high command around … the president of the republic,” he said.

The armed forces were teaching the people “how to defend the homeland” and were conscious both of “the armed struggle and the regular struggle.” In the political battle, “we have to place ourselves beside the people,” Gen Suarez said.

“When the enemy sees us united and instead of just the 5 to 10 per cent in uniform, we are the 95 per cent of patriots who defend the homeland, we will be impregnable — and thus invincible.”