Wednesday 23 October 2019

One dead, 12 hurt as army opens fire on aid protesters

Pro-government supporters holding a Venezuela's flag attend a rally against US President Donald Trump in Caracas, Venezuela
Pro-government supporters holding a Venezuela's flag attend a rally against US President Donald Trump in Caracas, Venezuela

Anthony Faiola

Venezuelan soldiers opened fire on a group of civilians attempting to keep open part of the southern border with Brazil for deliveries of humanitarian aid, leading to multiple injuries and the first fatality of the operation to deliver international relief.

At 6.30am yesterday, a military convoy approached a checkpoint set up by an indigenous community in the southern village of Kumarakapai, that rests on the main road linking Venezuela to Brazil.

When the volunteers sought to block the military vehicles by standing in front of them, soldiers began firing assault rifles at the crowd, wounding at least 12 people, four of them seriously. One woman, Zorayda Rodriguez (42), was killed.

"I ask the armed forces is it constitutional for them to fire against unarmed indigenous people?" said Jorge Perez, a local councilman in Gran Sabana, the district where the town is located who said he was present when the soldiers opened fire.

"Is it constitutional to kill indigenous people?"

At least 30 people took to the streets following the shootings and kidnapped three soldiers according to Carmen Elena Silva. She had also joined in the roadblock.

War

"The majority of the people support the entrance of humanitarian aid, and we want to keep our border open," Ms Silva said. "This is help, not war. Every day more children die."

A spokesmen for Venezuela's Communications Ministry said it could not yet comment on the incident.

The activists belonged to the Pemones indigenous tribe that has joined the opposition effort to haul in aid donated by the United States and other countries from bordering nations today.

The aid is coming from countries - including the US - that have demanded President Nicolás Maduro step down, His government has ordered a full blockade and dispatched the military to reinforce Venezuela's borders.

The incident appeared to be the most violent confrontation of the operation that has seen thousands of volunteers seeking to reach bordering nations to bring aid over the border.

Opposition leaders fear more flashpoints will happen today.

Irish Independent

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