At least two people are dead and several more injured after Venezuelan troops opened fire on civilians near the Brazilian border, opposition figures claim. The victims were reportedly helping move humanitarian aid into Venezuela.
Video footage shot by opposition politician Americo De Grazia purports to show several of the wounded being treated in hospital. Between 12 and 23 people are believed to be injured, according to various reports.
A group of opposition deputies called the shooting “a brutal military crackdown on indigenous communities” who were trying to open the border to allow aid convoys from Brazil to pass. Images shared on social media show the indigenous community blocking military vehicles from accessing the area.
The Maduro government was quick to dismiss the opposition’s accusations, which allege that security forces have used live fire against civilians.
“What happened has nothing to do with the versions that have circulated,” Venezuela’s foreign minister, Jorge Arreaza, said in New York at UN headquarters. “In fact, some of the wounded were wounded by knives, machetes, even arrows.”
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro sealed off the country’s Brazilian border on Thursday, after Brazil’s government pledged to send humanitarian aid to its crisis-stricken neighbor. Maduro has dismissed foreign aid as “crumbs” and a precursor to military invasion.
The US maintains that its aid crates contain much needed food, medicine, and hygiene supplies. However, the government in Caracas fears that the ‘aid’ is actually weapons caches meant to arm the opposition. The Russian Foreign Ministry has also warned that the US may be acquiring and shipping weapons to the Venezuelan opposition.
These fears are not entirely unfounded. After all, US envoy for Venezuela Elliot Abrams did exactly that in Nicaragua in the early 1980s, running guns to the right-wing Contras under the guise of humanitarian aid.
Aid shipments have threatened to turn Venezuela’s Colombian and Brazilian borders into flashpoints for conflict. Russia’s Foreign Ministry has warned that US aid convoys will likely provoke Venezuelan troops into clashes over the weekend, providing a pretext for military action against Maduro’s government.
Opposition leader Juan Guaido has promised supporters that the shipments will enter Venezuela on Saturday, one way or another. However, the country’s military, still loyal to Maduro, might complicate that. Guaido once again asked the military to switch sides after Friday’s reported incident.
Among Venezuelans, there is growing doubt over Guaido’s ability to actually deliver this long-promised aid, political analyst Lucas Koerner told RT.
“There’s a [also] lot of skepticism” toward the US’ motives too, Koerner said, “given that the US is imposing an oil embargo on Venezuela which is going to deny the country over $11 billion this year.”
At the time of writing, the Venezuelan government had not yet commented on the reported shooting.
In 2002, US-backed Venezuelan coup plotters orchestrated shootings of protesters which they falsely blamed on the govt to justify their coup (watch starting at 21:50 here: https://t.co/8uWC1xtT3f). The warnings from Trump gang now should raise concerns they’re planning a re-do: https://t.co/FXjyclxjLc
— Aaron Maté (@aaronjmate) February 22, 2019
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