Heir to the glory of Bolivar, custodian of our Constitution, sovereignty and the integrity of our Homeland. First of all, I want to reiterate what I have always said in public life: I give my absolute respect and recognition to all of our military institutions, its officers, professional staff and troops and all the soldiers of our Nation.
I have always felt a deep respect for our officers and soldiers and for this institution, which is fundamental to our country. The 13th of April sealed my special commitment to our Bolivarian Armed Forces. Its soul taught me the best of the popular and heroic tradition of our nation’s soldiers; but also, for me personally, it settled some unfinished business: with its renewed efforts, sad chapters of its past were left behind, in which it broke its raison d’etre and raised its arms against the working classes. Gone is the terrible period of battle zones, the Sifac, the DIM and the bloodbath of ‘el Caracazo’.
Under the command of Commander Chávez, through his example I realised the hard battle that we had to wage together with the people and I got to know its officers and its popular, patriotic and Bolivarian nature. I knew about its successes, mistakes, strengths and weaknesses. For me, as a minister of the Bolivarian government and as a revolutionary fighter, the divisions between the civil and military world no longer existed. I witnessed the managing of a civic-military union, where there was a strategic alliance between the National Bolivarian Armed Force and the People.
President Chávez eradicated any fascistic and authoritarian inclination within our military sectors from the very roots of the system. He knew that these elements were deeply embedded in the formation of the officers, their conduct and practice, which is why his messaging was daily and constant. Our very own, national and unique doctrine was reinstated within the heart of the FANB: the Bolivarian Military Doctrine. I firmly believe that our National Bolivarian Armed Forces is the basis of the values that reaffirm us as an independent and sovereign country.
Throughout all of these years, I have met, worked and spoken to many officers, of all levels, seniority, class and rank: General in Chief Pérez Arcay, General in Chief García Carneiro, Admiral in Chief Molero, Major General López Ramírez , Commander Arias Cárdenas, General Müller Rojas, Commander Castro Soteldo, Commander Luis Reyes Reyes, General in Chief Mata Figueroa, Major General Rodríguez Torres, Major General García Toussant, General Henry Rangel Silva, General Major General Carvajal, Colonel Carrizales, General in Chief Padrino López, General Cliver Alcalá, General Rangel Gómez, General Carlos Alcalá, Major General Jesús Suárez Chourio, General Manuel G. Bernal, General Domínguez Forti, General Baduel, General Alí Uzcátegui, General Crístofer Figueroa, Major General Justo Noguera Pietri, Admiral Remigio Ceballos, General Milano Mendoza, Major General Carlos Osorio, General Jesús Zambrano, General Félix Osorio, General Ornelas Ferreira, Admiral Maniglia, General Hugo García Hernández, among many other officers I also know, to whom I apologise for omitting their names, there are many of them.
I put the names down as they came to my mind, without thinking about the hierarchies (and I do not intend to offend anyone), they came to my mind incidentally. I am missing more officers, who have worked for so many years, I am missing the guys who were with the Commander, who have put in many hours of work: assistants, aides, security, people in communications, their assistants, those of the Grupo Cuatro, the Casa Militar, its friends, loved ones, companions of a lifetime devoted to a military career; I cannot mention, for security reasons, the soldiers, the guys of April 13, who I brought in to my security team when they were discharged.
I always opted to give my great respects and help the military sector, as I understood its strategic importance for the security of the country, for the Venezuelan State. I never went to the barracks, I never interfered, unless President Chávez authorised me or asked me to do so. The general guidance of all the managers and heads of PDVSA, of the Ministry of Petroleum, was to help all the military departments, their facilities, their logistics and their living conditions. We never deny cooperation or help to our Armed Forces. You know this.
Sometimes Commander Chávez assigned me special and strategic tasks to increase the operational capabilities of our Armed Forces. We did it and in an exponential way.
Neither President Chávez, nor we, conceived that the Armed Bolivarian Force would act outside the Constitution, or the laws. He never violated, nor allowed anyone to violate the Armed Force’s codes of honour, morals and ethics. He very much protected the moral integrity of the officers and troops.
The possibility of using the arms of the Republic against our people or even against political adversaries was erased due to a change in military culture. He eradicated oppression as a means of answering the problems or the demands of the population. The machete and the use of firearms in protests were eliminated. When public force was used, it was used as a last resort to protect the rest of the population from the violent actions of any form of political group.
But security bodies or State intelligence were never used to oppress; much less, imprison or persecute political opponents.
It was clear that the State, the Armed Forces and police agencies had a monopoly over the use of force and of violence, however they always adjusted to the laws of the Republic and to the principle of a reasonable response, which should always be made in defence. President Chávez did not allow in any way the the Republic’s arms to be put in the hands of civilians or in the hands of any type of paramilitary or para-police group, or whatever you call it. His position was always very firm and clear in its rejection of the possibility that groups, other than the Armed Forces, intended to assume the powers and roles of the latter.
Of course, the most important of these changes in our military departments was that our National Bolivarian Armed Force had been fed a high awareness of its role in the defense of the people’s social security, our sovereignty, Constitution and laws; of our oil, natural resources, seas, jungles, plains and mountains; of an action attached to the most sacred interests of the Nation, of the Venezuelan people, the protection of the weakest: our indigenous people, children, the poor; of love of our history, to the affirmative Venezuelan; the people that guarantee that our institutions function, the rule of law, truth, social justice, respect for human beings, honour; guarantor of peace and an effective functioning of our Republic, of our fundamental and participatory democracy.
