Mexico City, Mexico, May 8, 2023 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuela is demanding US authorities pursue a thorough investigation into the killing of eight people, several of them Venezuelan nationals, in Brownsville, Texas after reports emerged that the incident may have been deliberate.
“In light of this painful episode and the loss of lives of compatriots, Venezuela urges the corresponding US authorities to investigate the facts in depth and clarify their causes,” read the communique from the Venezuelan government. The statement specified the need to “rule out” a hate crime that could have been motivated by ”a culture of violence and intolerance promoted by extremist sectors of American politics and society.”
At approximately 8:30 in the morning on Sunday, a gray Range Rover drove into a crowd of men waiting near a bus stop in the border city of Brownsville, reportedly killing eight and injuring 10, some critically.
According to media reports, the men had recently left the nearby Bishop Enrique San Pedro Ozanam Center, a homeless shelter that also provides support to migrants.
“This SUV, a Range Rover, just ran the light that was about 100 feet (30 meters) away and just went through the people who were sitting there in the bus stop,” Victor Maldonado, the center’s director, told AP.
The identities of the victims have not yet been released but Maldonado told outlets that most of the victims were Venezuelan and were waiting to return to downtown Brownsville after spending the night at the shelter.
The driver, identified by police as 34-year-old George Alvarez, attempted to flee the scene but was apprehended by bystanders. He was later taken to hospital due to the injuries he sustained after the vehicle flipped. In a press conference, police said he had been formally charged with eight counts of manslaughter and 10 counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Brownsville Mayor Trey Mendez and police both indicated that the suspect is being uncooperative with the investigation.
Police have not said if they believe the incident was intentional and are receiving assistance from the FBI to determine if the crash was a deliberate act or if the suspect was driven by an extremist motive.
The nature of the incident, the migrant status of the victims, and the fact that it took place near the US-Mexico border has raised suspicions that the killing was a hate crime.
"We understand the motive is still under investigation. This horrific event comes after weeks of escalating anti-immigrant policy-making by Texas politicians and while the Biden administration considers imposing a new asylum ban aimed at deterring, rather than welcoming, migrants seeking protection,” Oni Blair, executive director of the ACLU of Texas, said in a statement.
Brownsville is expecting an influx of migrants when COVID-era restrictions under Title 42 expire on Thursday and has extended a declaration of emergency.
Rochelle Garza, president of the Texas Civil Rights Project, was quoted by AP saying that she hoped the incident served as a “wake up call” for state officials.
The Texas city has recently experienced an increase in arrivals of Venezuelan nationals that US Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said was “extremely challenging” and added that the reasons for a so-called surge were unclear. AP reported that as of last Thursday, 4,000 of about 6,000 migrants in Border Patrol custody in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley were Venezuelan.
Venezuelans continue to emigrate from their country, spurred on by an economic crisis driven by the US-led economic blockade of the country as part of Washington’s regime change efforts. In 2017, the Trump administration levied financial sanctions against the Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA followed by a full-fledged oil embargo in 2019. The measures, which have been largely kept in place by President Joe Biden, have crippled the country’s oil output, exacerbating an economic crisis and migration wave.
Despite the expiration of the COVID-era Title 42 restrictions, US and Mexican officials announced that Mexico will continue to accept migrants from Haiti, Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela who are turned away at the border.
After first being encouraged to leave Venezuela by regional leaders who backed regime change in their country, Venezuelans now face significant hurdles and xenophobia as they attempt to resettle elsewhere. The Nicolás Maduro government flew a group of 115 Venezuelans back home as part of its “Return to the Homeland” program Sunday. They had been stuck in limbo at the Chile-Peru border. According to government figures, 31,423 Venezuelans have returned home through the program.
Edited by Ricardo Vaz in Caracas.