Venezuelan opposition says violence flaring at country’s sealed borders

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CARACAS, February 24. /TASS/. Venezuelan opposition leaders reported that attempts to deliver humanitarian aid to Venezuela via sealed borders on Saturday resulted in deaths and injuries. The reports have not yet been confirmed by the country’s official government.

On Thursday evening, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered to close the land border with Brazil. On Friday, Venezuelan Vice President Delcy Rodriquez announced a temporary closing of three bridges connecting Venezuela and Colombia. These decisions were made in the wake of the reports of Venezuelan opposition aiming to deliver international humanitarian aid from Brazil and Colombia into the country. The Venezuelan government insisted that the aid must be delivered only in accordance with the international law, and vowed to counter any attempt by the opposition to deliver the cargo.

According to Americo De Grazia, a member of the opposition-controlled Venezuelan parliament, two people were killed in clashes with National Guard units on the border between Venezuela and Brazil. He accused law enforcement officers of using live ammunition against civilians.

“We are receiving reports about two people presumably shot dead in the region of Santa Elena de Uairen,” the opposition leader wrote on his Twitter page.

Earlier, the country’s privately-owned VPI TV channel said at least 14 people were injured in the same region. The injured were taken to hospitals, but their condition in unknown.

Alfredo Romero, who heads a non-governmental organization headlined the Penal Forum of all Venezuela, described the situation in Santa Elena de Uairen as “extremely serious, with four people dead and 18 injured by bullets.”

Later, he reported that Santa Elena’s main hospital, Rosario Vera Zurita, “is struggling to cope with the inflow of victims.” “A total of 29 people received gunshot wounds, some of them died,” the activist wrote on his Twitter page, adding that pro-presidential armed groups were “attacking the hospital.”

On the border with Colombia, Venezuelan police used tear gas against people who gathered at the Simon Bolivar International Bridge, a 300m long bridge across the Tachira River on the Venezuelan-Colombian border, VPI TV reported.

According to the channel, citizens of Colombia and Venezuela gathered at the bridge to assist the humanitarian delivery. No reports of casualties among them have so far been available.

At Urena, another bridge connecting Venezuela and Colombia, Venezuelan police set three aid trucks on fire, journalist Gabriel Bastidas wrote on his Twitter page.

“Three trucks were set ablaze at the Urena bridge after they crossed into the territory of Venezuela,” he wrote. “Volunteers lined up to save the cargo.”

According to VPI TV, at least 10 people who were near one of the burning trucks received various injuries.

Meanwhile, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza dismissed the events on Venezuela’s border as “propaganda show” and accused the governments of United States and Colombia of violating principles of the UN Charter.

“With the help of a propaganda show organized on the border, the governments of the United States and Colombia have violated nearly all principles and goals of the UN Charter. The international community is following the situation, and proper measures will be taken within the framework of the UN,” the minister said on his Twitter page.

He also noted that the UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) decided not to send their representatives to the Venezuelan border.

“The United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross are not taking part in the US and Colombia’s show at the border for one simple reason: this campaign pursues solely political goals and cannot be regarded as humanitarian,” Arreaza said.

On January 23, Juan Guaido, Venezuelan opposition leader and parliament speaker, whose appointment to that position had been cancelled by the country’s Supreme Court, declared himself interim president at a rally in Caracas. A number of countries, including the United States, Lima Group members (excluding Mexico), as well as the Organization of American States, recognized him as president.

Venezuela’s incumbent President Nicolas Maduro blasted these actions as an attempted coup and said he was cutting diplomatic ties with Washington. Among countries that voiced support for Maduro are Russia, Belarus, Bolivia, Iran, China, Cuba, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Syria and Turkey.

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