Venezuela: troops fire on indigenous protesters

Venezuelan army troops reportedly opened fire on indigenous protesters who were blocking a road near the Brazilian border Feb. 23, leaving several dead. Opposition lawmaker Américo de Grazia, from the southern state of Bolívar, announced on his Twitter feed that morning that soliders opened fire as protesters, including many from the local Pemón indigenous group, contended with troops attempting to bar the passage of trucks filled with aid coming in from Brazilian territory. The first victim was said to be a Pemón woman who was on the scene as a food vendor. A second Pemón was slain shortly later, and another 14 wounded, de Grazia said. He added that several troops, including the commander on the scene, were subsequently taken captive by Pemón warriors and are being held at the nearby indigenous community of Kumarakapay. De Grazia tweeted later in the day that the 14 Pemón who had been taken to a nearby hospital after being shot also succumbed to their wounds.

De Grazia warned that paramilitary forces in civilian dress are gathering at the army barracks in the vicinity, and that an attack on Kumarakapay may be imminent. (El Comercio, El Comercio, Peru, Miami Herald)  

De Grazia is a member of La Causa Radical party, a part of Venezuela's dissident left that has broken with President Nicolás Maduro. His version of events is backed up by the local Bolívar human rights group Kapé Kapé.

Prominent Venezuelan commentator Colette Capriles accused Maduro of intentionally escalating the situation in an attempt to divide the international coalition backing right-wing opposition leader Juan Guaidó. "He is betting that the discussion will get stuck on possible military action to remove hm from power. The costs to his reputation are very high, but acts of violent resistance will place use of force in the foreground, and he is betting that the discussion this generates will lead to the defection of the European Union and its allies," she told website Efecto Cocuyo.

Guaidó, meanwhile, is now openly alluding to military intervention, saying on his own Twitter feed: "I've been forced to take a decision: formally propose to the international community that we should have all options open to achieve the liberation of this motherland which is fighting and will continue to fight." (Bloomberg)

Photo: Américo de Grazia via Twitter

  1. Politics of Américo de Grazia, death toll at Santa Elena

    Américo De Grazia, the lawmaker who made the claims about 14 dead in the violence on the Brazilian border, seems to be provisionally supporting Guaidó, but with caveats—such as that he should refrain appointing cabinet positions while overseeing the period of transition. (Caraota Digital

    Some reports are now placing the death toll in the confrontation at the border post of Santa Elena at 25. (Al Jazeera) UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet has denounced the violence along Venezuela's borders with Colombia and Brazil, saying it has resulted in "at least" four deaths and more than 300 injuries. (Jurist)

    The Maduro government appears to be trying to blame the Pemón for the violence. "What happened has nothing to do with the versions that have circulated," his foreign minister, Jorge Arreaza, said in New York at UN headquarters. "In fact, some of the wounded were wounded by knives, machetes, even arrows." (RT)