Venezuelan opposition lawmaker poisoned in Colombian border city

Venezuela's interim president, Juan Guaido, greets supporters from a truck carrying humanitarian supplies in Cucuta, Colombia, on Feb. 23, 2019. EPA-EFE/Mauricio Dueñas Castañeda

Venezuela’s interim president, Juan Guaido, greets supporters from a truck carrying humanitarian supplies in Cucuta, Colombia, on Feb. 23, 2019. EPA-EFE/Mauricio Dueñas Castañeda


Venezuelan National Assembly oversight committee chairman Freddy Superlano, who was in the Colombian border city of Cucuta to help oversee humanitarian aid shipments into Venezuela, was poisoned along with his cousin, Carlos Salinas, who died, the lawmaker’s press office said Sunday.

“In the city of #cucuta Cong. @freddysuperlano and his cousin Carlos Salinas were poisoned and Carlos died, the Cong. is stable, let us pray for his quick recovery,” the lawmaker’s press aides said in a Twitter post.

The Voluntad Popular (VP) party, of which Superlano is a member, said in a post on the same social network that the lawmaker was poisoned with scopolamine, a drug used to treat nausea and motion sickness.

Salinas, who also belonged to the VP, “did not tolerate” the drug and “died from poisoning.”

VP, a party founded by jailed opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, is the party of Venezuelan National Assembly speaker Juan Guaido, who proclaimed himself interim president on Jan. 23.

On Saturday, Guaido and Colombian President Ivan Duque, Chilean President Sebastian Piñera, Paraguayan President Mario Abdo Benitez and Organization of American States (OAS) Secretary-General Luis Almagro went to Cucuta to oversee the shipment of some 600 tons of humanitarian aid from several donors, including the United States, Puerto Rico and Chile, into Venezuela.

The aid shipments were prevented by the security forces from entering Venezuela, where the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates 3.7 million people are suffering from hunger.

Around 50 countries, including Brazil, Colombia and the United States, recognize Guaido as the interim president of Venezuela, an oil-rich country that is facing severe shortages of basic goods and is racked by hyperinflation.

Superlano said last Thursday that he planned to travel to Cucuta to help oversee the humanitarian aid shipements.

The lawmaker has investigated corruption cases involving members of President Nicolas Maduro ‘s administration that centered on kickbacks from Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht, diversion of foreign exchange and irregularities in the subsidized food program launched by the president.

Brazilian army spokesmen, meanwhile, told EFE that two Bolivarian National Guard (GNB) sergeants deserted on the Brazil-Venezuela border following the failed attempt to transport humanitarian supplies into the neighboring country.

The two non-commissioned officers deserted on Saturday and have been given refugee status in Brazil, army spokesmen said.

The two men are at the refugee processing center in Pacaraima, where the only official border crossing between Brazil and Venezuela is located.

Around 120 GNB members have deserted and requested asylum in Colombia, officials said Sunday.

The Brazilian government created a program last year to assist the thousands of Venezuelans fleeing the political crisis in their homeland.

The program is run by the army with the assistance of international aid groups.

Brazil tried to send a shipment of humanitarian supplies to Venezuela on Saturday, but it was prevented from entering by the security forces in the neighboring nation.

The shipment, which included supplies provided by Brazil and the United States, was sent from Boa Vista, the capital of the northern state of Roraima, to Pacaraima, located about 220 kilometers (some 137 miles) away.

The trucks parked for several hours in a neutral zone about 300 meters (some 330 yards) from a Venezuelan border post but never made it across.

Anti-government protesters attacked the Bolivarian National Guard post on the border with Molotov cocktails and stones, prompting the soldiers to fire tear gas at them.

The Venezuelan opposition said at least 14 people were killed and more than 20 others wounded when security forces opened fire on protesters Saturday in Santa Elena de Uairen, a city in Bolivar state on the border with Brazil.

At least 285 people were wounded in violence on the Colombia-Venezuela border, officials said.

On Sunday, Brazilian troops positioned themselves between protesters and Venezuelan positions to prevent additional violence.

Troops arrived in two vehicles and deployed along the neutral zone separating Brazil and Venezuela.

Guaido called on the international community to send humanitarian aid to Venezuela, a move that was rejected by Maduro.