Venezuela

Armed Venezuelan soldiers caught in Guyana begging for food

FILE - In this July 17, 2016 file photo, a woman carrying a bundle on her head waits in line to cross the border into Colombia through the Simon Bolivar International Bridge in San Antonio del Tachira, Venezuela. An estimated 25,000 Venezuelans trek across the international bridge into Colombia each day. Many come for a few hours to work or trade goods on the black market. But increasingly, they are coming to eat in one of a half-dozen facilities offering the increasingly hungry Venezuelans a free plate of food. (
FILE - In this July 17, 2016 file photo, a woman carrying a bundle on her head waits in line to cross the border into Colombia through the Simon Bolivar International Bridge in San Antonio del Tachira, Venezuela. An estimated 25,000 Venezuelans trek across the international bridge into Colombia each day. Many come for a few hours to work or trade goods on the black market. But increasingly, they are coming to eat in one of a half-dozen facilities offering the increasingly hungry Venezuelans a free plate of food. ( AP

A handful of Venezuelan soldiers — armed and in uniform — were caught in neighboring Guyana last week begging for food, local police reported, another sign of Venezuela’s deepening hunger crisis.

Venezuelan police set fire to motorbikes belonging to the press, after police were targeted with an explosive device on Sunday, July 30, 2017. A group of around 50 journalists was reporting on the clashes between the national guards and anti-government protesters when the pro-government forces targeted their motorbikes at a corner of the Plaza Francia de Altamira, in the capital.

Guyanese Police Inspector Christopher Humphrey said he’d gone to the border along the Amacuro river, which divides the two nations, to investigate reports that the Venezuelan military was stealing food from locals. But the three soldiers he encountered — two carrying military assault rifles — said they had come to beg for meals and hadn’t harmed anyone.

Read More: Maduro mines propaganda gold in Trump threats

Humphrey said the men had crossed into Guyana on a wooden raft and seemed genuinely hungry.

“They were desperate,” he told the Miami Herald. “They were here for some time and they showed me a can of sardines and the place where they had cooked it over a fire.”

Hunger is on the rise in Venezuela, amid triple-digit inflation and the government’s inability to import basic goods. And neighboring Colombia, Brazil and Guyana have seen a spike in Venezuelans looking for food.

But Humphrey, who has worked in the border region for a year, said this is the first time he had caught soldiers illegally crossing.

Venezuela’s armed forces — which are key to propping up the Nicolás Maduro administration — have always been perceived to have easier access to basic goods. Lately, though, there have been growing but uncorroborated reports of soldiers going hungry, particularly at far-flung border outposts.

Venezuela’s military is under intense scrutiny for signs that its support for Maduro might be eroding. In July, a rogue police inspector lobbed grenades onto the Supreme Court from a helicopter, which did not result in injuries.

President Nicolas Maduro said a helicopter fired on Venezuela's Supreme Court Tuesday in a confusing incident that he claimed was part of a conspiracy to destabilize his socialist government.

And on Aug. 6, former National Guard Capt. Juan Caguaripano announced he was launching a military revolt named “Operation David” to “rescue the country from total destruction.” A week later, authorities said they had detained him and other “ringleaders.”

That soldiers would cross into Guyana is telling. The two nations have been locked in a centuries-old border dispute over a swath of Guyanese territory known as the Esequibo and are not on good terms. In 2015, as tensions escalated, Venezuela sent troops and antiaircraft missiles to the border.

Humphrey said he thinks the men learned that they can’t count on crossing the border for food.

“But that doesn’t mean some other set [of soldiers] won’t come back,” he said.

Follow Jim Wyss on Twitter @jimwyss

A police pilot accused by Venezuela's president of conducting a helicopter attack on the country's Supreme Court on Tuesday called for a rebellion against Nicolas Maduro's "tyranny". In a video released on his Instagram page, Oscar Perez said he i

Clarification: The original article has been modified to omit information pulled from second-hand sources.

  Comments