Venezuela releases 12 Pemon indigenous people accused of assault on a military post: NGO

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela on Saturday released 12 Pemon indigenous people who had been detained more than a year ago for an assault on a remote military post on the country’s southern border with Brazil, the leader of a nongovernmental human rights organization said.

The people were detained in an operation in the Kumarakapay community, hours after the incident at a battalion in Bolivar state in 2019. The government said at the time that the detainees were civilians and soldiers, and that some had fled to Brazil with stolen weapons.

“Thirteen indigenous people who are not related to the assault were arrested. It was a military rebellion,” Alfredo Romero, president of human rights group Foro Penal, said in an interview.

“They were subjected to torture and disappearance and were later taken to the DGCIM (General Directorate of Military Counterintelligence) in Caracas,” said the lawyer, adding that one of the detainees died in prison last month of severe malnutrition and tuberculosis, and did not receive medical help.

The group must still present themselves to the court and follow measures restricting their movement, Romero said.

Venezuelan’s information ministry did not respond to a request for comment.

President Nicolas Maduro’s government said in 2019 that the people who participated in the assault, including a Venezuelan soldier who defected to Colombia in February of that year, had the support of Bogota, Peru and Brazil, which have denied any involvement in the case.

In February 2019, there were deadly confrontations between indigenous Pemon and authorities when the indigenous group said troops loyal to Maduro blocked aid from entering the country.

Reporting by Deisy Buitrago; writing by Sarah Kinosian; editing by Jonathan Oatis