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Venezuela: At Least Four Dead and Hundreds Injured in Border Standoff
Written by <a href="index.php?option=com_comprofiler&task=userProfile&user=50229"><span class="small">Emma Graham-Harrison, Joe Parkin Daniels and Clavel Rangel, Guardian UK</span></a>   
Sunday, 24 February 2019 09:34

Excerpt: "At least four people have been killed and hundreds injured in a wave of violence that convulsed Venezuela's border regions on Saturday, as opposition activists tried to defy a government ban and bring food and medical supplies into the country."

A demonstrator stands on a barricade holding a gasoline bomb, during clashes with the national guard near the border with Colombia (photo: Rodrigo Abd/AP)
A demonstrator stands on a barricade holding a gasoline bomb, during clashes with the national guard near the border with Colombia (photo: Rodrigo Abd/AP)

Venezuela: At Least Four Dead and Hundreds Injured in Border Standoff

By Emma Graham-Harrison, Joe Parkin Daniels and Clavel Rangel, Guardian UK

24 February 19

Presidential challenger Juan Guaidó says he will urge foreign leaders to keep ‘all options open’ at a meeting on Monday

t least four people have been killed and hundreds injured in a wave of violence that convulsed Venezuela’s border regions on Saturday, as opposition activists tried to defy a government ban and bring food and medical supplies into the country.

After the failed attempt to breach government blockades, opposition leader Juan Guaidó declared the fight would continue, and said “we must keep all our options open for the liberation of our homeland”.

He will head to Bogotá for a meeting on Monday with US vice-president Mike Pence, and other regional leaders in the Lima Group.

Florida senator Marco Rubio responded to Guaidó’s comments, saying he had spoken to regional leaders and the actions of President Nicolás Maduro’s regime on Saturday had “opened the door to various potential multilateral actions not on the table just 24 hours ago”.

Although Guaidó did not secure the mass defections he had hoped for, at least 60 border guards deserted their posts and fled into Colombia, as other members of security forces loyal to Maduro used tear gas and rubber bullets to force back protesters and halt civilian convoys escorting aid supplies.

Three trucks of aid were set on fire by tear gas grenades as they approached the first border checkpoint at the Santander bridge connecting Venezuela to Colombia. There were injuries on both sides of the crossing, with Colombian authorities reporting at least 285 wounded.

In the south, opposition activists claimed aid had reached Venezuela, but although two trucks did leave Brazil they stopped just a few metres inside the border, a national guard checkpoint between them and any possible recipients.

Beyond the security forces was the town of Santa Elena de Uairén, which saw the worst of the violence, with both pro-government armed gangs and national guard members taking to the streets to try and disperse opposition supporters.

At least four people were killed and 18 injured by gunfire, according to campaign group Foro Penal, and the town’s hospital was overwhelmed by the influx of dead and injured.

The first casualty of the aid delivery attempt had come in the same area on Friday, when a military convoy opened fire on indigenous protesters.

Humanitarian aid is much-needed in a country racked by hunger, hyperinflation and food shortages. But opposition leaders also hope their attempt to deliver supplies will undermine Maduro and encourage defections from security forces that have largely remained loyal to Caracas.

As violence raged along the borders, Maduro addressed a rally in the capital, insisting he was “stronger than ever” and calling volunteers trying to ship aid “traitors”.

He denounced the food and medical supplies as an American pretext to destabilise his government, and told the crowd he had broken off diplomatic relations with Colombia because the country was being used for “attacks against Venezuela”.

After his speech, as tear gas billowed at the country’s borders, he danced with his wife onstage in a bizarre display of nonchalance.

Guaidó, who had declared himself interim president in late January, had claimed a premature victory at about noon local time, announcing that the first aid had already crossed the border from Brazil.

But they went only a few metres inside Venezuela, and by evening the two small trucks loaded with donations had driven back into Brazil, citing security concerns..

By the end of Saturday, which the opposition had made a deadline for aid shipments to cross the border, it appeared the two sides had settled into an uneasy standoff.

Colombia announced late on Saturday that it would close all the border crossings for two days, to check for damage after attempts to take aid across were met with fierce violence. At one point tear gas fired by Venezuelan forces set an aid truck alight.

The most serious clashes were on the Santander bridge separating Cúcuta and the Venezuelan town of Ureña. There volunteers escorted aid trucks up to a security cordon but were pushed back by rubber bullets and tear gas, and gangs loyal to Maduro threw stones at opposition supporters from atop a truck.

“I was crossing the bridge when a rubber bullet hit me,” said Carlos Juancho, a student from Merida, wounded in the neck. “This is how Maduro treats his people.”

The opposition perhaps thought civilian convoys would test how far ordinary soldiers were willing to go to protect the government. Whatever their orders, many were expected to be uneasy about opening fire on unarmed fellow Venezuelans.

There were at least 60 members of security forces in the area who crossed the border they were ordered to defend, Colombian immigration officials said. Guaidó took to Twitter to encourage others to join them.

“In my position as commander in chief of the armed forces, I declare that soldiers who cross the border will not be considered traitors to their homeland,” Guaidó said in a tweet.

But there were not enough defections to allow aid to pass the border crossings. Although Guaidó has won a wave of popular support and been recognised as Venezuela’s leader by the US and many of its allies, he has so far struggled to persuade the country’s military to back his cause en masse.

Promotions and lucrative commercial opportunities have helped keep senior officers loyal, while many in the lower ranks are terrified of being punished for defection.

One of the defectors who crossed on Saturday said it had taken courage to leave. “Brother, I have been thinking about this for days,” he said, in a video shared on social media. “It wasn’t something I decided overnight.”

Many others in the security forces agreed with him but were too afraid to defect, he said. “You can’t say anything against the government.”

