He Guarded Haiti’s Slain President. And He Was a Suspect in a Drug Inquiry.

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — The commander in charge of guarding the Haitian president’s home quickly became a suspect in the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse last month when his security team inexplicably melted away, enabling hit men to enter the residence with little resistance and kill the president in his own bedroom.

But current and former officials say that the commander, Dimitri Hérard, was already a suspect in a separate case that the United States Drug Enforcement Administration has pursued for years: the disappearance of hundreds, if not thousands, of pounds of cocaine and heroin that were whisked away by corrupt officials only hours before law enforcement agents showed up to seize them.

Now, some international officials assisting with the investigation into the president’s assassination say they are examining whether those criminal networks help explain the killing. Haitian officials, including the country’s prime minister, have acknowledged that the official explanation presented in the days after the assassination — that Mr. Moïse was gunned down in an elaborate plot to seize political office — does not entirely add up, and that the true motive behind the murder has not been uncovered.

Haiti is a major transit point for drugs heading to the United States, and American and United Nations officials say the trade flourishes through an array of politicians, businesspeople and members of law enforcement who abuse their power. Now, current and former officials say that Mr. Hérard has long been a focal point of the investigation into one of the biggest drug trafficking cases the D.E.A. has ever pursued in Haiti.

detained in connection with the assassination. The president’s widow has angrily demanded to know what happened to the dozens of guards Mr. Hérard commanded, and why none of them were killed when assailants stormed her home on July 7, wounding her and shooting her husband dead on the floor beside her.

they said they were rebuffed.

“The port is an open sewer,” Mr. Greco said.

Van Williams, another United Nations anti-narcotics supervisor based in Haiti at the time, agreed.

“There was very little importance placed on the docks, which I found very strange,” Mr. Williams said. “Corruption in Haiti from the top on down is so rampant.”

report earlier this year. Only five people have been convicted of drug trafficking in Haiti, and the government did not classify corruption as a crime until 2014, the report added.

as the killers stormed the house, pleading for help. Phone records and Mr. Hérard’s initial testimony also showed that Mr. Moïse had called him at 1:39 a.m. on the night of the killing. But Mr. Hérard and his unit never engaged the hit squad at the residence, instead mounting a roadblock some distance away, according to his initial police testimony.

reprimanded the D.E.A. for its handling of the Manzanares case and for not doing more to clean up Haiti’s ports.

“I went through hell, speaking the truth and trying to do the right thing,” said Mr. McNichols.

Anatoly Kurmanaev in Port-au-Prince and Julian Barnes in Washington, D.C., contributed to this report.

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Iran, a Longtime Backer of Hamas, Cheers Attacks on Israel

The leadership of Iran, engaged in a long shadow war with Israel on land, air and sea, did not try to conceal the pleasure it took in the most recent Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Over the 11 days of fighting this month, Tehran praised the damage being done to its enemy, and the state news media and conservative commentators highlighted Iran’s role in providing weaponry and military training to Palestinian militants in Gaza to hammer Israeli communities.

Iran has for decades supported Hamas, the Palestinian militant group that controls Gaza and whose own interests in battling Israel align with Iran’s. Experts say that over the years, Iran has provided Hamas with financial and political support, weapons and technology and training to build its own arsenal of advanced rockets that can reach deep into Israeli territory.

But in the assessment of Israeli intelligence, Hamas made its decisions independently of Iran in the latest conflict.

sabotaging of Iran’s nuclear facilities. While Iran’s leaders have made no secret of their desire to punish Israel for the wave of attacks, they have struggled to find an effective way to retaliate without risking an all-out war or derailing any chance for a revised nuclear accord with the United States and other world powers.

So the conservative factions in Iran that had been urging payback for the Israeli strikes seized on a chance to portray the thousands of rockets fired by the Gaza militants as revenge.

a devastating response from Israel’s vastly superior military, whose airstrikes killed scores of militants, destroyed 340 rocket launchers and caused the collapse of 60 miles of underground tunnels.

While the Israeli strikes may temporarily set back the military capability of Iran’s Gaza allies, Israel’s international standing does seem to be taking a beating with cracks in the once rock-solid support of Western allies.

