Sensational Miami Herald Story Misses its Own Point

National Guard Deeply Reluctant to Bring Snipers to Protests


Yesterday, the Miami Herald had what looked like a big scoop: a secretly recorded meeting at the ZODI (regional military headquarters) in Lara State showed active preparation to use sharpshooters against civilians in protests. The regime preparing to gun down protesters! Sensational stuff, right?

Well, unless you listen to the actual tape of the call, in which case a different — and much more interesting story begins to appear.

We hear a group of Guardia Nacional officials discussing security arrangements semi-formally. The conversation takes place against the backdrop of real alarm about the increasing use of firearms by demonstrators to shoot back at security personnel. This is not made up. We’ve reported several instances in Mérida and elsewhere where people have shot at the security forces from the ranks of protesters.

It isn’t even really that surprising: in a country awash with guns and in the superheated atmosphere of conflict Venezuela is now living through, what would be strange is if not one single idiot turned up at an opposition march with a gun and a hero complex.

The generals are discussing what you do about this. But what’s interesting is that, if you listen closely, the room is deeply apprehensive about using snipers for force defence in this kind of situation. One person at the meeting notes, “it’s just against the constitution, that’s that.” Others discuss the bureaucracy of making sure anybody you empower to act as a sniper in a protest has a complete dossier, is fully trained and has psychological assessments up to date.

This isn’t a matter of scruples. It’s not that these guys have suddenly grown a conscience. It’s that they’re scared. Several of them say it, outright, at various points in the conversation. With the Fiscal General out on the loose, any misstep could land them in jail, and they know it. And then the elephant in the room they don’t quite dare name — what if the protests succeed? Who wants to be left holding the bag in front of a post-transition judge when he was in command of a squad that shot civilian protesters dead?

Towards the end of the tape, at minute 24, you get this view laid out in some detail:

I want to solve this mess, just like you do, sir. And I’m uncomfortable with us failing to take action. And if you order me to go out and do such and such I will do it. I will accomplish the mission. But I know tomorrow, we’re not going to have the backing, maybe, for any mistake that is made, and that’s what we’re worried about. Because now, with what we’re living through, the legal part, with the Prosecutor General who maybe won’t listen to us, or who will want to bring us to task or blame us for this situation. So I’m saying that if we make use [of snipers] we have to study it closely, General, we have to study this situation. Because otherwise the day may come when any of us could find ourselves in jail just because… What I mean is, we have to do it right.

The real story here isn’t some #cafetalero nightmare of evil Guardias getting their kicks from picking off protesters. Just the opposite. The story here is the sustained pushback the ZODI commander gets from his own men: bureaucrats in ass-covering mode who’ve done the math and realized shooting protesters is just not in their interest. They keep hemming and hawing, making up excuses and setting up hurdles in order to not do it. Listen carefully and it’s plain what they’re thinking: “ni de vaina am I going to risk jail to protect this no-hoper government.”

It just shows the wisdom of the Pedro Strategy: hold out Amnesty…but not to people who abuse human rights. Give them a good reason not to. Break their unity that way.

And that…that is much, much more significant than the Herald’s scaremongering.


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  1. Still, there are several times where the bureaucrats try to convince the others to go merrily picking protesters:

    ““La tendencia, el escenario internacional es que no va a ser así, aquí van a seguir hasta que se justifique la intervención porque hay un tema de energía, hay muchos…”

    When you have people that’s so indoctrinated or is that much of an hypocryte with power, the results won’t be good at all.

    Anyway, the regime’s been murdering protesters for some time already, that’s why the protesters started fighting back as it happened in Mérida (Colectivos, hampa gangs and cuban snipers) if this article proves something, is that it gainsays that other article that claims that “The guardia chooses to repress because the protesters’ violence made him to dehumanize them”:

    There are ways to force guards to stop repressing, and the promise of them being prosecuted if they go killing people while wearing their uniforms is exactly the opposite of an amnesty, which is granting impunity for the criminals.

    If no crime was commited, then there’s no need for amnesty as there won’t be any crime to “forget”.

