While an elite Armed Forces in Venezuela enjoys perks and serves as a base of support for the dictatorship of Nicolás Maduro, low-ranking soldiers go hungry and live a routine of psychological pressure, extortion, and political manipulation, according to former Venezuelan soldiers who took refuge in Brazil between 2018 and 2019.
In their reports, they said that diet was so poor that sometimes exercise was suspended to save energy; they were ordered to repress with even violence protests; they were obliged to serve in the luxury houses of their leaders; and they, during the elections, were put on buses, dressed in civilian clothes, and compelled to vote for the regime's candidates. Two of them were punished for refusing to enter the vehicle.
All have stated that the requests of the low-ranking military to be released are systematically denied and that desertions have been numerous. "Four colleagues asked to be released, and the commander locked them in. If they left, they are considered 'traitors of the country, "said Tulio Henrique López.
According to López, those who give up most are those who work in the streets, in protests against the government. "It's the worst part. You have to oppress your people," he said. The order received, he affirms, is to arrive "kicking" and throwing tear gas at the population. Whoever does not obey is punished. "They say, 'You do not need to respect anyone because they have no respect for us.' It's like it's a war. "
Translated by Kiratiana Freelon