The president of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, said Monday that 11 people have been arrested in connection with an assault early Sunday at a military post in the south of the country and said that some of those involved were in Brazil along with the stolen weapons of the installation.
The government has indicated that the assailants, including a Venezuelan military who defected to Colombia in February, had the support of Bogotá, Peru and Brazil, who have denied any relationship with the case.
“We have already captured 11 assailants (...) to the Brazilian government I say: Venezuelan weapons have been stolen in a terrorist assault, Mr. (President of Brazil) Jair Bolsonaro, and these weapons at this time, we have information, they are directed and they are in Brazilian territory,” Maduro said in an act from the government house broadcasted on official television.
Maduro demanded that the authorities of the neighboring country that the assailants who are in Brazilian territory be captured and the weapons of the Venezuelan armed force, returned.
The president said that among the detainees there are civilians and military treacherous deserters, but he did not give details.
Until now, Venezuelan authorities had reported six detainees for the incident that occurred early Sunday in a battalion in southern Bolívar state, in the south of the country and on the border with Brazil.
On the other hand, residents of an indigenous community in Bolívar denounced on Monday that the military arrested at least seven pemons and raided homes of members of the ethnic guard of that ethnic group in search of participants in the assault.
The arrests and raids occurred on Sunday night in the Kumarakapay community, said Olnar Ortíz, a lawyer for the non-governmental organization Criminal Forum.
Ortíz added that four Pemons from the community - located about 100 kilometers from the “Mariano Montilla” battalion, where the assault occurred - are missing.
It was not immediately clear whether the 11 detainees mentioned by Maduro were also indigenous.
All communities are being militarized looking for indigenous people who have been identified as perpetrators, without respecting due process and criminalizing all without concrete foundations, said the activist.
Hours before and in statements to state television, the Minister of Communication, Jorge Rodríguez, said that among those arrested is Darwin Balaguera, a sergeant of the National Guard who described as a February 23 deserter, in the midst of a frustrated Venezuelan opposition's attempt to pass trucks loaded with food and medicine from Colombia and Brazil.
The minister added that 120 rifles, nine rocket launchers were stolen in the assault and that most were already recovered.
The official channel transmitted images of Balaguera answering the questions of the authorities while lying down and with a probe in his left wrist, although the authorities have not detailed his medical condition.
Balaguera said he recently returned to the country by land after 12 days on the way from Colombia, through Ecuador, Peru and Brazil.
Brazil denies any participation in the episode, the Brazilian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Monday.
In a statement the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Colombia rejected the accusations of the Maduro government and added that it alerted the international community “in the face of these reckless accusations by a regime, which only seeks to distract attention from serious domestic problems being invented external enemies.”
Neither Maduro nor Rodríguez provided additional details about what happened in the battalion, located in the middle of a desolate and remote region that has become the scene of clashes of rival and military gangs and with different ethnicities for the control of the illegal exploitation of gold.