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1 dead, others injured as Maduro’s troops open fire on civilians at humanitarian aid checkpoint, report says

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. (Fabio Rodrigues Pozzebom/Agência Brasil)
February 22, 2019

This is a breaking news story. Please check back for updates as more information becomes available.

One person is said to be dead and multiple others injured after Venezuelan soldiers reportedly opened fire at the border with Brazil while civilians were apparently trying to keep a portion of the border open for humanitarian aid delivery.

The soldiers reportedly fired on the civilians when they started blocking their vehicles, the Washington Post first reported Friday, citing eyewitness and community leaders.

A convoy of soldiers reportedly went to a checkpoint in Kumarakapai, home to indigenous Venezuelans in the south of the country, and when the citizens tried to block the vehicles, the troops opened fire, according to the Washington Post.

In a video posted to Twitter, there is footage of a different incident where Venezuelan soldiers armed with rifles try to block a truck carrying aid:

The Venezuelan military has so far been loyal to now-former President Nicolas Maduro while the country remains in political turmoil and is experiencing a severe humanitarian crisis.

Earlier this year, interim President Juan Guaido swore himself in after the people of Venezuela urged him to take action against the Maduro regime. The U.S. and several other countries have publicly recognized Guaido as the new president of Venezuela.

Meanwhile, Maduro has ordered the country’s border with Brazil be closed, and he earlier this month blocked a highway with Colombia where aid was en route. He has also threatened to close the Colombian border, as well.

Maduro views humanitarian aid as an effort to overthrow him and his authority, and he has called the United States’ efforts an “invasion.”

U.S. President Donald Trump has warned against this.

He tweeted on Monday, “I ask every member of the Maduro regime: End this nightmare of poverty, hunger and death. LET YOUR PEOPLE GO. Set your country free! Now is the time for all Venezuelan Patriots to act together, as one united people. Nothing could be better for the future of Venezuela!”

“The people of Venezuela are standing for FREEDOM and DEMOCRACY – and the United States of America is standing right by their side,” he had also tweeted.

The U.S. Air Force has sent cargo planes to neighboring Colombia with humanitarian assistance, but it is unclear if those goods will make it across the border.

Venezuelan citizens had boycotted the last election, declaring Maduro’s re-election as fraudulent, while supporting opposition leader Guaido and urging him to assume the presidency.

President Trump had tweeted, “The citizens of Venezuela have suffered for too long at the hands of the illegitimate Maduro regime. Today, I have officially recognized the President of the Venezuelan National Assembly, Juan Guaido, as the Interim President of Venezuela.”

The controversy has grabbed the attention of Russia, who is an ally of Venezuela and has recently strengthened ties with them.