High desertion rates at bases in Caracas and the countryside are complicating security plans for the presidential election in 13 days, which by law require military custody of electoral materials and machinery at voting centers.
"The number is unknown because it used to be published in the Official Gazette. Now, it is not," said
Rocio San Miguel, director of Control Ciudadano, a military watchdog group in Caracas. She said soldiers are fleeing for the same reason citizens are: "Wages are low, the quality of food and clothing isn't good."
Last week, officers who rank as high as general were called in and quartered for several days at their units. Retired officials and militia members were also contacted by their superiors, according to one retired officer who asked not to be named for fear of angering the regime. Government officials are training these fill-in personnel for the election, said a second retired officer.