Clashes erupted along the Venezuela-Columbia and Venezuela-Brazil borders this weekend as forces loyal to Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro worked to block protesters and Venezuelan citizens from accessing trucks full of aid supplies, including medicine and food.
CNN reports that aid from the United States, Canada, Germany, and the United Kingdom “is piling up” along both borders following an order from Maduro to seal off roadways from both Columbia and Brazil, preventing the aid shipments from reaching Venezuelans, more than 10% of whom are said to be starving. Maduro believes the aid is a precursor to a United States-led coup designed to pull him from power and replace him with opposition leader Juan Gerardo Guaidó Márquez.
Guaidó, the head of the country’s parliament, has declared himself president of Venezuela following what he says is Maduro’s illegitimate re-election. Guaidó, who is, himself, a socialist, says Maduro manipulated the election results, bringing a swift end to Maduro’s regime under the country’s constitution.
Guaidó has been trying to shepherd the trucks full of aid across the border but so far only two trucks have made it to their destination. Convinced they are full of arms for Venezuela’s military groups, the Venezuelan government has sent riot police and Venezuelan troops to prevent the trucks from making it to the people.
Maduro is not totally opposed to aid; he accepted a whopping $9 million from the United Nations at the end of 2018, but he told the country this week that he was refusing physical supplies because “Venezuelans are not beggars.”
Friday, the blockades turned violent, leading to clashes across Venezuela’s borders with both Brazil and Columbia. Trucks were torched, tear gas was deployed, around 300 people were injured and at least four people were killed, according to the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, Michelle Bachelet.
“People have been shot and killed, others have reportedly received wounds from which they will never completely recover, including losing eyes,” she told reporters. “These are disgraceful scenes. The Venezuelan government must stop its forces from using excessive force against unarmed protesters and ordinary citizens.”
The United Nations called on the government of Venezuela to recall its troops, but maintained that they would not get involved any further in the clashes, having already judged providing aid to Venezuelan citizens as an untenable “political” act.
United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also cataloged the violence on Twitter.
“The U.S. condemns the attacks on civilians in #Venezuela perpetrated by Maduro’s thugs. These attacks have resulted in deaths and injuries. Our deepest sympathies to the families of those who have died due to these criminal acts. We join their demand for justice,” Pompeo tweeted alongside a photo of the burning supply trucks.
The U.S. condemns the attacks on civilians in #Venezuela perpetrated by Maduro’s thugs. These attacks have resulted in deaths and injuries. Our deepest sympathies to the families of those who have died due to these criminal acts. We join their demand for justice. #EstamosUnidosVE pic.twitter.com/YW7hE3y1Ll
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) February 24, 2019
Maduro spent the weekend at a dance competition.