Disobedient intelligence

The violent demonstrations that took place recently in Venezuela reveal a worrisome outlook, raising questions about whether President Nicolás Maduro is really in control of his government.

It has already become public knowledge that the main perpetrators of the shooting during the student demonstration that left three dead were agents from the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service (Sebin). They took action during the protest, defying orders from Maduro—and their own director, General Manuel Bernal—to withdraw to barracks. The intention, according to the president, was to involve only members of the National Police and the National Guard, “with very clear directions to strictly respect human rights.” But that is not what happened.

Maduro’s quick dismissal of Bernal is a positive step. The general showed he had no control over his subordinates. In this case, a powerless leader was punished. However, the intelligence agents are still there. They were the ones who decided to disobey orders and, with a rebellious attitude, to shoot at the opposition, creating a very serious crisis for Maduro.

The latest presidential election showed that Venezuela is a deeply divided country that requires a government that is tolerant and open to dissent, one that recognizes political realities. Maduro, with his tough rhetoric, has not been known for his ability for reconciliation.

Today, the situation worsened because of the perception that Maduro does not have complete control over his government and that the most violent agents in the delicate intelligence area respond to other interests.

Maduro’s public recognition of the problem inside Sebin is a sign that there are bigger internal problems within the government. However, this in no way justifies the calls for military intervention.

All of this must make the president realize that not all the problems that Venezuela is facing are an American maneuver. They are also a product of the individual agendas of people inside his governing circle.