  2. Also, yeah, there were some of them openly advocating to use snipers, again as I said before, zeal + stupidity = bad conbination:

    “General sin identificar:

    Yo tengo aquí una compañía de francotiradores y ahí tenemos instructores certificados por la escuela nacional de francotiradores, y yo le pongo a la orden a todas las unidades, si ustedes quieren formar francotiradores certificados mándenme los candidatos y hacemos un curso compadre, porque nosotros, si nosotros no nos apoyamos quién nos va a apoyar.

    General sin identificar:

    Mi general, mi general, pero realmente, y aquí con el mayor respeto mi general de división, si nosotros seguimos manejando el tema de los francotiradores aquí vamos a salir presos todos aquí hacer el trabajo es distinto a nombrar no se debe emplear un francotirador o tirador experto que vaya ahí, porque la foto de ese hombre detrás ese fusil en la guerra mediática va a matar.

    General 1:

    No me interesa lo que dice la guerra mediática. No lo voy a emplear simplemente porque la Constitución lo prohíbe más nada, pero va a llegar el momento donde vamos a tener que emplearlo.

    General 2:

    Exacto, ahí yo estoy de acuerdo.

    General 1:

    Va a llegar en momento el momento donde vamos a tener que emplearlo y quiero que estemos preparados para el momento en que tengamos que emplearlo, porque el Presidente no se va a quedar nada más en una fase verde señores. Ya él firmó una banda de operaciones y lo que yo dije aquí con el comandante Reyes, esto no va a ser por el día 19 de abril ni una semana más después. Pudiéramos estar al comienzo de una guerra subversiva urbana y allí vamos a ir avanzando únicamente nosotros, la fuerza armada, porque el pueblo en lo que vea, sea de cual sea el pueblo de oposición o revolucionario, en lo que comiencen a ver muertos, porque hay muertos y aparecen muertos, todo el mundo se queda en sus casas señores, se van a acordar de mí, se van a acordar de mí y la fuerza armada es la que va a tener que solucionar este peo. Entonces váyanse preparando con esos efectivos militares que pudieran hacer las veces de francotiradores comenzando por eso pues con eso con examen psicotécnico y psicológico para evitar eso que me estás diciendo tú.

    Bueno el último punto.”

    • So, General ! and General 2 are both in agreement that snipers will soon be necessary, and they should start preparing them now, and this is GOOD news (thank you, Ula, for your transcript of a virtually inaudible conversation, due to echo)?? Chavez/FB tried snipers also, in different circumstances, and it didn’t go well for them. Joao De Gouveia, however, Govt. non-sniper hired gun, slaughtered several/wounded 22, in Plaza Altamira, and was important in quelling protest in Eastern Ccs. 15 years ago. This time, however, it’s different. Yes, many marchers will stay home; but, others will start killing Govt. thugs/military, in the beginning of a real civil war. Ven. military fence-sitters will be tempted to abandon ship, and the U.S./maybe multinational force will likely have to intervene. There are probably few public acts of war so reviled as armed forces killing innocent civilians by sniper fire….

  3. Good article!

    I listened to the tape, and heard both stories: “We’re gonna shoot demonstrators because we might be ordered to do so by the President”, and “This regime might not be here forever, and then what?”

    It’s politically critical that they are now hedging their bets. But I thought I heard too much willingness, albeit reluctant, to follow illegal orders.

  4. Another of the “reasons” the genocide-bent general argues for using snipers, and I’ll translate this one:

    “Pudiéramos estar al comienzo de una guerra subversiva urbana y allí vamos a ir avanzando únicamente nosotros, la fuerza armada, porque el pueblo en lo que vea, sea de cual sea el pueblo de oposición o revolucionario, en lo que comiencen a ver muertos, porque hay muertos y aparecen muertos, todo el mundo se queda en sus casas señores, se van a acordar de mí, se van a acordar de mí y la fuerza armada es la que va a tener que solucionar este peo”

    “We could be at the start of an urban subversive war and we’ll be the only ones making an advance there, the armed forces, because the moment the people sees, whatever side they’re from, either opposition or chavista, when they start seeing the corpses, because there’ll be dead, EVERYBODY WILL STAY IN THEIR HOUSES, people, you’ll remember this, you’ll remember me and the armed forces will be the ones that’ll solve this mess…”

  5. “hold out Amnesty…but not to people who abuse human rights.”

