September 25, 2002

"We've reached the breaking point and nothing is improbable."

It's a scary thought. But it's much much scarier as a screaming headline leading the nation's most widely read newspaper. Especially when it's in the mouth not of some pundit, but of a Major General on active duty, one of the top ranked commanders in the armed forces. But Major General Enrique Medina Gómes statement yesterday didn't stop at that: "We're seeing an abuse of power on the part of the government, and if that's the case then there is no rule of law. A lot of people are playing with fire here. But every society has a limit to how much its willing to tolerate, it would seem that an eventuality is on the cusp of taking place."


Statements don't get very much more straight-forward than that.

Medina Gómez' role in the April coup remains unclear. He had been working as Venezuela's military attaché in Washington. Then, just a few days before the coup, he returned to Venezuela. As a barely concealed anti-chavista, it's little wonder that so many rumors and conjectures followed his judiciously timed return. Some people are convinced he served as a sort of secret liaison between the coup-plotters back home and the Pentagon, that when he returned right before the coup he was carrying all manner of military equipment, from weapons to communications encryption gadgets. It may be true, it may be just talk, but Medina Gómez has certainly come to be seen as the stand-in for old style Latin American military conservatism in today's Venezuela. The government must be watching him like a hawk: I doubt if he's uttered a word in the last six months that Military Intelligence and/or DISIP haven't recorded. Even then, lots of people are convinced he's actively working towards a hard-right coup...ahem...a hard-right "eventuality." Right. The right wing fringe sure is starting to see him as its knight in shining armor, a much hoped for Pinochet option. Then again, I bet Pinochet wasn't making bombastic statements to the Chilean press right before he toppled Allende.