Spain has decided to stop selling riot gear to Venezuela, where 39 people have died in anti-government protests since Feb. 12.
According to Spanish Newspaper El Pais, this was a decision taken unilaterally by Spain’s government as currently there are no international weapons embargos against Venezuela.
The newspaper said that the ban on selling riot gear to Venezuela dates back to March 6, but had never been made public. El Pais reporters found out about the new policy this week after searching through obscure government documents.
Human rights groups have repeatedly accused Venezuelan police forces of using excessive force against protesters, and dozens of videos of police abuse have been posted on YouTube since protests broke out in February.
According to a recent Amnesty International Report, more than 500 people have been injured in clashes between police, protesters and paramilitary groups in Venezuela. Two thousand protesters have been arrested according to the NGO, and only 66 have been released without charges.
The 39 deaths during protests include six national guardsmen presumably killed by violent protesters. And also a dozen bystanders killed by bullets, that came either from police, paramilitary groups, or violent protesters.
El Pais says that the government of Spain did not explain in its report why it decided to stop selling riot gear to Venezuela, but the newspaper added that Spain regularly subjects its military exports to human rights criteria, which might have led to the current ban on exports to Venezuela.
According to El Pais, the Venezuelan government was Spain’s top international client for riot gear, acquiring 2.6 million Euros [$3.5million] in contractual obligations in the first half of 2013.
El Pais says that Venezuela was purchasing crowd control defensive equipment from Spain like pepper spray and materials for launching “non-lethal” projectiles.
Dozens of Spanish companies own property in Venezuela, and an estimated 200,000 citizens of Spain currently live in the South American country.
“Spanish diplomats are acting with the utmost discretion in regards to Venezuela’s crisis,” El Pais reported. “They are aware of the delicate relationship between both governments, and the important interests that Spain holds in that country.”
Manuel Rueda is a correspondent for Fusion, covering Mexico and South America. He travels from donkey festivals, to salsa clubs to steamy places with cartel activity.