Iran watched in dismay last year as four Arab countries — the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco — normalized ties with Israel and declared Iran the biggest threat to regional stability. In the months before the Gaza fighting, Tehran lobbied intensely to prevent other Arab countries from following suit.

outraged Arab public opinion, could dim the prospects of any more countries in the region normalizing relations with Israel anytime soon.

hit civilian neighborhoods.

They celebrated the violent clashes erupting across Israeli cities between Jewish and Arab residents. And they felt that the Israeli strikes on Iran, including the assassinations of a top nuclear scientist and a leader of Al Qaeda, had been at least partly avenged.

“It feels like we had rage stuck in our throats against Israel, especially after the assassinations. And with every rocket fired, we gave a collective, deep sigh of relief,” said Mehdi Nejati, 43, an industrial project manager in Tehran who moderated a daily Clubhouse chat on developments in Gaza.

There was also much boasting on social media about Iran’s role in enabling militants to amass more advanced rockets.

While Israel will have to continue to contend with Iran’s influence in Gaza going forward, Tehran’s support for the militants there is just one of the many factors standing in the way of a longer-term peace, said Mr. Javedanfar, the political analyst.

“Confronting Iran is only going to be part of the solution for Israel’s challenge in Gaza,” he said. “A bigger part of the challenge can be solved with smarter Israeli policies in Jerusalem.”

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Cease-Fire Prompts Israelis’ Disappointment

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Sitting at a busy outdoor cafe and passionately discussing the news of the cease-fire with friends, Phillip Cohen, 60, an Israeli contractor, said, “It happened way too early.”

“We needed to achieve a decisive victory against Hamas — one that can really bring us greater quiet — but that unfortunately didn’t happen,” Mr. Cohen added. Pointing to the celebrations in Gaza, he said, “They were jumping for joy. They obviously have not been deterred,” suggesting the next round of violence was on the horizon.

Yaffa Balouka, 58, an officer manager, pushed back against Mr. Cohen, arguing that while she would like long-term quiet too, it was not a realistically achievable goal. “Either way, there will be another escalation or war,” she interjected. “If we can get some quiet now, we should take it.”

Others advocated a diplomatic solution and said Israel should focus less on war and more on fostering a peace process with the Palestinians. Though Israel, like the United States and much of the West, classifies Hamas as a terrorist organization, and Hamas does not recognize Israel’s right to exist, some Israelis said the government needed to undo the blockade it imposes, with Egyptian help, on Gaza.

The blockade, which Israel says is necessary to stop weapons smuggling, has contributed to an unemployment rate of around 50 percent in Gaza, where poverty is rampant.

“War is not the solution to the rocket fire,” said Assaf Yakir, 27, a political science student at the University of Haifa. He recalled feeling disillusioned after serving in the army during the conflict between Israel and Hamas in 2014.

“There was six weeks of fighting and nothing changed in the end,” he said. “It didn’t bring peace or quiet.”

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Colombia Rebel Commander ‘Jesús Santrich’ Killed, Venezuelan Officials Say

BOGOTÁ, Colombia — A prominent former commander of Colombia’s largest guerrilla group, who was known by the nom de guerre Jesús Santrich, has been killed in Venezuela, according to three senior Venezuela government officials close to the country’s security forces.

The officials, who requested anonymity to discuss national security issues, did not say how he died. The armed group he ran confirmed his death in a message on its website, blaming the killing on Colombian special forces, without providing any evidence. Colombian officials say they are still working to confirm his death, and did not immediately respond to the group’s allegation.

The rebel leader, whose real name was Seuxis Hernández Solarte, helped lead the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, before becoming one of the negotiators who struck a peace deal with the Colombian government in 2016, ending five decades of war.

He then turned against the deal, and returned to arms.

Mr. Hernández — recognizable throughout the country because he often wore dark glasses and a checkered scarf — was, in many ways, a symbol of the difficult balance Colombia has had to strike as it works to leave behind the bloody conflict that displaced millions, killed at least 220,000 and defined the nation for generations.

accused him of returning to the drug trade, a violation of the accord.

Following his detention on those charges and eventual release from prison, he vanished from public view, only to reappear alongside another rebel leader, Luciano Marín, known by the alias Iván Márquez, in a 2019 video in which they issued a new call to arms, arguing the government had failed to uphold its end of the bargain.