Friday’s attack near the Brazil border suggested the military were under heavy pressure from senior officers. Local officials said the attack was the first time in living memory the armed forces had opened fire on indigenous people in the Gran Sabana area, a tourism hotspot famous for spectacular scenery.

The violence began again early on Saturday on the other side of the country, police firing teargas at Venezuelans trying to cross into Colombia in Ureña. Most were not protesters but simply heading across for work or personal reasons.

“We are frightened that what happened yesterday at the other border is going to happen here, with people killed and injured,” said Aurora Albarracin, 55.

Later in the day, protests in towns on the Venezuelan side of the border also turned violent, with protestors throwing stones and bottles, burning military uniforms and setting a government bus on fire, and riot police responding with tear gas. Armed pro-government gangs also opened fire on civilians in the town of San Antonio, wounding at least eleven people.

Rallies around the country aimed to persuade soldiers that they could switch sides. In Caracas, marchers headed for the Carlota military airport in the heart of the city.

“I would tell the soldiers today: put reason and feeling ahead of your weapons,” said Daniel Bruce, an intensive care doctor who said his hospital didn’t have basic medical supplies. “You are also Venezuelans and you suffer the same as us when you go to the hospitals,” he said.

“I’m marching because I believe in the rebirth of my homeland, and I believe that my patients have a right to humanitarian aid. Today is not about ideology, it is about human lives and dignity.”

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+8 # apotem 2019-02-24 10:55
1, HUMANITARIAN aid is supposed to be apolitical.
2. How about humanitarian aid to Yemen instead of military aid to Saudis?
+4 # DongiC 2019-02-24 13:44
Venezuela keeps heating up. Why not send the UN in to negotiate a peace. This is a case for the Secretary and the Security Council. Foreigners, especially Americans, should stay out. We don't need any more wars to take part in. Afghanistan and Yemen and Isis should be sufficient even for us.
+3 # RussellB 2019-02-24 16:23
Isn't it clear that Trump/Pence/Pom peo/Bolton have no interest in any kind of negotiated peace. These people are fanatics determined to overthrow the Maduro government by any means and replace it with a government that they approve of. It's going to get bloodier and bloodier.
+3 # RussellB 2019-02-24 16:26
Credible sources have shown through video clips that the truck burning was caused by a molotov cocktail thrown by violent opposition extremists, not the Venezuelan security forces.
+1 # tsyganka 2019-02-25 17:14
RusslelB: Thanks for both posts.

The opposition (whose abbreviation is avoided by the US press because 'their name is M.U.D.') has long been known to order journalists to NOT film any violence by the opposition, but to ONLY film the government's response to it.

My question is how to stop the coup. I don't know of any method that could work in time except a general strike that blocks business traffic on streets and waterways in every major US commerce hub.

I opine that trump (Pompeo, Bolton, Abrams) is hot to trot for war because he thinks that Americans 'love and unite behind a war president' and that war would divert attention from the Mueller investigation. -- I don't think so. We learned our lesson with non-elected bush.
+7 # Salburger 2019-02-24 15:03
Are those the relief supplies that were never sent to Puerto Rico?
+3 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2019-02-24 16:04
The goal of all of these color revolutions is to provoke violence as a way to discredit the government the CIA wants to overthrow. Guaido was trained in Serbia by the CIA's revolution specialists, a group called CANVAS (Centre for Applied Nonviolent Action and Strategies). They always claim non-violence but they work in tandem with US special ops, mercenaries, saboteurs, terrorists, and provocateurs who commit the violence. CANVAS was instrumental in the Maidan protests in Ukraine.

For a good documentary on how all this happens take a look at this:

It is a little old, but CANVAS has been working in Venezuela for at least a decade.
+2 # Mainiac 2019-02-24 16:46
This report sounds as though much of the information was gathered from opposition forces who do not have a record of objectivity or accuracy. I discount it for that reason.
0 # Kootenay Coyote 2019-02-24 17:47
Meanwhile, on the US-Mexico border….
+2 # Anne Frank 2019-02-25 09:46
Do Graham-Harrison , Daniels, and Rangel think we are stupid? If the U.S. regime had any humanitarian concern for the people of Venezuela it would lift the blockade and allow the Venezuelans access to their gold and bank accounts. The alleged "aid" from the U.S. is negligible, and merely a circus for the benefit of corporate media users. The international bankster regime is punishing Venezuela for using its immense national wealth to benefit the people of Venezuela, instead of sending it into the pockets of banksters and oil company executives.
+1 # tsyganka 2019-02-25 17:04
Elliott "Death Squads" Abrams (PNAC signatory and trump's special envoy for Venezuela) has smuggled weapons into countries via so-called humanitarian aid before.

Just sayin'.

The controlled US press suppressed news about the gains under Chavismo. Maduro has corruption problems, yes; but the opposition has more & worse, and the US has been trying to overthrow Venezuela's government ever since Chavez was elected. It has done this by propaganda, sanctions (poverty & starvation for regular citizens), deals with Venezuela's 1%, monetary and military aid to the opposition, bringing in Colombian mercenaries to terrorize/bruta lize voters and murder political candidates and people who "looked like Chavistas"), abetting the hoarding of necessities by the oligarchs and opposition, and recognizing Guaido despite his non-election.

Maduro's election was honest, as verified by 18 candidates, 150 election-monito ring organizations, and a public recount of 53% of randomly selected polling sites (as is standard when Any question of validity arises).

When have US regime changes EVER brought so-called freedom and democracy, prosperity, or peace? Never. Everyone just gets endless war that pleases corporations.

War-pusher John Bolton also signed the PNAC.

I opine that trump is a coward who admires 'strong' men because he so desperately wants to be one. Therefore, foreign tyrants and also traitors like Bolton and Abrams can easily manipulate him.

We need a general strike.