With President Hugo Chavez unable to serve as Caracas' linchpin of stability as he once was, concerns have been directed towards the military of Venezuela and their stance in the growing political turmoil. A show of support for the Vice President and National Assembly President has done much to assuage fears of a possible coup but speculation and discomfort remain prominent within the country.
In a country riven by political strife, Venezuela's military often has served as the arbiter of power. It has launched coups and frustrated them and dispatched soldiers to guarantee stability, distributing food, fighting crime and securing oil fields.
Now with President Hugo Chavez battling for his life, the stance of the 134,000-strong armed forces again will be crucial.
Divisions within the military have clouded attempts to determine who it might support among Chavez loyalists or if it would side with the opposition. While the military's leadership is packed with Chavez supporters, the officer corps may not be so loyal. Much will depend on what Chavez's political heirs do in the coming weeks.
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