That announcement by the two ex-leaders was a further blow to Colombians’ hopes for lasting peace, with the agreement having already been undercut by failures by both sides to comply with its terms. The country’s countryside is still the site of mass killings, forced displacement and the recruitment and killing of children.

Critics of the deal said Mr. Hernández was proof that the FARC would never give up fighting, or crime, while supporters of the agreement pointed out that a vast majority of former fighters have indeed given up arms — and claimed that the Colombian government’s failure to hold up its end of the deal was helping to push some people back to the jungle.

Colombian officials have claimed, without providing concrete evidence, that Mr. Hernández was hiding out in neighboring Venezuela, where President Nicolás Maduro, the leftist rival of the conservative Colombian government, has allowed Colombian armed groups to take refuge and even flourish. Several Colombian groups have taken over drug smuggling routes and illegal mining within Venezuela, according to security analysts and people living on the Colombia-Venezuela border.

accuse him of working to produce and distribute about 10 tons of cocaine to the United States.

Julie Turkewitz reported from Bogotá and Anatoly Kurmanaev reported from Mexico City. Mariana Martínez contributed reporting from Caracas.

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Gaza Faces Humanitarian Catastrophe With Shortages of Water and Medicine

Sewage systems have been destroyed, sending fetid wastewater into the streets of Gaza City. A critical desalination plant that helped provide fresh water to 250,000 people is offline, and water pipes serving at least 800,000 people have been damaged. Landfills are closed, with trash piling up. And dozens of schools have been either damaged or ordered to close, forcing some 600,000 students to miss classes on Monday.

The nine-day battle between Hamas militants and the Israeli military has created a humanitarian catastrophe that is touching nearly every civilian living in Gaza, a coastal territory of about two million people.

The level of destruction and loss of human life have underlined the challenge in the Gaza Strip, already overpacked with people and suffering under the weight of an indefinite blockade by Israel and Egypt even before the latest conflict.

President Biden added his voice to the growing chorus of international leaders calling for a cease-fire on Monday night, but there was little indication that an end to the hostilities was near on Tuesday morning.

an economic crisis and political crisis.

Hamas won elections in the territory in 2006 and took full control in 2007, after which Israel put a blockade on the region, citing the need to curb weapons smuggling. Egypt, which shares a border with Gaza, also put in restrictions that tightly control the movement of people and goods in and out of the territory.

according to a report last year by the United Nations, is that Gaza has “the world’s highest unemployment rate, and more than half of its population lives below the poverty line.”

The latest round of fighting has crippled that fragile infrastructure.

Six hospitals and eight clinics have suffered bomb damage, according to the United Nations’ humanitarian affairs office, limiting medical treatment available for many people living in the region.

By Monday, Israeli bombs had destroyed 132 residential buildings and damaged 316 housing units so badly that they were uninhabitable, according to Gaza’s housing ministry.

More than 40,000 people have been forced into shelters and thousands more have sought refuge with friends or relatives, according to the U.N. humanitarian affairs office.

“Until a cease-fire is reached, all parties must agree to a ‘humanitarian pause,’” the office said in a statement. “These measures would allow humanitarian agencies to carry out relief operations, and people to purchase food and water and seek medical care.”

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Hundreds of thousands in Gaza face shortages of clean water and medicine.

Sewage systems have been destroyed, sending fetid wastewater into the streets of Gaza City. A critical desalination plant that helped provide fresh water to 250,000 people is offline, and water pipes serving at least 800,000 people have been damaged. Landfills are closed, with trash piling up. And dozens of schools have been either damaged or ordered to close, forcing some 600,000 students to miss classes on Monday.

The nine-day battle between Hamas militants and the Israeli military has created a humanitarian catastrophe that is touching nearly every civilian living in Gaza, a coastal territory of about two million people.

The level of destruction and loss of human life have underlined the challenge in the Gaza Strip, already overpacked with people and suffering under the weight of an indefinite blockade by Israel and Egypt even before the latest conflict.

President Biden added his voice to the growing chorus of international leaders calling for a cease-fire on Monday night, but there was little indication that an end to the hostilities was near on Tuesday morning.

an economic crisis and political crisis.

