Venezuela says its troops didn’t kill anyone


Venezuela’s foreign minister said here Friday that the military played no role in the deaths of two indigenous people near his country’s border with Brazil.

“What happened this morning has nothing to do with the versions that have circulated. In fact, some of the wounded are wounded by sharp weapons, machetes, even arrows,” Jorge Arreaza told a press conference at UN headquarters.

The weapons used “do not correspond” to those carried by Venezuelan soldiers, Arreaza said, denouncing what he called a strategy of blaming President Nicolas Maduro ‘s government for anything bad that happens in Venezuela.

“How easy it is, if there are some deaths in Venezuela - and more so if they are near some border - to say it was the Venezuelan army, it was Maduro who ordered them to kill his people, etcetera,” the foreign minister said.

Arreaza warned that the United States and its allies will try to blame the Maduro government for anything untoward that may occur on Saturday as supporters of Washington-backed self-proclaimed acting president Juan Guaido try to bring US aid into the country over the objections of authorities.

The original report of two deaths in the southeastern Venezuelan state of Bolivia came from an opposition lawmaker.

The deaths came amid clashes that began after Maduro ordered the closure of the Brazil border in a bid to block the entry of humanitarian aid, Americo De Grazia said.

“Rolando Garcia ... is the second fatal victim of (National Guard) Gen. Jose Montoya’s criminal operation,” De Grazia said on Twitter, adding that three other individuals had suffered serious gunshot wounds

He said 11 others had suffered less severe gunshot wounds and that all of the dead and injured were indigenous people.

Officials in the Brazilian border state of Roraima, meanwhile, told EFE that five Venezuelan nationals had been taken to a hospital there after suffering gunshot wounds in the clash in Bolivar.

The members of the Pemon indigenous group from the Kumarakapay community clashed with soldiers to prevent them from blocking the cross-border flow of aid, according to De Grazia.

Maduro refuses to permit the aid to cross the border, saying it is a Trojan horse and that allowing it in would open the door to a US-led invasion. He also has said he is considering closing the border with Colombia, where more aid supplies have been stockpiled.

Venezuela’s armed forces have remained solidly behind Maduro even though the US and dozens of other countries recognize Guaido as that country’s interim head of state.

A delegation of opposition lawmakers has traveled to resource-rich Bolivar to coordinate the delivery of humanitarian aid despite Maduro’s rejection of that assistance.

Donations of aid from the US and other countries are being stockpiled in Colombia and Brazil, as well as the island of Curaçao.

Longstanding political tensions in Venezuela were further exacerbated last month when Guaido, the speaker of the National Assembly, proclaimed himself to be the country’s interim president.

Venezuela’s opposition, as well as much of the international community, regards Maduro’s May 2018 re-election victory to be fraudulent.

Separately, Brazil’s government on Friday ruled out the possibility of military aggression in response to Maduro’s move to close the frontier.

“We have to see how the situation develops. What’s already been established is that Brazil will not take aggressive action,” Institutional Security Minister Augusto Heleno Ribeiro, a reserve general, told reporters.