Leadership: The New Venezuelan Military Shows Off


December 2, 2012: The Venezuelan Air Force put lot of money and effort into creating an impressive show to celebrate its 92nd anniversary on November 27th. It did not work out as hoped. One of the aircraft being shown off was a new K-8 trainer, recently purchased from China. It crashed, but the two man crew was able to bail out just before the K-8 hit the ground. Then the helicopter sent to retrieve the two K-8 crewmen crashed along the way. Five days before two OV-10 aircraft collided while practicing for the air show. That accident killed one and wounded three.

Air force old-timers blame Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez for all of this. For the last five years Chavez has been purging the military of officers deemed not sufficiently enthusiastic about Chavez. The source of this discontent has been building for several years, mainly because Chavez has tried to "reform" the armed forces with the adoption of "Bolivarian" doctrine tactics. These "radical and revolutionary" concepts are vague and seem more concerned with ensuring the troops are loyal to Chavez. Many officers are trying to maintain professional standards, rather than jump through hoops to prove their loyalty. Naturally, active military officers are reluctant to speak out. But retired ones began doing so six years ago, and that made Chavez nervous.

As more and more officers were promoted more for loyalty than for ability, things began to fray. Equipment was not maintained as well as it once was and training was not as thorough as it used to be. Usually the down side of all this does not present itself until the troops have to go off and fight (and disaster ensues). But an air show will provide enough pressure to create very visible signs of poor leadership and management.