At least four people were killed and dozens more injured as the Venezuelan government refused to allow humanitarian aid from Brazil and Colombia into the country, blocking points of entry with National Guard and National Bolivarian Police officers.

Below, a quick summary of today’s events:

Starting at around the noon hour, aid convoys headed for the Venezuelan border in Cucuta, Colombia across the Santander and Ureña bridges, while another convoy from Brazil attempted to enter through Santa Elena de Uairen in Bolivar state.

Alfredo Romero, the head of the Foro Penal Venezolano (Venezuelan Penal Forum, FPV), said in a video statement at approximately 2:30 PM local time that four people had been killed and eighteen others had been injured in violence in Santa Elena de Uairen.

As of the writing of this update (9:00 PM EST time), the opposition’s plan to move aid into Venezuela has been largely unsuccessful.

The opposition has yet to announce its next move.

Fighting in Ureña Since Early Morning Hours

Venezuelan authorities faced off against demonstrators in Ureña in Tachira state starting in the early morning hours, making the town the scene of some of the heaviest fighting today.

In the afternoon, pro-government militias known locally as “colectivos armados” (“armed collectives”) took to the streets to attack anti-government demonstrators:

In the video below, one of the colectivo members fires his weapon in the air:

Three Aid Trucks Set Ablaze

El Nacional reports that that three aid trucks were set ablaze on the Santander bridge.

The trucks had attempted to drive into Colombia on the bridge, but were turned back by tear gas from Venezuelan authorities:

The trucks were abandoned. A journalist at the scene claims that the fires were started by tear gas canister fired near the trucks by the National Bolivarian police:

As the trucks burned, people tried to get the aid off of them lest it be consumed by the flames:

A video that appears to show two of the burning trucks:

At least some of the aid burned:

More images of aid on fire:

The video below shows some of the aid that did make it off the trucks thanks to the efforts of people at the scene:

Interim president Juan Guaido argued in a tweet shared on his personal account that hindering the entrance of the humanitarian aid runs counter to the Geneva Convention:

We continue to receive support from the international community, which has been able to see with its own eyes how the usurping [Maduro] regime violates the Geneva Protocol, which clearly says that destroying humanitarian aid is a crime against humanity [sic]

Colombia: 60 Soldiers, Police Defect to Colombia

Throughout the day, National Guard and National Bolivarian Police soldiers defected into Colombia by running across the different bridges connecting the two countries between the city of Cucuta and the state of Tachira.

According to Colombian authorities, 60 National Guard soldiers and National Bolivarian Police officers had defected into the country so far as of 5:45 PM local time.

The first soldiers to defect were a trio of National Guardsmen who drove two armoured trucks across the Santander bridge into Colombia:

In the video below, the trucks can be seen speeding into Colombia:

Three soldiers then exited the vehicles and turned themselves over to the Colombians:

At about 3:30 local time, three National Guard soldiers ran across the bridge where they were met by protesters:

Later in the day, a National Bolivarian Police officer also deserted across the same bridge. He told the media in Colombia that “80% of officers” in his service are against Maduro:

In the video below, four defectors stand in Colombia. One of them says “We recognize our interim president, commander-in-chief Juan Guaido. What we did today we did for our families, for the Venezuelan people”:

At one point, a demonstrator talked to a group of National Bolivarian Police officers on the Santander bridge. The man says “think about your relatives, your children… who can’t find medicine”. Some of the officers appeared visibly upset:

The video below shows three National Guard soldiers shortly after their defection into Colombia. The crowd is chanting “valientes!” (literally “brave”), as in “you were brave to defect”:

Some of the soldiers who defected met with interim president Juan Guaido in Colombia:

Maduro Dances on Stage at Event

Maduro participated in an event titled “In Defense of the Revolution”. At one point, in the early afternoon, he broke into dance with his wife, first lady Cilia Flores:

Questions/Comments? E-mail me: invenezuelablog@gmail.com

6 thoughts on “23.02.19: Up in Smoke

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