Venezuela: Assailants storm military facility, steal weapons – DW (English)

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A military facility and a police station in Bolivar state were attacked by a group that was reportedly led by a deserting soldier. Venezuela’s government called the incident a “terrorist attack,” blaming the opposition.

A military facility in southern Venezuela was raided on Sunday by unknown assailants, who were assisted by members of the Pemon indigenous group, local media reported. One soldier was killed in the assault.

The incident took place in Gran Sabana National Park, located in the large southern state of Bolivar. The park is home to the tallest waterfall in the world and has long been one of the country’s most important tourist destinations.

According to local media outlet El Pitazo, the operation was led by a deserting soldier. The group reportedly ambushed a military detachment and a police station, taking more than 100 rifles and fleeing.

It was not entirely clear how many people participated in the raid, but some assailants were captured by authorities, while others fled through the jungle with the help of members of the Pemon tribe, El Pitazo reported.

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A ‘terrorist attack’

The Venezuelan government confirmed that the assault had taken place. “Early today, a military unit was attacked in the south of the country by extremist opposition factions, with a large number of weapons stolen,” defense minister General Vladimir Padrino wrote on Twitter.

“It was in this terrorist attack that an army officer was killed,” he added. Padrino said six people had been arrested near the border with Brazil and were being interrogated.

Venezuela blamed the opposition for the attack, but also implicated neighboring Colombia and Brazil, as well as Peru, in what it saw as a wider plot against the government.

Though they provided no evidence, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza said the assailants were “mercenaries” based in Peru, while Information Minister Jorge Rodriguez said they had been trained at “paramilitary camps in Colombia” and had received assistance from Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.

A lawless region

Bolivar state has become an epicenter of lawlessness in Venezuela, due to widespread illegal gold mining and organized crime.

The area is also home to several of Venezuela’s indigenous tribes, including the Pemon tribes, which has had an antagonistic relationship with the government in recent years.

Read more: Venezuelan journalists report on their own survival

A deadly confrontation took place between members of the tribe and the army in February, when self-proclaimed interim president and opposition leader Juan Guaido attempted to force humanitarian aid into the country.

Venezuela’s indigenous communities make up roughly 2% of the country’s population and were once an important constituency of the late president Hugo Chavez.

But in recent years, they have been acutely affected by Venezuela’s humanitarian crisis and poverty, which have led many of them to engage in the illegal mining sector.

jcg/aw (AP, Reuters)

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