Undercover agents of the Nicolás Maduro regime kidnapped on Saturday an exiled Venezuelan businessman in the Brazilian border town of Pacaraima, shooting him in a leg and then forcing him into an SUV to cross clandestinely into Venezuelan territory, in an operation that failed in the end when the truck got stuck in the mud, area residents and the local press reported.
People close to businessman Andrés Antonio Fernández, owner of a Brazilian radio station that is critical of Maduro, said they fear that the frustrated attempt is only the first in a series of similar actions to be perpetrated against people perceived as enemies of the regime on the other side of the border.
“They have orders to take dead or alive people that have been taking actions against that government,” a person close to Fernández told el Nuevo Herald on condition of anonymity. In this case, “they were unable to take him away because the community of Santa Elena de Uairén,” on the Venezuelan side of the border, “came out to save him when the truck got stuck” in the dirt.
The Venezuelan businessman, known in the area as Toño, was abducted in front of his residence by five armed men who spoke Spanish and who were traveling in a black truck.
“They assaulted him and tried to take him away by force. They tried to inject him with a liquid, whose makeup is unknown, but they were not able to do it,” reported Fernández’ s radio station, Cumache. “Once the victim resisted, they shot him in the leg and put him in the vehicle.”
The syringe is currently in the possession of the Brazilian police, the station added.
Security videos obtained by the Nuevo Herald show the struggle in front of the businessman’s residence. One of the men in the operation appears to be wearing a police uniform, although it is not clear from which police department, while the others wore in shorts and dark colored shirts.
The men, later identified by the Brazilian press as agents or hired men of the Venezuelan government’s Bolivarian National Intelligence Service, later reached the border through a dirt trail and managed to enter Venezuela by running over a wire fence, but their vehicle got stuck in the mud soon after.
Sources said that the abductors ended up letting Fernandez go after area residents from both sides of the border began surrounding the truck and began demanding they free their prisoner.
There was pushing and shoving, and there was a Venezuelan military vehicle that had been waiting for them 50 meters away, but they did not intervene, Pableysa Ostos, a reporter for the Venezuelan newspaper El Nacional, said on her Twitter account. She was among the first to report the attempted abduction.
Fernández is wanted by the regime on charges of money laundering. But sources said those are trumped-up charges used by the regime to confiscate his gold mines, which were later placed under the direct control of Maduro’s family.
Now they are seeking to imprison or eliminate him for the support he provides to dissidents and members of the Venezuelan military that defected and now live in exile in Brazil. They also want to silence his radio station, the source close to him told el Nuevo Herald.
“He is a leader in this community,” said the source close to Fernández, “and is among the most sought after by people who want to act against the regime because he is a businessman.”
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