Venezuela has arrested a deserted soldier among at least six people who the government said were responsible for an attack on a remote military outpost over the weekend.
The attackers stole weapons and killed one Venezuelan soldier at a military facility in southern Bolivar State.
Information Minister Jorge Rodriguez said in a state television address on Monday that Darwin Balaguera, a former National Guard member who deserted in February and fled to Colombia, was among six people detained over the raid. The channel broadcast video of Balaguera answering authorities’ questions in custody.
Olnar Ortiz, an attorney with non-profit rights group Penal Forum, said at least seven members of the Pemon indigenous group were arrested in connection with the incident. Ortiz said four other Pemon individuals were missing.
Authorities on Sunday blamed “extreme sectors of the opposition” for the raid. Venezuela, whose economy has collapsed under socialist President Nicolas Maduro, is undergoing a deep political crisis, with head of the opposition-held National Assembly Juan Guaido assuming a rival presidency.
Ortiz said authorities raided homes in the Pemon village of Kumarakapay near Venezuela’s border with Brazil on Sunday evening, searching for suspected participants in the raid.
“They are criminalizing everyone without concrete evidence, without respect for due process,” Ortiz said.
Rodriguez did not provide additional details on the detainees. The Information Ministry did not respond to a request for comment.
Rodriguez said the governments of Brazil, Peru and Colombia assisted the attackers. Brazil’s foreign ministry on Monday denied involvement, and Colombia’s foreign ministry said it rejected the “unfounded” accusations. Peru’s foreign minister on Sunday rejected Rodriguez’s “false statements.”
Guaido attempted to bring humanitarian aid into Venezuela on Feb. 23 through Colombia and Brazil. Those countries along with the United States and dozens of other countries recognize him as the country’s rightful leader. Maduro dismisses Guaido as a U.S. puppet seeking to oust him in a coup.
Troops loyal to Maduro blocked the aid from entering, but hundreds of Venezuelan soldiers defected to Colombia during the effort. Some have said they are prepared to take up arms to remove Maduro.
There were deadly confrontations between indigenous Pemon and authorities during the February aid effort.
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