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President Maduro’s forces clash with Venezuelans in aid showdown

Soldiers killed at least one person, and the violence between the socialist dictator and his public could get worse.

Local residents get angry as the National Guard blocks the main highway to keep out convoys heading to the border with Colombia to try to collect the humanitarian aid that the government of President Nicolas Maduro is not allowing into the country, in San
Protesters face off on February 21 with the National Guard, who blocked the main highway in San Carlos, Cojedes, to keep out convoys trying to collect humanitarian aid.
Federico Parra/AFP/Getty Images

In an escalation of the crisis brewing within the country, Venezuela’s National Guard, who are loyal to the country’s embattled president, Nicolás Maduro, killed at least one person and injured several others during clashes over humanitarian aid.

On Friday morning, protesters from an indigenous community in Kumarakapai, a southern Venezuelan village, tried to block military vehicles from closing off the border with Brazil by putting their bodies in the way.

Maduro’s forces shot at the protesters, according to the Washington Post, killing 42-year-old Zorayda Rodriguez and injuring at least 12 others.

Thirty other residents joined the protest after the shooting, and eventually took three soldiers prisoner. “The majority of the people support the entrance of humanitarian aid, and we want to keep our border open,” Carmen Elena Silva, a protester, told the Post. “This is help, not war … Every day more children die.”

This latest incident shows that the situation in Venezuela is growing more and more untenable by the day. The country is currently in the throes of an extreme economic crisis and humanitarian disaster — and much of it is due to the leadership of Maduro, the country’s socialist dictator.

Inflation in the country now hovers above a million percent, and could reach 10 million percent this year, according to the International Monetary Fund. Food and medicine are too expensive for many to purchase. And since 2015, more than 3 million Venezuelans have left the country in search of better opportunities elsewhere, primarily in Colombia. (It’s expected that another 2 million will become refugees in 2019 alone.)

The US and other countries want Maduro to step down, and are backing Juan Guaidó, the head of the country’s legislative body and self-declared president. As part of that effort, they sent aid to Colombia and Brazil in hopes of providing relief to the impoverished and malnourished nation.

Maduro, however, has ordered Venezuela’s border with Brazil closed, and may soon shutter the Colombia frontier as well. He also ordered his forces to block the aid, saying that the assistance is tantamount to foreign intervention. He’s denied that Venezuela is facing a crisis in the first place.

Guaidó is currently leading a convoy of lawmakers to pick up the aid on Saturday. But Maduro’s forces have attempted to stop the convoy from reaching its destination, and some citizens have taken to the streets to help the lawmakers pass through the blockades.

Friday’s deadly incident shows that Maduro won’t step down from power without a fight and that there is potential for the violence to get worse. But it also reveals that there are many Venezuelans willing to risk their lives to push back on Maduro. It’s unclear where things will go from here.

Clashes between pro- and anti-Maduro forces are happening throughout Venezuela

Images on social media indicate that the anti-Maduro fight wasn’t isolated to Kumarakapai.

In Barinas, a city in Venezuela’s northwest, videos surfaced claiming that Maduro’s forces shot at civilians who were waiting to greet the Guaidó-led convoy on Thursday night. It’s unclear from the video, though, if anyone was severely injured, or who, exactly, shot their guns.

Also on Thursday night, a video was posted of shots fired in Cojedes, a state in Venezuela’s northwest. Again, it’s unclear who was shooting, but the video clearly shows people running away from the gunfire, with some yelling “hurry up!” as they fled.

Another video shows protesters forcefully stopping a National Guard member from jumping into a truck’s cab. They dragged the guardsman off the truck’s steps and pushed him away, with some screaming, “leave him [the driver] alone!” That allowed the truck to continue on its journey. It’s unclear, though, when the video was taken or if anyone was hurt.

These events raise the chances of widespread violence on Saturday, when the convoys reach the borders to pick up the aid. Clashes between anti- and pro-Maduro Venezuelans are expected, which means the events of the past few hours may just be a sign of more things to come.

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