    That’s basically the Nuremberg Trials approach. Venezuela shouldn’t innovate, but copy what has already been tested and proven successful!

    • I find myself agreeing with that but at the same time, who in the higher ranks is exempt from having abusing human rights??? Basically no one that’s recognizable.

  6. I hate to ask, but can anyone do a translation of the audio or point me to where I may find one? Thanks, folks.

  7. Don’t see how anyone can listen to the tape and feel hopeful, all i got was shivers down my spine and a sick feeling in the stomach.

    Also, this blog’s obsession with El Cafetal is baffling, the joke stopped being fun in around 2005…2006…

  8. Another point not mentioned is that one of the officers in that room was willing to take the risk of recording it and felt incumbent to release the recording. How many of the active officers in the FANB are already working with the Opposition from within?

    • Shame on you. You should have learned by now that you are not allowed to look at things, much less think. Scandalous.

  9. Have not listened to the tape; however, there may be some strategy going on with the Miami Herald story. Clearly, the tape was leaked. In the end, the opposition wants to ensure no one gets shot by snipers. So, leaking the story is a way to unravel the plan and keep it from happening. The fear mongering headline is much more catching that the nuanced analysis from Quico. So, it achieves its goal of protecting civilians. And if the GNB does not get the message, then people will remember that headline and use it against the GNB.

    • “…no one gets shot by snipers”

      It’s actually that the regime STOPS using snipers, several of the protesters have been murdered by snipers.

      That they’re cuban or national guards is unknown so far.

  10. Forget the Herald, great story, even greater to find that there are people in the security forces with sense, and the opposition should tight rope their loose cannons

    • Which loose cannons? There’s no record of any “loose cannon” in the opposition.

      If anything, this is the most pacific opposition in history ever.

  11. Ha, great call. There is this section where this same subordinated fellow, concerned says: “One think is to say it, and another one to do it”. He was obviously concerned about that conversation in that moment as if worried for being on the record, in the little bits that followed he basically suggests to do it without so much fuzz.

  12. I wish you would drop the “cafetalero” insult. Every “dona del Cafetal” was absolutely fucking right about what was coming. No matter how distasteful you find them, they were right. Comeflores playing at appeasement were wrong. Own it.

    • Let’s not forget that up to not so long ago Quico was coming up with ingenious ways to outsmart these thugs while many of us were shaking our heads. It seems he has forgotten about that.

  13. Quico Is upset that America is playing key role. Upset that Donald Trump is doing more than Obama. Porque no escribes sobre el papel importante que juega EEUU….lo ignoras. Nada va a cambiar sin EEUU. Tú no entiendes la situación fuera de Venezuela. Tampoco entiendes a los militares. Piezas claves y por eso te salen comentarios críticos like “missing the point” and “scaremongering” porq insistes en presentar tu “superioridad”

    • By America you mean the American country South of Canada and North America?
      And you are saying clown Trump in trouble with the Russian deals is doing more than Obama on Venezuela?
      You are funny

      • In the present: Republica Bolivariana de Venezuela = Venezuela
        In the second half of the 20th century: Republica de Venezuela = Venezuela
        In the first half: Estados Unidos de Venezuela = Venezuela.

        For English speakers, the same sort of name shortening applies: United States of America = America, without disregarding the fact that the continent as a whole is named the same. It’s the way it’s always been, and it’s not going to change in our lifetimes. Disingenuous tut-tutting posts every time the name is used are just distractions.

        • How come they get Estados Unidos, and not Mexico? Plus America. They get everything. That hardly seems right.

          But I agree. Let’s keep distractions off of internet comment forums.

          • But I agree. Let’s keep distractions off of internet comment forums.

            Canuckleito, vale, you’re bolting that stable door after the horse ran off, trained, won the Kentucky Derby, retired, got put out to pasture, sired three generations more, died of old age and got turned into glued, dude…

          • They get both precisely because of our stubborn regionalist pride: In Spanish, we couldn’t bring ourselves to call the US “America”, so we use “Estados Unidos”. Meanwhile, in English, most people use “America”. The US gets it all because our bickering gave them all.

