CARACAS, Venezuela – A Brazilian company acknowledged on Friday that it is supplying Venezuela's security forces with large amounts of tear gas to control anti-government protests — prompting outrage from the Venezuelan opposition.
Rio de Janeiro-based Condor Non-Lethal Technologies confirmed that it is fulfilling two contracts in Venezuela after opposition leaders presented what they said was a document showing the armed forces had purchased almost 78,000 tear gas canisters in April.
Opponents of President Nicolas Maduro say they've asked Brazil's government, which has been highly critical of the crackdown on protests, to block delivery of the gas. So far they haven't received a response.
"People are dying of hunger. The last thing Venezuela needs is to buy riot-control products," said Eudoro Gonzalez, a deputy lawmaker for the Justice First party. "The Brazilian government should adhere to its foreign policy fundamentals of respect for human rights."
More than 70 people have been killed and 1,300 injured in more than two months of protests seeking Maduro's removal. A few of those killed have died as the result of injuries from tear gas canisters fired onto protesters at close range or from excessive exposure to the toxic fumes.
Condor, in its statement, said that since 2012 it has faced fewer restrictions on exporting to security forces around the world and that there is no embargo on sales of non-deadly products to Venezuela.
"We don't make value judgments about the policies adopted by our clients," Condor said. "But we understand that suspending the supply of equipment such as tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets could have dramatic consequences because it would leave security forces with no other alternative than to use firearms."
Brazilian President Michel Temer has been among Maduro's harshest critics and last year led an effort to expel Venezuela's government from the Mercosur trade bloc. Maduro in turn has called Temer, who took over from the impeached Dilma Rousseff, a "political assassin."
Calls and emails to the Brazilian presidency, foreign ministry and defense ministry seeking comment were not immediately returned
AP reporters Stan Lehman in Sao Paulo and Peter Prengaman in Rio contributed to this report