Are Cuban Special Forces Shooting at Venezuelan Protesters?
Eduardo Barreto isn’t sure if the armed guards that have been shooting at him were even Venezuelan.
Since joining his country’s protests earlier this month, the 20-year-old economics student from Valencia has been tear-gassed and chased by officers on motorcycles. He has watched his friends get shot in the back as they fled, and he was marching on the same street where student and beauty queen Génesis Carmona was killed last week.
He has little love for the National Guard, which the government has unleashed on protesters, but if he’s going to get shot, he’d like it at least to be done by a countryman.
“We know there are Cuban officers within our National Guard,” said Barreto, repeating widespread but unconfirmed reports that president Nicolás Maduro’s government might have tapped its island neighbor for help in protecting its Bolivarian revolution. “Can you imagine Russian officers joining the US National Guard to shoot at American citizens there? That’s unacceptable.”
Barreto says he has no doubt that at least some of the officers he has come across are Cuban. Early on in the protests—before guards started shooting at him—he brought them water bottles to cool off while they watched over demonstrators.
“They were in the streets standing in the sun all day, and I wanted to be friendly,” Barreto said. “One of them, when he thanked me, had a Cuban accent. I know a Cuban accent; I have uncles there.”
Venezuelan officials have neither acknowledged nor denied the accusations. But reports like Barreto’s have multiplied over the last several days, also fueled by Ángel Vivas, a retired Venezuelan general and government critic. The embattled former military man tweeted to more than 200,000 followers that “Cuban and Venezuelan henchmen” were coming to his house after Maduro ordered his arrest, according to several reports.
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