          • Yup. And there’s a man with dyed yellow hair, an orange face, a goofy grin and a big red tie riding that there horse…

  14. So fucking what if there’s pushback, reluctance or anything of the sort if they do it regardless?

    Also stop acting like you’re reporting some sort of big find or revelation. Discontent among the forces has been reported basically since the protests started. And it’s time you grew out of your disdain for “viejas del cafetal” just take the L regarding them, buddy.

    The only one missing something here is you.

    • God knows I love Quico, but his blind spot regarding the “Donitas del Cafetal” still annoys me. I mean, they were bloody right across the board. Those who’ve refused to give this government a chance because they knew what they were really about? They were right all along. The comeflores were wrong, and they don’t get to act high and mighty about reactionaries anymore. The reactionaries called it 20 years ago.

      • As the flood of indignant defenders of donas of cafetal indicates, I think Quico unfairly limits the stereotype to older ladies.

  15. The regime’s been using snipers for a long time, more precisely, since april 11 of 2002 (Those were the ones that killed the chavistas near Miraflores)

    And they’re using them in these days too:

    “En la azotea de la casa sindical de Santa Juana Mérida se puede observar uno de los francotiradores el régimen de Maduro desplegados a lo largo del país con el fin de asesinar a jóvenes manifestantes.”

    “In the rooftop of the sindical house in Santa Juana, Mérida could be seen one of the snipers deployed by Maduro’s regime through the country with the purpose to murder protesters”

    They may have been non-armed-forces snipers, the point is, that now because they’re being revealed, some of the rats want to cover up their asses and play fool with this, trying to dismiss the audio as a “vieja loca’s ramblings” does very little for the cause of getting rid of the dictatorship.

  16. You guys can get as indignant as you want, but I think the post speaks for itself: the childish demonization of the regime that goes by the tag “#cafetaling” leads directly to the interpretative brain fart the Miami Herald committed here, where you’re facing clear evidence of one thing but still badger it into a headline that is opposed to it because you can’t get over your priors. That’s shitty analysis driven by ideological blinders, duélale a quien le duela.

    • Cierto, Mr. Toro, el titular del MH dice que los militares están planeando usar francotiradores para matar manifestantes, pero el artículo acá habla de todo lo contrario, de como el audio probaría que es todo “viejalocadelcafetaling”, y que los milicos no han usado ni nunca usarían francotiradores.

      Ambos se equivocan porque quieren irse al extremo que es la parte errónea, en el audio están dos posiciones, la del lunático que usa la constitución de papel tualé, otro que tiene neuronas funcionales y que está en contra de embarrar la fuerza armada con -también- el uso de francotiradores, los cuales ya han venido siendo usados por casi todos los demás cuerpos represivos del régimen, como se evidencia en las páginas que cité anteriormente.

      Si algo puede concluirse del audio y del artículo del MH, es que el audio se saca que no todos los guardias son “chavistas, maduristas, antiimperialistas” y que quieran “tener un cuchillo para degollar a un maldito guarimbero” o que todos ellos sean los malandros que andan matando gente como desquiciados; y se vislumbra que el MH no revisó de forma exhaustiva el audio, ya que de haberlo hecho más bien el titular habría sido algo como “Posible quiebre en la FAN, un general quiere usar francotiradores y otro se opone”

    • Your buried lede is anything but: The thugs ultimately agree that they will follow orders if push comes to shove. Even their butt-covering instincts are subordinated to their need to follow the top dog. Your optimism is about to let you down for the 997th time.

      “The real story here isn’t some #cafetalero nightmare of evil Guardias getting their kicks from picking off protesters.”

      It takes some serious caradurismo to type that sentence and mean it, considering the way protesters are being handled by the GN, when they’re not killed outright.

