Venezuelan General Urges Use Of Snipers To Deter Protesters

Will Racke | Immigration and Foreign Policy Reporter

A top Venezuelan military commander told his fellow generals to prepare for the deployment of snipers against anti-government protesters, claiming that precision firepower is necessary to win what could become a “subversive urban war.”

General Jose Rafael Torrealba, who commands an operational division of the Venezuelan military, urged the use of snipers at a meeting of military leaders held three weeks ago in the northwestern Venezuelan city of Barquisimeto, the Miami Herald reported.

In an audio recording of the meeting, Torrealba is heard instructing the generals to “make preparations with those individuals that can serve as snipers, beginning with psychological and aptitude tests.” The snipers are needed, he says, to carry out Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s so-called “Zamora Plan,” a contingency operation designed to protect the country from an imminent foreign invasion.

“There will come a time when we will have to employ them [the snipers] and I want us to be ready for the moment that we have to employ them because the president will not remain at a green [preparation] phase, gentlemen,” Torrealba said.

For seven weeks, Venezuela has been wracked by violent demonstrations as opponents of the socialist Maduro regime protest rampant crime, food shortages and skyrocketing inflation. Once one of the wealthiest countries in Latin America, Venezuela is now on the brink of economic collapse and, potentially, a political coup. (RELATED: Venezuelan Police Tired Of Fighting Starving Citizens To Protect Socialist Dictator)

Clashes between anti-government groups and security forces have become increasingly deadly, with both sides escalating the violence in order to break a stalemate. Four people have been killed in demonstrations since Monday, bringing the total number of deaths to 43, Bloomberg reported.

The recording, leaked to the Herald by a source who has previously worked with the paper’s Spanish-language publication, contradicts Venezuelan government claims that security forces aren’t using firearms against protesters.

“We don’t use lethal firearms. There are no rifles, handguns or machine guns,” Defense Minister Padrino Lopez said Wednesday in a pronouncement detailing the execution of the Zamora Plan.

“In addition, President Nicolás Maduro, with his vision of statesman, and as president, has ordered us to recall even the weapons that are used for the restitution (sic) of order, which is shotguns with plastic munitions,” Lopez added.

The generals at the meeting appeared to disagree with that policy, saying the snipers would keep protesters off the streets and end the daily fighting that has left dozens dead since demonstrations began in early April.

“It will only be us [the military] that pulls through because … once people start to see dead bodies, and dead bodies begin to appear, then everyone will begin to stay at home,” Torrealba said. “You will remember my words, the armed forces are the ones that have to solve this problem.”

At least one commander at the Barquisimeto meeting objected to Torrealba’s plan to deploy snipers against the protesters, on the grounds that it would create a backlash if reported in the media.

“General, with all due respect, if we keep going with the issue of the snipers, all of us here will end up in jail,” the unidentified general said, warning that the “media war is going to kill us” if photographs of snipers become public.

Other generals agreed with that prediction and said they would have to take extra precautions to conceal the use of snipers so that the military would not be blamed for civilian deaths, the Herald reported.

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