Venezuela general orders snipers to prepare for clash with protesters

Demonstrators continue to take to the streets of Venezuela in their fight against Maduro
Demonstrators continue to take to the streets of Venezuela in their fight against Maduro

A secret recording has surfaced of a Venezuelan regional command meeting in which a high-level military commander is heard issuing orders to prepare to use snipers against anti-government protesters.

The order by Venezuelan Army Division Gen. José Rafael Torrealba Pérez, which can be heard in a recording that was obtained by El Nuevo Herald, was issued as members of the country’s military brass also discussed the legality and risks of using snipers on anti-government protesters.

The meeting was held three weeks ago at a military base in the northwestern Venezuelan city of Barquisimeto.

“Begin to make preparations with those individuals that can serve as snipers, beginning with psychological and aptitude tests,” Torrealba told his peers in the army, air force and national guard who were in attendance. “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 is purportedly referencing the Zamora Plan, a Venezuelan military strategy meant to be activated in the midst of an imminent foreign invasion.

The general’s voice matches the one heard on YouTube videos of his speeches, and he was identified as the speaker by the source who provided the recording to the Miami Herald’s Spanish-language newspaper.

Six weeks of anti-government unrest in Venezuela have resulted in at least 45 deaths, as well as hundreds of injuries and arrests in the worst turmoil of President Nicolás Maduro’s four-year rule of the OPEC-member country.

Protesters are demanding elections to kick out the socialist government that they accuse of wrecking the economy and turning Venezuela into a dictatorship. Maduro, 54, the successor to late leader Hugo Chávez, says his foes are seeking a violent coup.

While one unnamed military leader objects to the use of snipers – arguing that if the marksmen are put on the street “all of us here will end up in jail” and adding that if a photograph of a sniper is taken the “media war is going to kill us” – it appears he was the only one in attendance to voice a dissenting opinion.

Torrealba, who…