Senator John Kerry's recent aggressive declaration on Venezuela confirms that whoever is in the White House, Venezuela will remain subject to intervention from the United States government and its allies. The role of the Venezuelan army in the face of this reality will be crucial to defend peace and democracy in Venezuela. The first part of this interview, published earlier, covered issues of US intervention, relations with Colombia, and efforts by the government's opponents to create an atmosphere of crisis inside the country. In this final part of the interview, General Raúl Baduel, head of the Venezuelan army explains to Heinz Dieterich efforts to combat terrorist snipers and the role of media manipulation. Baduel ends with a call for respect for democracy and peaceful coexistence. The original interview is dated March 9th 2004.
HD: How can you neutralize the snipers?
RB: First I want to discuss the manipulation of this matter by many news media that focus on images of the behaviour of the State security forces. Often those news media have wanted to present this issue as an abuse by the security forces, searching buildings and residences and above all acting on the offensive and not as a result of a necessity of the State.
When shots are fired which are judged to come from snipers, it's necessary to neutralize those snipers. And one of the ways to do so is to enter the buildings where they are to be found so as to arrest them. So the aim has been to manipulate the issue of the need to maintain public order as if it were a matter of human rights abuses by the security forces.
HD: Last night a sniper fired about ten shots as the State TV (VTV) building, wounding a national guardsman. How, in police or military terms is it possible to neutralize those snipers in an urban environment like Caracas?
RB: It's complex. We have deployed aircraft, above all helicopters, that make periodic reconnaissance flights carrying counter-snipers with orders to neutralize the other snipers.
However, it's a very complicated task. You know this city very well. Caracas has many confined spaces with very high buildings and everything indicates that these people act deliberately to cause widespread damage and generate a kind of systematic and selective terrorism, seeking at the same time to call into question the policy of the security forces.
HD: Are army patrols by special units against these snipers not necessary? Or have they not been considered? Or is it not desirable to involve the army?
RB: In the region around the capital units of the armed forces, represented principally by units of the National Guard - but also with members of the Military Police – have been engaging in patrols as a preventive measure aiming to dissuade those who seek to carry out this kind of action.
This policy of the armed forces has a constitutional basis. The Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic gave us the authority to guarantee the independence and sovereignty of the nation and to ensure the integrity of its geographic space. This carries three fundamental tasks: 1) military defence; 2) cooperation in the maintenance of internal order, and 3) active participation in the nation's development.
The second of these tasks is the legal constitutional basis for the actions of all components of the armed forces to guarantee the country's internal order.
HD: Do the armed forces have the arms necessary for this type of problem, for example night vision equipment, or do they lack that technology?
RB: No, we have that technology and we have personnel trained and competent in those tasks
Of course, as I've said, they are complex tasks. In many cases when a sniper or one of these terrorists gets in place to carry out armed attacks, he must have some minimal support from people there who facilitate his escape from the area.
And since we respect constitutional and legal rules, making a collective search in a building has been found to be very complicated. By which I mean that in many cases a perverse use has been made of rights guaranteed in our constitution.
HD: Am I wrong to say that in any country in the world the police would immediately search a building if a sniper assisted by people in that building tried to murder someone?
RB: No. We see in the news that in countries like the United States the direct use of firearms to neutralize someone if that person fails to obey police instruction, resulting in the death of that potential aggressor. We have seen that many times.
HD: And why does that not happen here?
RB: Because our government and authorities are well aware that they ought not to fall into that trap. Because as I have already said, there are plenty of news outlets here who report the actions of forces of law and order in a very skewed way and thus seek to exploit an image of those forces of public order as aggressors in violation of human rights.
HD: To recap, you then see no danger in the subversive project underway, that one might call, assuming you agree, a third coup d'état.
RB: I try to use these terms carefully. You will remember that the Supreme Court judged that in April 2002 there was no coup d'état in this country. That judgment left us in a situation that is quite sui generis because now Venezuela has the exceptionally rare privilege of writing new theory on events of this kind with a brand new glossary of terms. We can call what happened neither a coup d'état, nor an insurrection, nor a conspiracy because none of those cases fit the judgment of the Supreme Court.
However, if we use the terminology that is common usage in international affairs, then it's obvious that here we are undergoing a continuous coup détat with corresponding deliberate objectives.
When I address this issue with military personnel I explain that perhaps we still do not have sufficient information or perspective to state as a fact that possibly what we are involved in is a new type of societal war – analyzed by, among others, Alvin Toffler in his book The War of the Future – in which it is not strictly necessary for two conventional forces to face off against each other in a theater of war, but rather that a climate of tension and destabilization is generated through psychological operations so as to do away with a legal and legitimately constituted government which has repeatedly submitted to electoral processes.
There is no doubt at all that here we have news media that we soldiers call authentic vehicles of psychological warfare.
HD: How can you do more to defend the bolivarian process as Commander in Chief of the army than when you were head of the Fourth Armoured Division?
RB: Its been said I was given this position practically to neutralize me, that the position is merely administrative.
While it may well be true that the operational doctrine of the Venezuelan army insists that the primary task of the head of some component, in this case the army itself, consists of organizing, equipping and training the land component, and in the case of its operational use, putting it under the orders of an operational command, my superiors also share that authority and in fact I have in the past received orders that grant me operational command over the land forces.
So I've got used to taking criticism or attempts to undermine my respect and prestige within the armed forces, I don't waste time or effort thinking about such trivia
Right now, I can say that our sacred mission is set out in the letter and spirit of the national Bolivarian constitution and we see ourselves daily more cohesive in terms of that spirit.
There was a group of comrades in arms who stepped aside from their duty – motivated either by greed or the desire for power - and gathered in a public square, the Plaza Francia in Altamira here in the capital, and proclaimed to the four winds that 80 per cent of the armed forces supported them – deceiving all those who believed in them.
But the proof of the cohesion of the armed forces and their commitment to preserve the supreme interests and high mission of the Venezuelan State is categorical and on that there is not the least doubt.
HD: Is there anything you want to add?
RB: Only to say I am very pleased to have had this meeting with you and to add my voice as a citizen and soldier to demand of all those sectors that think violence is the way forward that they understand the great majority in our country are peace loving and long for these conflicts to be dealt with through dialogue and democracy. I'll take advantage of this chance, yet again, to call for confraternity and peaceful coexistence in our bolivarian homeland.
This interview was first published in Spanish in www.rebelion.org, March 21, 2004: “Habla el Comandante del Ejército Venezolano, General Raúl Baduel (tercera y última parte)” by Heinz Dieterich.
Toni Solo is an activist based in Central America. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
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