The list of officers contained people that were all close to Commander Chávez, I met and spoke to them, I made friends with a lot of them, I worked during great time to be in the country, where we were recovering our national identity and building the pillars of a more just, inclusive country, with a full future for all; we worked for the people and for the sacred interests of the Nation.
I met many of them during the oil sabotage defeat, where there was the reconquest of the PDVSA; others, in the battle against violence and destabilisation; many more whilst working for the people, in the missions, educating, providing healthcare, building homes, big projects throughout the country; others joined me whilst we were nationalising the Oil Belt and managing the Full Oil Sovereignty bill; whilst working in the countless tasks and responsibilities that we assume, which guarantee peace, rights and peace of citizens. We shared endless days of work, discussions and trips with President Chávez, we were deeply committed to the Constitution and to the laws. The two sister institutions, both the Armed Force and PDVSA, were the fundamental support for the future that was being built for all, for future generations, which was Bolívar’s dream. We were proud of our work.
Reflecting on all this, I cannot avoid asking you, our FANB officials: how have you allowed us to reach this point where our Nation is in a state of deterioration and fragility? How do your weapons support the outrage against the people, the delivery of our oil, our mineral resources? How is it possible that your weapons are killing our indigenous peoples, which displace them from their lands to deliver the gold and destroy the environment in the Mining Arc? Why do you allow the delivery of oil from the Orinoco Oil Belt, of the Nation’s gas, the destruction of the PDVSA? Why do you allow sovereignty of the Esequibo to be handed over? How is it possible that, under your own noses, paramilitary or vigilante groups are going about killing and oppressing Venezuelans in our neighbourhoods and in our cities’ streets. Why are the rights of the working classes, the poor and the peasants being violated, as the ‘red comet’ farmer claims?
From this list of officers from our Nation, many are now discharged, some expelled, others demoted; others have been made prisoners or exiles. Why? Who has fractured the unity and the integrity of this group of Venezuelans, who are without doubt all patriots? Why do you prioritise other interests, above the sacred interests of our Nation, of the Venezuelan People, which has at its heart our Bolivarian Armed Forces? Who decides now, which officers are patriots or not, who are “traitors” or not, and with what criteria? Why is it now required to swear unconditionally to a group, to a person; and not to swear loyalty to the Constitution, to the laws, to the interests of the Nation?
In the current political dispute, all the different factions of power are trying to maintain or win the support of our National Bolivarian Armed Forces. Some are doing this to sustain this disaster, its privileges, its power groups; others are doing this to open the doors to foreign interference, which would restore their previous positions of privilege. Both factions have their own economic and political interests; both hand over the Nation, they auction it and plunder it with a lust for power, without considering our citizen’s rights.
Madurismo requires you to keep silence and to use arms to sustain this autocratic, anti-national and criminal government, which makes our people suffer, which degrades and impoverishes by destroying state institutions and companies, by handing over our oil and resources and by weakening our Nation. The government monitors our officers, as they use foreign intelligence help, which you know exists within our military departments and within the State intelligence agencies. They distrust our officers, they persecute them, they take them as prisoners, they are harassed, they degrade them, they take them captive, why? What interests defend the arms of the Bolivarian Armed Forces? Why? At what price are we going to sustain the huge interests, privileges and crimes of the government? To what extent has Madurismo corrupted some of the military commanders by giving them oil, gold and state companies? And the People, the country and the Constitution? Madurismo only offers you dishonour and complicity in the destruction of our country; it offers you to be the town’s executioners and keep silence before the surrender of the Nation. This would not have happened with Commander Chávez. You know this.
The opposition, with its badly thought-through coup, its short-term thinking and its usual intolerance, openly calls for an invasion, they want you to reestablish a system of privilege and to open the doors to interference and looting. They only offer persecution, jail and revenge.
You officers and soldiers of the Nation have to reflect on this situation. Gather together, discuss, let go of fear and look up, as all of this is a part of your significant responsibilities and your popular and patriotic character. Do not let others decide for you. Do not succumb to the conspiracy or the invasion’s blackmail. The worst is happening now. We will know how to face any foreign violation of the Nation, together with the people. But you can no longer tolerate the Nation’s surrender, the people’s suffering, controlled by hunger and fear, oppression and imprisonment of the patriots, the persecuted, exiles, civilians, Chavez ministers, the PDVSA workers, military officers, those that you know well, those that you know are Maduro’s kidnapped politicians.
There is no dilemma to be had here, this is only about fulfilling your Constitutional responsibilities. They have broken them, degraded them, they are caught between opposing factions that have nothing to do with the sacred interests of the Nation and of the people. You are one of the few remaining institutions of the Republic, heirs to the Glory of Bolivar, the greatness of the Liberators of a whole continent, they are the custodians of Chavista and Bolivarian thought, of the Constitution, of the laws of the Republic, of our sovereignty and of the social guarantees of the people. A civic-military unity is the only possible way of taking the Nation away from the abyss and beginning its reconstruction. It is broken, we must fix it. You have here the hand, the heart, the ideas, the experience and the ability of a patriot, who respects you and who you know. Let’s go back towards the house of ‘los Sueños Azules’, Bolivarianos, ‘tricolors’, let’s go back to the people, with Chávez. We will be victorious!