venezuela border ambulance injuries
© Reuters / Ricardo Moraes
An ambulance carries people reportedly injured in Friday's border clash to hospital
At least one person is 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.


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.


Comment: From Moon of Alabama:
U.S. Department of State, February 21, 2019

Special Representative for Venezuela Elliott Abrams Travel to Miami and Cucuta, Colombia
Special Representative for Venezuela Elliott Abrams will travel to Homestead Air Reserve Base, Florida and Cucuta, Colombia February 21-22 to support the delivery of humanitarian aid to some of the most vulnerable people in Venezuela in response to Interim President Guaido's request.

Special Representative Abrams will lead a U.S. government delegation to accompany humanitarian supplies to be transported from Florida to Colombia by military aircraft. While in Colombia Special Representative Abrams will meet Colombian President Duque and visiting delegations from Central and South America.
New York Times, August 17, 1987

Abrams Denies Wrongdoing In Shipping Arms to Contras
Assistant Secretary of State Elliott Abrams has defended his role in authorizing the shipment of weapons on a humanitarian aid flight to Nicaraguan rebels, saying the operation was "strictly by the book."

Mr. Abrams spoke at a news conference Saturday in response to statements by Robert Duemling, former head of the State Department's Nicaraguan humanitarian assistance office, who said he had twice ordered planes to shuttle weapons for the contras on aid planes at Mr. Abrams's direction in early 1986.

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.