“It was 15 hours of fighting and no deaths,” said Freddy Bernal, the national government official, last Saturday 23rd in the Venezuelan state of Táchira, after the end of the clashes between the supporters of President Nicolás Maduro and supporters of Juan Guaido, the opposition leader.
The weekend was marked by tensions on the Venezuelan border with Colombia, where protesters opposed to the Bolivarian government tried to force the entry of “humanitarian aid” from the United States into the Venezuelan territory. The government of Nicolás Maduro accuses that the action is an attempt to infiltrate a “Trojan horse” in the country in order to pave the way for a military intervention. After hours of conflict, Guaido’s plan to break through the Venezuelan blockade failed.
Speaking at the Simón Bolívar International Bridge on Sunday, after the end of the conflict, Bernal congratulated the “people’s troops” for their battle and resistance in face of the different points of attack, and highlighted the role of the population and the ordinary workers who came out to defend their country. “Everyone here has contributed, beginning with the women who yesterday entered the middle of the conflict to bring water with lemon juice to our soldiers [to help them face the dry heat of the region], to the women and men who have resisted over 15 hours of clashes, paramilitary attacks and threats. “
Bernal refers to the 1,500 Venezuelan civilians who joined the military agents on the border with Colombia to prevent Maduro’s opponents from breaking through and entering the country with a supposed humanitarian aid from the United States. According to the Colombian government, the shipment included 90 tons of food.
Construction worker Oscar Contreras was at the front on Saturday. “We defended the border with our own hands, we didn’t use any type of weapon,” he said. He was on the Simon Bolivar Bridge every day along with the 1,500 Venezuelans who had been there resisting. “From the early hours of the morning, we, the people, with our own hands, our weapons of peace, defended the border and face the enemy in front of us. They wanted to invade our borders by an alleged humanitarian aid, “said the worker.
The young student Brian Leonardo Paolo had his face bruised by a stone thrown from the Colombian side. “I was defending my homeland. We want a free and sovereign homeland. We do not want anyone to intervene,” he said.
William Gomez, the mayor of San Antonio de Táchira, joined the population and spent the day on the bridge fighting with hands and stones. “As you can see in the images, we are an unarmed, conscientious people. At the Simón Bolívar Bridge, together with the security forces, we formed a team with the Bolivarian National Guard and the Armed Forces, we created different fronts to protect our bridge, “he reports.
After the clashes on Saturday, the day was relatively quiet in this region of the Venezuelan border with Colombia. Isolated violent actions took place on the Simón Bolívar Bridge, where a group of about 100 Venezuelans and Colombians sympathizers of Guaido, on the side of Cucuta, in Colombia, promoted acts of vandalism, and burned the tires of a truck that had been brought there the previous day to serve as a shield.
Hours earlier, demonstrators on the Colombian side dismantled part of the truck. According to the Venezuelan military, the dismantling was illegal and their intention was to sell parts in the clandestine market. At the bottom of the bridge, about 30 hooded men spent the afternoon casting Molotov cocktails and stones at civilians and the military guarding the site.
President of the National Constituent Assembly Visits the Border
Diosdado Cabello, the president of the National Constituent Assembly, visited Táchira and was on the Simón Bolívar International Bridge. Cabello, used to be in the military and is one of the political leaders who led the resistance against the entry of the “humanitarian aid,” because he considers it “neither aid nor humanitarian.”
The Chavista official said that Venezuelan officials had received calls from the White House. “The Venezuelan soldiers won a battle led by the very head of imperialism. Mr. Donald Trump made phone calls to Venezuelan officials, those with family members in the United States. He said, ‘We will block your wealth.’ But of what wealth is he talking about? Here we have a spiritual and moral wealth, as well as a wealth of dignity, “he said.
During the visit to the Simón Bolívar Bridge, Diosdado Cabello also spoke about the “radicalism of the Venezuelan opposition”. “We are facing the most reactionary sector of Venezuelan politics, but also the most servile one to the US Empire. Unconditionally servile. In Venezuela, the opposition has disappeared. No one any longer speaks of the Bureau of Democratic Unity. It is the head of imperialism that directs the actions in Venezuela, with his political actors,” emphasizes the constituent deputy.
Regarding another issue addressed by the Chavista leaders on the border, Bernal commented that the desertions of the Venezuelan military last Saturday “were expensive” to the governments of Venezuela and Colombia. “They organized a musical show that cost more than 70 million dollars at the border, but only nine deserted,” he said.
He also contrasted the US $ 20 million offered as “humanitarian aid” with the money spent on the mega-show, performed by artists from various countries, which cost $ 70 million, according to Venezuelan press reports. According to British businessman Richard Branson, who organized the event, the goal was to raise $ 100 million, but so far was there was no information on how much was collected. A webpage was created for people to donate.
On Monday (25), representatives of 13 of the 14 countries of the Lima Group, with the exception of Mexico, will meet in Bogota to discuss the Venezuelan crisis. Although the United States does not officially participate as a member of the bloc, representatives of the Trump government have been accompanying the meetings – this time Mike Pence, the US Vice President, will participate. Opposition leader Juan Guaido, who has been in Colombia since February 22nd, will also attend.
*Original article written in Portuguese by Fania Rodrigues