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Post The Pemon Stand Up to Maduro's Guardia Nacional
Created by John Eipper on 03/05/19 10:04 AM

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The Pemon Stand Up to Maduro's Guardia Nacional (John Eipper, USA, 03/05/19 10:04 am)

[JE:  Once again, the author's identity is withheld by request.]

On February 23rd, when the humanitarian aid was stopped from getting into Venezuela through the borders with Colombia and Brazil, an epic episode occurred which should be pointed out and remembered.

On the border with Brazil in the Amazonian region, there is a small town called Santa Elena de Guairen. Near this town are several communities of Native American tribes, the Pemones. This indigenous people, numbering some 30,000, have been partially assimilated but maintain their own language, El Pemón, as well as their customs and cultural values. Their main activities are hunting, basic agriculture, trading and some minor tourist activities. They nonetheless suffer from poverty and a low standard of living.

The day the humanitarian aid was supposed to arrive, they stood up to the armed Guardia Nacional, just bows and arrows, spears and stones against rifles and armored vehicles, to support the entrance of the aid. Of course the result was casualties, deaths and wounded among the indigenous group. But before that happened, they were able to make the army forces retreat, and also took prisoners: a full squad together with a General in charge of the operation. This sort of David vs Goliath fight resulted in the entrance of the only two trucks with humanitarian aid into the country.

Their courage and determination to confront the regime is remarkable, and they deserve recognition and homage.

JE comments:  News reports say there were five dead and 25 wounded among the Pemón.  What bravery:  David vs Goliath indeed.

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  • The Pemon Death Toll (from Gary Moore) (John Eipper, USA 03/06/19 6:50 AM)

    Gary Moore writes:

    Thanks to the anonymous post (March 5) for alerting of the struggle
    at the Brazil-Venezuela border pitting indigenous Pemón people against
    the Venezuelan military. A quick preliminary search in English seems to
    show the English-language media sparse on this, and in Spanish my hits
    seem not to be as thorough as what John E has found. Again after
    only a quick glance, I've found only reports from Feb 23-24 saying 2 Pemones
    killed, then another hours later, plus two days ago El Universal saying one of
    the wounded has died in hospital, seeming to make four deaths?
    Can JE enlighten me as to where he's searching that shows five deaths?

    Also, I'm confused by the reports I did find, saying that the Venezuelan
    military was advancing on the Pemones. Wouldn't it be the other way round,
    if the Pemones were trying to facilitate the entry of blocked aid into
    Venezuela? Perhaps our anonymous contributor can point out some websites for overview.

    Is it my choice of keywords, or something in the media--or something in Google--
    that may be obscuring this seemingly landmark clash?

    Or is it just this: the flashpoint, Kumaracupay, Venezuela, is about 40 miles from
    the Brazil-Venezuela border near Santa Elena de Uairen, but it appears to be 7 hours
    by road from the nearest city to the north (Guayana City, via highway 10) and to
    the south, via highway 174, it's 14 hours to Manaus, Brazil--which itself is way up
    the Amazon. From Caracas the drive is rated at 15 hours. And I suppose this is if
    all goes well. Not the world's most accessible battleground.

    But not for Google Streetview (see attached graphic). It's not that the cumulative world
    of cyber-archiving is now as quick as human experience. In this case, it actually runs
    far ahead of what human eyes, coming on the snail-roads, can get to.

    JE comments:  I found the reference to five deaths in an on-the-fly search, but Gary Moore seems to have done a more thorough job.  Four deaths seems to be the number most widely reported.  Gary is correct that the location is extremely remote.

    In any case, greetings from Santiago de Chile.  We arrived early this morning after a long but uneventful flight.

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    • Pemon Death Toll: The Conflicting Numbers (John Eipper, USA 03/07/19 2:06 AM)

      [JE:  Once again, the author's identity is withheld by request.]

      This is in response to Gary Moore (March 6) about the number of casualties among the Pemón people during the February 22-23 events on the Venezuela-Brazil border.

      Let's start by saying that there is no free press in the country and for that reason the "official" news from the government is the only local source available, printed or digital, true or false, though it would be fair to say that stories are more likely to be faked than truthful. So according to government sources, there were no deaths and only a few wounded.

      You could find better news accuracy in the international media or the social networks. In fact, social media is the most common source for Venezuelans to learn about events in almost real time. Regarding Gary's question on the number of casualties and injured, the figures are in the range of 5 to 25 deaths, with more than 235 injured.  Moreover, it is said that more than 2000 Pemón people ran away to Brazil and the rain forest, and they carried away many of the injured because there were not enough medical supplies in Santa Elena. In fact, we knew that another of the injured died yesterday in the hospital.

      Furthermore, the uprising continued during several days after the incidents of February 23rd, causing more unknown casualties. To satisfy Gary's curiosity, here are a few links in Spanish:




      I appreciate very much the interest that John E, Gary M, Henry L and some others have paid to Venezuela's current situation.

      JE comments: The third link above reports up to 25 Pemón deaths, many of them far removed from the border region.  Gary Moore has correctly pointed out that the victim count in massacres can fluctuate widely, according to the interests/agendas of the conflicting parties.  Add politics to the mix, and it becomes even more difficult to reach a correct figure.

      Juan Guaidó arrived in Caracas to much fanfare and (so far) no arrest.  How much longer with the standoff continue with no more than isolated incidents of violence?

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      • Pemon Killings and Media Coverage (from Gary Moore) (John Eipper, USA 03/09/19 4:08 AM)

        Gary Moore writes:

        My thanks to the anonymous Venezuela correspondent (March 7) for the very helpful
        links to media covering the remote Venezuela-Brazil border clashes, pitting
        Maduro troops against indigenous Pemón residents.

        Another of many questions can
        now be added, too, to Google's "curators" who supplement the search algorithms
        in deciding top hits on given subjects. In this case, the useful media coverage was
        seemingly buried by Google's methods, and ambiguous smoke was packed on top.

        John E, now in Chile, pointed out my previous cautions on massacre death tolls,
        but it does seem that the string of Pemón killings (not a single massacre, at least
        as thus far proven) has brought at least five deaths, as JE originally said, with
        allegations of 20 more, none of those additions named or in any way seeming
        to be verified (perceptions of massed bodies without names often exaggerate).

        Bearing in mind the anonymous poster's warning about suppressed information
        in Venezuela, it might be best not to focus on a solid fatality number and concentrate
        instead on conceptuals--like what this says about the Venezuelan military,
        whom the international community and the White House were said to be trying
        to woo away from Maduro with the aid shipments in the first place.

        JE comments:  When do "mere" killings become a massacre?  Regarding the Pemón, the question seems to be whether Maduro has declared war on them or not.  If so, what could he possibly hope to gain with such cruelty?  Acts of desperation?

        (Apologies for yesterday's near-silence on the Forum.  We were extremely busy at the literature conference.  Today is already the final day of our too-short Chilean adventure, but I'll spend part of it catching up on WAIS.)

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