SAN CRISTOBAL, Venezuela – Venezuelan soldiers have opened fire on a group of civilians, who are trying to keep an open segment of the southern border with Brazil for humanitarian aid supplies, leading to multiple injuries and the first fatality of a massive opposition operation designed to provide international relief to this devastated South American country, according to eyewitnesses and the community
6:30 am on Friday, a military convoy approached control an outpost created by a local community in the southern village of Kumarakapai that rests on the main artery connecting Venezuela with Brazil. Venezuelan President Nicholas Maduro ordered the closure of the border with Brazil
When the volunteers wanted to block military vehicles by standing in front of them, the soldiers started firing at the machine, wounding at least 12 people, four seriously. A woman, 42-year-old Zoraya Rodriguez, was murdered.
The Trump administration, which supports the removal of Maduro, immediately condemned. "The United States condemns the murders, attacks and hundreds of arbitrary detentions that have taken place in Venezuela," a State Department spokesman said. "Together with the families of the victims, we want justice and accountability." (Vice President Pens, one of Maddoo's most powerful critics, is scheduled to be in Colombia on Monday for a planned meeting of the group in Lima, a consortium of Latin American countries, plus Canada, who called for Maduro's mandate.)
In the tweets, opposition leader Juan Guaydo – who was on his way to the Colombian border – said "in the Kumarakapai community, two soldiers shot the Pemonians who were at a checkpoint. As a result of this crime, 12 people and one dead were injured. Our solidarity is with them. He will not remain unpunished. "
In a separate tweet, he added:" To the soldiers: between today and tomorrow you will determine how to be remembered. We know you're with the people, you told us. You can demonstrate it tomorrow. "
At least 30 neighbors went out in the streets after firing, kidnapping three soldiers, according to Carmen Elena Silva, 48, who joined the barrier, and George Bello, a spokesman for the local population.
"The majority of people support humanitarian aid and we want to keep our borders open," Silva said. – It's help, not war. Every day more children die. "
Jorge Perez, a local councilor in Gran Sabana, the area where the city is located, said he was present when the soldiers opened fire. "Do I ask the armed forces, is it constitutional to shoot against unarmed local people?" He said. "Is it constitutional to kill indigenous people?"
A spokesman for the Venezuelan Ministry of Communications said she still can not comment on the incident.
Activists belong to the Pemones tribe, who joined the opposition's withdrawal efforts donated by the United States and other border nations on Saturday. The aid comes from countries, including the United States, who have asked Maduro to withdraw. The government has ordered a full blockade of aid and sent the military to reinforce the borders of Venezuela.
The incident seems the most violent confrontation yet in a deploying operation that saw thousands of volunteers trying to reach the border states to pull in the aid. Opposition leaders were afraid of more clashes on Saturday when volunteers would seek help across the border
This is an evolving story and will be updated.
Carol Morello in Washington contributed to this report.