  17. No sé dé qué demonios está hablando Francisco Toro. Lo cierto es que quedó en evidencia que ellos están contemplando seriamente la opción de usar francotiradores contra los manifestantes y que se están preparando para ese escenario.
    Ese es el primer hecho que hay que analizar. Es algo serio.
    Queda muy claro, después de escuchar el audio, que ellos sí están de acuerdo en que usarían francotiradores en caso de ser necesario, aunque no son completamente estúpidos y entienden las implicaciones. Pero en ningún momento dicen que no van a cumplir órdenes, eso hay que notarlo.
    Los chavistas siempre han cumplido sus amenazas. Confío más en la determinación de los chavistas para cumplir su amenazas (por muy horribles que sean) que en análisis trasnochados basados en un completo desconocimiento de la naturaleza del rival y sus verdaderos objetivos. Cuando ellos hacen una amenaza, por experiencia, yo me la tomo muy en serio. Fíjense que ellos entienden que Maduro no va a dudar en la dar la orden. ¿No quedó esto suficientemente claro con el asunto del referendum?
    Sobre la amnistía, la idea es bonita pero no funciona porque hasta este momento no existe absolutamente ningún pacto político de transición. No es que yo no esté de acuerdo con ofrecer amnistía o buscar algún tipo de negociación, pero la amnistía no es algo que se ofrece al aire, unilateralmente, como una promesa…es algo que se define con interlocutores reales, de carne y hueso. Y eso no existe, por lo menos en este momento. Primero debería haber un acuerdo político a largo plazo con factores chavistas moderados, y eso no existe hasta ahora, lo que existe es puro ruido. Existe la intención, pero la intención no es suficiente.
    Si la oposición lograra llegar a un acuerdo político con sectores chavistas (pero cuando digo sectores chavistas por supuesto no me refiero a los chivos, porque los chivos no van a negociar jamás), entonces quizás lo militares podrían cambiar de lado. Ellos necesitan estructura, certezas.Hay que ofrecerles una salida institucional, sí, pero esa salida institucional tiene que ser algo muy concreto. No una oferta de amnistía vaga, hecha al aire, como una promesa. Los militares no creen en promesas ni en vaguedades. Ellos saben muy bien lo que está en juego. Si no hay un acuerdo político concreto, un documento firmado por figuras institucionales del chavismo y de la oposición, ellos van a preferir seguir órdenes. Por eso el artículo de Pedro me pareció una masturbación mental. No porque la idea sea mala, sino porque Dios está en los detalles. Necesitaríamos la adhesión completa de la fiscal y probablemente la del defensor del pueblo.

    Y queda por supuesto el problema de la gobernabilidad. ¿Realmente la mayoría de la población aceptaría tal cosa?

  18. History has proven again and again, that soldiers, ordinary men, will carry out shocking atrocities, while still themselves being personally revolted by the very acts they are committing. In some sense, that is the very definition of a solider: someone trained to disregard their own self-interest. It is why young boys are chosen to be soldiers.

    I would recommend everyone read “Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101”

    Don’t get too happy about a little bit of debate among some officers over the possible future consequences. The Nazi’s had the same debates towards the end of the War as they tried to liquidate the remaining prisoner camps. Often the most shocking atrocities occur at the end of a conflict, when the parties have nothing left to loose.

    In Venezuela, unfortunately, it appears they are only now starting to enter that phase. In fact, this might not even be the beginning of the end, as there is no armed and organize effective fighting force to counter the government military. That means the government, effectively, can not be forced to negotiate. There is no military stalemate to force both sides to the negotiating table.

    To get there, at least one of the following must happen:

    1) The national guard or some segment of the military must break with the government.

    2) The opposition, the protesters in the streets, will have to arm.

    3) There will have to be international military intervention.

    None of the above looks like it will happen any time soon. That means this conflict is only getting started, and the suffering will get much worse, before there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

    In the meantime Human rights abuses, crimes against humanity, will stack-up, until at least one of the three things above happens.

    All this tape provides is some possibly fuzzy evidence for a potential future prosecution. Most human rights abusers, even when prosecuted, still walk free.

  19. El titular del MH puede ser todo lo sensacionalista que quiera, y aún así se acerca más a la verdad (y es más útil para la causa) que lo propuesto acá. Es preferible contribuir a salvar vidas, denunciando un hecho concreto, que ponerse a especular sobre un posible quiebre entre los militares, con fines propagandísticos muy poco claros.

