Members of the Bolivarian National Police help organize the distribution of drinking water to residents of San Agustin neighbourhood in Caracas on March 11, 2019, while a massive power outage continues affecting parts of the country. Picture: GETTY IMAGES/ AFP/ YURI CORTEZ
Members of the Bolivarian National Police help organize the distribution of drinking water to residents of San Agustin neighbourhood in Caracas on March 11, 2019, while a massive power outage continues affecting parts of the country. Picture: GETTY IMAGES/ AFP/ YURI CORTEZ

Caracas — Venezuela is on course for civil war, one of the country’s most respected military analysts has warned. “If the US go in, it’ll be three days. If the Colombians go in, maybe a week,” said retired colonel José Machillanda.

“But there will likely be chaos building up to that. The rifles and pistols and automatic weapons will come out. We’re heading towards civil war.”

Juan Guaido, recognised by more than 50 countries as the interim president, declared a “state of alarm” on Monday after four days of nationwide blackouts. He said that 17 people had died from hospital equipment failing, describing their deaths as “murder”.

President Nicolas Maduro blamed the largest blackout in Venezuela’s modern history on a US-orchestrated cyber attack. But one veteran of Corpoelec, the state electric company, said the blackouts were due to a lack of equipment, poor maintenance and staff fleeing the country.

Machillanda said he believed US intervention could come, but not before the country tears itself apart. Having served as Hugo Chavez’s military adviser in the early days of his presidency, he was asked earlier in 2019, to assist Guaido. He turned him down, dismissing the 35-year-old as “naive” and simplistic.

Guaido and his US allies boast about the number of soldiers who have abandoned Maduro: almost 600, according to Colombia’s immigration ministry. Yet Machillanda described them as low-ranking “drops of water” in a military machine 123,000-strong.

“I still go to the Turkish baths inside Fuerte Tiuna,” he said, referring to Venezuela’s most important military barracks.

“What I hear there disgusts me. The generals — they are not soldiers. All they talk about is their business interests: ’I control a shoe factory, I control a clothes factory’. Do you really think they’ll give that up?”

He said soldiers were terrified of the consequences of rebellion, with Cuban military intelligence penetrating every level of the armed forces and spies within the ranks monitoring their colleagues for signs of dissent.

The Daily Telegraph