An Open Letter to Diego Molero Bellavia, Venezuela's Minister of Defense

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez speaks during a press conference in Caracas on October 9, 2012. Chavez pledged to become a '
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez speaks during a press conference in Caracas on October 9, 2012. Chavez pledged to become a 'better president' and work with the opposition after winning a tough re-election battle that betrayed simmering discontent at his socialist revolution. After almost 14 years in power, Chavez survived cancer and the most formidable opponent of his presidency, youthful business leader and former state governor Henrique Capriles, to win another six-year term. AFP PHOTO/JUAN BARRETO (Photo credit should read JUAN BARRETO/AFP/GettyImages)


Yesterday, as Minister of Defense, and previously as Commander of the Venezuelan Navy, you made dangerous and irresponsible remarks of sufficient gravity to have you dishonorably discharged.

In the statements which I will now discuss you violated not only Article 328 of the Constitution but also the Organic Armed Forces Law as well as the ethical principles of those who wear the nation's uniform. These statements deserve to be repudiated and suffer public condemnation because of the contempt they show for the majority of Venezuelans, including your own brothers in arms.

The first of these statements was made on July 24, 2011 when during the celebrations for Navy Day you guaranteed to President Chávez that the Venezuelan Navy "is committed to the geopolitical aims of the socialist state as the only path to reach the loftiest national goals", and added that "the unfortunate activities of privately owned media, which trick the people, are carried out oblivious to the fact that they are confronting an armed service with the highest sense of belonging, the highest moral and loyal to the revolutionary process led by Hugo Chávez".

Setting aside the mental confusion you exhibit regarding your loyalty toward "the geopolitical aims of the socialist state," subordination to the President, Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces as established by the Organic Armed Forces Law and kowtowing to one man, you also dared to invite, "unpatriotic Venezuelans to reform themselves" and to "desist from their practices," concluding with, "Independence and a Socialist Motherland! We Will Live and We will Win! Chávez, we're with you!"

A journalist later remarked on the these declarations, "Straight from an admiral's mouth we have an announcement that opponents of the government are in fact mentally ill and should seek to reform themselves; 'reforming' opponents in 're-education' camps was common under the Soviet, Chinese and Cuban governments."

Your second statement was made when you awarded the Air Force Cross to, of all people, Lieutenant Jesse Chacón, one of the criminal officers who on Nov. 27, 1992, was "responsible" for the murder of, among others, the doormen at the Venezolana de Televisión TV station. You read a message from President Chávez which said:

"Twenty years ago today the new motherland was born. We must honor the heroism and sacrifice displayed in those memorable days. In the name of the people of Simón Bolívar we record our gratitude to the men and women who fulfilled the Liberator's mandate and took arms in defense of the people".

Admiral Molero Bellavia, you know perfectly well that those days are only memorable for the criminal activities that were committed during them, activities that were halted by armed forces that then carried out their institutional duties and which you yourself formed part of. You also know that more than 300 innocent Venezuelans lost their lives during those events.

Did you feel no shame before your country, your brother officers and your own friends and family when you presided over a celebration of those criminal acts? Did you not feel it when you identified yourself with a message which sought to vindicate the acts of the cowards who treacherously planned and carried out those acts? Not even before the families of the victims of the criminals you awarded decorations to at that ceremony?

Admiral Molero Bellavia, the debasement of your rank sank to new debts when, after reading the message from the president, you said to him, "You can count on revolutionary, socialist and anti-imperialist armed forces, loyal to the ideals and revolutionary cause which you lead."

I had the privilege at various points in my career prior to 1999, both at home and abroad, of coming into contact with senior officers of the Venezuela Armed Forces. In that time I never saw a senior officer humiliate him in the way you have done, to the shame of your colleagues and the armed forces themselves.

Admiral Molero Bellavia, your outrageous and humiliating statements have made you Hugo Chávez's Defense Minister, not Venezuela's. And I can assure you they've won you the contempt and rejection of those Venezuelans who want officers worthy of more responsible, patriotic and sovereign armed forces, exactly what they have ceased to be.