The Brazilian government has suspended sales of tear gas to Venezuela amid increasing police violence, Reuters has reported.
In a move that will further isolate Venezuela’s socialist dictator Nicolás Maduro, Brazil’s Defense Ministry and Ministry of Foreign Relations reached the decision to halt sales after appeals from the country’s opposition.
On Friday, the Brazilian Defense Ministry confirmed it had canceled a shipment of gas canisters in April intended for the Venezuelan military, produced by the non-lethal weaponry company Condor Tecnologias Não-Letais, although it did not provide a reason for the decision.
Condor has since confirmed it still has two ongoing contracts with the Venezuelan military but would not discuss their status. The company, which has previously received criticism for arming the militaries of Turkey and Bahrain, claimed that it did not consider the political leanings of their customers and warned that blocking their exports could “have dramatic consequences, since there may be no alternative for security forces other than using firearms.”
However, sources close to the decision told Reuters that “the (Brazilian) government decided to accept the opposition’s request because there’s a massacre in Venezuela,” while another government official said that the exporting of any other crowd control equipment would also be suspended.
“(Brazil) did absolutely the correct thing in denying permission for the shipment,” said opposition leader Henrique Capriles, who still serves as the governor of Miranda. “We’re working on the others, the only (holdout) seems to be China.”
Meanwhile, opposition politician Jorge Millán also celebrated the decision, confirming that leaders had made multiple requests to stop Brazil providing “tools for repression.”
“We discovered that there were advanced negotiations for the purchase of material in Brazil and made a specific complaint,” Millán told O Globo.
The decision comes amidst increasing police and military violence across Venezuela, as anti-government protesters ratchet up the size and scale of their demonstrations calling for an election and as Maduro seeks to tighten his grip on power by rewriting the countries constitution.
On Monday, Latin American leaders met for a summit in Cancun, Mexico, to discuss the escalating crisis, although they have yet to reach a consensus on the next steps to take.
So far, an estimated 90 protesters have been killed since daily protests began in late March, as police use water cannons, rubber bullets, and smoke bombs to contain protesters. Images from inside the country have shown increasing police brutality. Last week, a 14-year-old boy was “run over and tortured” by an armored vehicle driven by the Venezuelan National Guard in the city of Mérida. An audio recording obtained by the Miami Herald revealed a military general suggesting that police should start using sniper rifles to contain the protests.
As many as eight Latin American countries have now signed a letter condemning an “excessive use of force by Venezuelan authorities against civilians who are protesting government measures that affect democratic stability and cause the loss of human life.”