Venezuela: four dead in border clashes

Submitted by AWL on 27 February, 2019 - 11:50 Author: Eduardo Tovar

Juan Guaidó declared himself president of Venezuela on 23 January, disputing the position with the incumbent president Nicolas Maduro. A month later, Guaidó continues to ask other states to consider “all options” for removing Maduro.

Events on 23 February ramped up the risk of invasion, by the USA or a consortium of states. On the 23rd, eight lorries carrying aid attempted to cross the border from Colombia. Three lorries reportedly made it into Venezuela, only for two to catch fire. Colombian officials say this was deliberate incineration. Venezuelan troops have blockaded the borders with Colombia and Brazil to keep out lorries carrying food and medical supplies. Maduro has denounced these aid shipments as a pretext for a foreign invasion.

We oppose any military intervention in Venezuela, or economic sanctions that will inevitably hit the poorest Venezuelans hardest. At the same time, we continue to support efforts to build an independent, class struggle left that can provide an alternative to the Chavista mainstream.

Over the course of 23 February, violent clashes erupted at the border as opposition-supporting protestors attempted to breach the government blockades and bring in the supplies. Venezuelan security forces responded with rubber bullets and tear gas. One such crowd dispersal in the town of Santa Elena de Uairé left at least four dead and 18 injured. Although, so far, Guaidó has largely failed to draw the Venezuelan top brass from Maduro, there have been rank-and-file defections in the National Guard. At least 60 border guards are reported to have deserted and crossed into Colombia.

In a somewhat surreal turn of events, rival solidarity concerts were held on Friday 22 February on opposite sides of the Venezuela-Colombia border. In Colombia, Richard Branson hosted “Venezuela Aid Live” to raise $100 million in funds for food and medicine. The concert featured notable Latin American artists including “Despacito” singer Luis Fonsi. Defying travel restrictions, Guaidó made a surprise appearance to speak to attendees and reporters. Meanwhile, in Venezuela, Maduro supporters held a “Hands Off Venezuela” concert, broadcast on state TV. An island-owning billionaire like Branson hosting a private fundraiser for a major humanitarian crisis?

Nevertheless, the situation in Venezuela remains bleak. That same Friday, indigenous Pemon woman Zoraida Rodriguez died from her bullet wounds after her tribe clashed with Venezuelan security forces in the Gran Sabana region near the Brazilian border. The tribe retaliated by seizing the local airport, which acts as a gateway to Angel Falls, before being violently dispersed.

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