During the past two weeks, three military officers have publicly called on Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to resign. Whether they represent significant discontent in the armed forces or a personal alliance with the increasingly vocal upper-class opposition to Chavez is unclear. Few analysts, however, see any likelihood of a military takeover.
At a forum on freedom of expression Feb. 7, Air Force Col. Pedro Soto called for Chavez's resignation, accusing the president of using the armed forces for political ends. He claimed his opinion was shared by most military officers. The 1999 Constitution gave the military the right to vote and removed limits on expressing political opinions.
The government accused Soto of aiding news-media owners at the press forum to stage a "show" to coincide with an Organization of American States (OAS) inspection of press freedoms in Venezuela.
Soto became an instant hero for Chavez opponents who have had trouble finding a leader who offers any viable challenge to the president. During an anti-Chavez protest the following day, police reportedly tried to detain Soto but were stopped by the crowd.
"We are here to tell the …