The tension in Venezuela spilled over into violence along the Venezuela-Brazilian border that left four people dead and at least 24 wounded. With the nation, once a beacon of so-called 21stCentury Socialism, now in economic shambles, President Nicolas Maduro, successor to the late Hugo Chavez, is facing calls to step down. The nation is broke, people are starving, and there’s a lack of basic supplies. People of all economic background are now resorting to prostitution for groceries. The far left contingent thinks that the U.S. is orchestrating all of the economic distress. As for humanitarian aid, Maduro’s government is blocking it. On a bridge along the Colombian-Venezuela border, shipping containers have blocked the lanes, with security forces standing guard. The U.S. and several other nations have recognized opposition leader Juan Guaido as the leader of the country.
Now, pro-Maduro militias have opened fire at this frontier border crossing over humanitarian aid. Maduro said that he’s cutting off diplomatic ties with Colombia (via WaPo):
In Santa Elena de Guairen on Venezuela’s frontier with Brazil, four people died from bullet wounds on Saturday after irregular pro-government militias known as colectivos opened fire. The violence also left 24 injured, according to Foro Penal, a legal non-profit group that tracks violence in Venezuela. “We’ve been told colectivos shot at people at the border and the situation is grave,” said the group’s director, Alfredo Romero, who said the organization had a team on the ground.
Maduro declared that he is breaking diplomatic relations with Colombia, which has called for his ouster and thrown its support to Guaidó. Maduro ordered Colombian diplomats to leave Caracas within 24 hours.
The sound of rapid gunfire echoed near the Simón Bolívar bridge, where Venezuelan authorities also shot volleys of tear gas. Medics near the bridge were treating dozens of people from tear gas inhalation and the stampede that retreated when canisters were fired. Sporadic gunfire could be heard in other zones near the western border. Opposition leaders on the Brazilian border also reported the live fire by security forces.
Saturday’s operation has been billed by the opposition and its allies in the Trump administration as a pivotal moment in its bid to topple Maduro’s socialists. The attempts to haul in aid from neighboring nations are meant to test the military’s loyalty by encouraging the armed forces to disobey Maduro’s order to keep the aid out.
At one border crossing blocked by Maduro’s forces — the Simón Bolívar bridge linking Colombia and Venezuela — the opposition plan to divide Maduro’s military began to take shape with four members of the Venezuela National Guard abandoning their posts. They walked across the border as members of the Colombian armed forces wrapped fraternal arms around them.
Opposition leader Guaido is in Colombia right now, defying a travel ban order and risks being arrested upon his return to Venezuela.