    ¿Acaso tiene sentido creer que si los militares leen un titular en el MH que dice “Posible quiebre en las Fuerzas Armadas” en vez de “Las Fuerzas Armadas planean usar francotiradores contra los manifestantes”, van por eso mágicamente a dejar de seguir órdenes? Eso es una falacia. No hay una relación causa y efecto ahí Así no funciona la propaganda en medio de una guerra. La propaganda no es una forma de comunicación con el enemigo. AL rival se le dirigen amenazas concretas ( a veces para disuadirlo de ciertas cosas), o informaciones falsas, para confundirlo. Algunos analistas creen que la propaganda política se usa para persuadir al rival, para convencerlo . Y no. La propaganda es una cosa y las cuñas electorales son otra cosa. Más lógico es pensar que si uno los denuncia, eso pueda disuadirlos, porque queda más en evidencia su responsabilidad. Estamos hablando más bien de inteligencia y de contra-inteligencia, acá.

    Uno al chavismo le puede ofrecer mil cosas lindas. Oro, vírgenes, miel, amnestía,lo que sea. Está bien que uno tienda puentes, es necesario, pero que ellos acepten o no, es su decisión. No son gafos, En caso de que tengan que irse, ahí sí se comunicarán con nosotros o con terceros o decretarán su propia amnestía. Probablemente maten a muchas personas más antes de llegar a esa conclusión. Esa es la verdad. Lo que sí podríamos hacer es trabajar, mientras luchamos, en las bases de un acuerdo político a largo plazo con quien sí quiera sentarse a discutirlo con nosotros (por ejemplo, la fiscal).

    Pero además, considerando que la amenaza de los francotiradores es real y tiene fundamento, hablar del sensacionalismo de las doñas del cafetal no sólo es un error, es algo bien hijo de puta. Hay vidas en juego, más allá de toda la propaganda. ¿Si en efecto, como es muy probable que ocurra, los francotiradores asesinan a venezolanos mañana o pasado, el señor Francisco Toro va a seguir hablando del doñacafelatismo ? Yo, en su lugar, me sentiría un poco mal si eso ocurriera.
    Si existía alguna especie de batalla estúpida entre cuáles análisis eran más acertados, los de Francisco Toro y los de las doñas del Cafetal, las doñas del cafetal ganaron esa batalla estúpida hace muchísimo tiempo, duélale a quien le duela.

  20. Hay otra cosa muy importante: Francisco Toro, quizás no te das cuenta, pero tu análisis es completamente supersticioso.Tú crees que si uno hace tal cosa (por ejemplo, deja de satanizar a los militares y de criticarlos,), va a ocurrir necesariamente tal otra cosa (los militares van a ponerse de nuestro bando y dejar de seguir órdenes). Y no. Eso es pura superstición. Realismo mágico. No hay manera de que puedas establecer una relación causa- y efecto ahí. El resultado concreto es que terminas poniendo toda la culpa del opresor sobre el oprimido y te haces muy odioso. Pero la verdad es que estamos hablando simplemente de poder. De fuerzas. El chavismo tiene un plan y lo está ejecutando. Hay un sector que tiene todo el poder y nada de escrúpulos, y luego una población impotente que es víctima. Quien tiene todo el poder, en principio no tiene por qué sentarse a negociar, con la fuerza le basta para imponerse, y la mera superstición no te va a sacar de ese círculo vicioso. De lo que se trata es de alterar ese equilibrio de fuerzas, de igualarlas un poco, para que podamos contraatacar. Hay que dejar de pensar que si nos comportamos de cierta manera, eso va a cambiar rotundamente sus planes y va a enternecer sus corazones. No hay manera de enternecer sus corazones ni de cambiar sus planes, Eso ya se intentó. Ahora Sólo podemos buscar entorpecer sus planes, obstaculizarlos.Esa es la verdad. Sólo hay que pensar en una cosa: derrotarlos, obligarlos a retroceder.

  21. What seems to me like the real news is that you have all these generals acting in vacuum. They have no “intelligence” of what’s going on. Is not like they are facing a force from abroad. They just need to go and have a marroncito with their neighbor to gain insight.


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