Venezuela’s interior minister has been replaced, leading some to question whether it may have been due to pressure from a militant collective in Caracas that blamed him for a recent police operation resulting in the death of its leader.
On October 24, President Nicolas Maduro announced that Interior Minister Miguel Rodriguez Torres would be replaced by Defense Minister Carmen Melendez, reported BBC. The president claimed that Rodriguez Torres would receive 15 days of vacation before being sent on a “new strategic mission.”
A few days later, Maduro said he would create an executive commission to track police reform in Venezuela, reported El Universal. He also said he would raise the salaries of army personnel by 45 percent.
The commission will also reportedly follow the progress of investigative police body the CICPC, which was behind a recent controversial operation that resulted in the deaths of five members of militant collectives. These included a leader of the 5th of March, one of several armed collectives in Caracas by and large support the government.
Following the bloody outcome of the CICPC operation earlier this month, the 5th of March adamantly pushed for Rodriguez Torres’ resignation, as evidenced in a few of the group’s tweets.
RODRIGUEZ TORRES DEBE DE PAGAR LA MUERTE DE NUESTROS COMPAÑEROS: MONTOZA, OTAIZA, SERRA, ODREMAN, MICHEL Y DEMÁS COMPATRIOTAS.
— Colectivo 5 de Marzo (@Colectivo5M) October 24, 2014
— Colectivo 5 de Marzo (@Colectivo5M) October 22, 2014
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As pointed out by David Smilde and Hugo Perez Hernaiz on the blog Venezuela Politics and Human Rights, we may never actually know what behind-the-scenes negotiations ultimately resulted in the interior minister’s resignation, but the timing of the event raises the possibility it was linked to the 5th of March’s demands.
Maduro’s promise to further scrutinize police reform within the CICPC — coupled with the new interior minister’s decision to fire the entire administrative leadership of the police agency — also comes off as a type of kowtowing to the 5th of March. Collectives like this one have long had a rocky relationship with the the police: in fact, many collectives in Caracas were originally formed in order to combat police abuse and extrajudicial killings.
Meanwhile, the government seems set to place security largely in the hands of the military — a body it has long relied on despite evidence that high-ranking members are involved in drug trafficking.
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The 5th of March has also been vocal in demanding the resignation of the head of Venezuela’s Congress, Diosdado Cabello. But given his status as a top political player and an intimate ally of former President Hugo Chavez, he’s unlikely to get pushed out of office anytime soon.