Venezuela Updates: Tear Gas Fired as Tensions Rise at the Border

Venezuela Updates: Tear Gas Fired as Tensions Rise at the Border

Just after dawn in the Venezuelan border town of Ureña, locals defied the orders of the government and tried to storm a closed footbridge to Colombia, hoping to make way for humanitarian aid to pass through.

Members of the Venezuela National Guard fired tear gas on the group as they attempted to remove fencing and barriers blocking the bridge.

The standoff between stone-throwing bare-chested youth, many with their faces covered, and lines of military police was reminiscent of the large-scale waves of anti-government protests that gripped the country in 2014 and 2017, which left hundreds of people dead.


Security forces on Friday fired on a group of indigenous Venezuelans, who were protesting near the border with Brazil against Mr. Maduro’s decision to block aid.

At least two civilians were killed and more than a dozen wounded in the confrontation in the Gran Sabana area, according to Américo de Grazia, an opposition lawmaker from the state of Bolívar. The Gran Sabana area is inhabited by the Pemón, an indigenous community.

Ricardo Delgado, a Pemón leader, said the tensions that led to the confrontation began in the early morning when a military convoy tried to reach a checkpoint on the border as reinforcement. A group of indigenous protesters blocked their passage. The convoy left but later returned and the military began shooting at the protesters.

Later in the day, Mr. de Grazia and another opposition lawmaker, Olivia Lozano, said the head of Bolívar’s National Guard force, Gen. José Miguel Montoya Ramirez, along with a few deputies, were seized by indigenous leaders.

The lawmakers said in interviews that it was unclear how long the indigenous leaders intended to detain the general and his deputies. — ANA VANESSA HERRERO

For days, the humanitarian aid has been stockpiled on the Colombian side of the border with Venezuela, warehoused near a bridge in the major border town of Cúcuta. The Venezuelan authorities have blocked lanes on the bridge with tanker trucks to prevent the aid from being brought across.

Two competing concerts have added to the dramatic scene.

On Friday morning, thousands of Venezuelans streamed across footbridges to Cúcuta, to attend the opposition-supported Venezuela Live Aid concert organized by the billionaire Richard Branson. The event was aimed at raising money for food and medical supplies.

The presidents of Colombia, Chile and Paraguay attended the concert, rallying support for the opposition and calling for an end to Mr. Maduro’s presidency.

“Maduro is part of the problem and not part of the solution,” President Sebastián Piñera of Chile told the crowd. “Democracy is the solution for Venezuela.”

Despite the potential for a showdown and a strong military presence, the atmosphere in the towns bordering Cúcuta was somewhat festive on Friday.

Meanwhile, Mr. Maduro’s government has plans to stage rival concerts over the weekend on the Venezuelan side of the border.

Government officials declined to name any of the artists who would perform, saying only that 140 musical acts will be present. Buses of government supporters arrived in the area for the events.

Unlike similar government-sponsored events in recent years, the buses were only partially filled, underlining the government’s struggle to mobilize supporters. — ANATOLY KURMANAEV, ANA VANESSA HERRERO AND NICHOLAS CASEY

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