Hamas won elections in the territory in 2006 and took full control in 2007, after which Israel put a blockade on the region, citing the need to curb weapons smuggling. Egypt, which shares a border with Gaza, also put in restrictions that tightly control the movement of people and goods in and out of the territory.

according to a report last year by the United Nations, is that Gaza has “the world’s highest unemployment rate, and more than half of its population lives below the poverty line.”

The latest round of fighting has crippled that fragile infrastructure.

Six hospitals and eight clinics have suffered bomb damage, according to the United Nations’ humanitarian affairs office, basically making medical treatment impossible for most people living in the region.

By Monday, Israeli bombs had destroyed 132 residential buildings and damaged 316 housing units so badly that they were uninhabitable, according to Gaza’s housing ministry.

More than 40,000 people have been forced into shelters and thousands more have sought refuge with friends or relatives, according to the U.N. humanitarian affairs office.

“Until a cease-fire is reached, all parties must agree to a ‘humanitarian pause,’” the office said in a statement. “These measures would allow humanitarian agencies to carry out relief operations, and people to purchase food and water and seek medical care.”

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Yitzhak Arad, Who Led Holocaust Study Center in Israel, Dies at 94

Yitzhak Arad, who as an orphaned teenage partisan fought the Germans and their collaborators during World War II, then went on to become an esteemed scholar of the Holocaust and the longtime chairman of the Yad Vashem remembrance and research center in Israel, died on May 6 in a hospital in Tel Aviv. He was 94.

Yad Vashem announced the death but did not specify the cause.

Mr. Arad was not even bar mitzvahed when the Germans invaded Poland and what is now part of Lithuania in 1939 and began rounding up and murdering Jews and forcing them into ghettos. His parents and 30 close family members would perish before the war ended in 1945.

But he survived, at first as a forced laborer — cleaning captured Soviet weapons in a munitions warehouse — and then, sensing what fate awaited, by smuggling weapons to partisans in the nearby forests and forming an underground movement in the ghetto. He, his sister and their underground associates eventually stole a revolver and escaped, meeting up with a brigade of Soviet partisans.

Acquiring the lifelong nickname Tolya (diminutive for Anatoly), he took part in ambushing German bases in what is now Belarus and setting up mines that blew up more than a dozen trains carrying German soldiers and supplies. Among his exploits was a battle with pro-German Lithuanian partisans in fields and forests covered in deep snow in the village of Girdan.

“We fought with them for a whole day, but by evening none of them remained alive,” he wrote in a 1979 memoir, “The Partisan: From the Valley of Death to Mt. Zion.” “The next day we counted over 250 Lithuanian dead.”

A Zionist since childhood, Mr. Arad made his way to Palestine, then a British mandate, aboard a ship, the Hannah Senesh, filled with immigrants.

He changed his Polish name, Icchak Rudnicki, to the Hebrew, Yitzhak Arad, and joined the fight for an autonomous Jewish land, serving with the Palmach, the elite fighting force that was eventually incorporated into the Israeli Army after Israel declared its independence in 1948. Assigned to an armor brigade, he rose to the rank of brigadier general, retiring in 1972.

He devoted himself to researching the history of the Holocaust, completing a doctorate at Tel Aviv University with a treatise on the destruction of the Jews of Vilna, Lithuania’s capital, now known as Vilnius. He was among the first scholars to study the Jewish partisans in the forests and the ghettos and the systematic murder of Jews by killing squads as the German Army moved deeper into Soviet territory.

“What gave Yitzhak Arad credibility was both the fact that he was a survivor and a historian,” said Abraham H. Foxman, former national director of the Anti-Defamation League. “He could discuss and teach about the Shoah from a very personal perspective.”

When another Palmach veteran, Yigal Allon, became a minister of education and culture, he asked Mr. Arad in 1972 to lead Yad Vashem — which means “a memorial and a name” and is taken from a verse in Isaiah.

A complex of museums, archives and memorial sculptures on a Jerusalem hill, Yad Vashem is considered the world’s leading repository of Holocaust documents, survivor interviews and other material. He served as its chairman of the directorate for more than two decades, until 1993.

“He never forgot,” said Avner Shalev, Mr. Arad’s successor as chairman. “He was part of the most important event for Jews in the 20th century — the Shoah — and he understood that it is an important mission in his life to research and commemorate that event.”

For most of his tenure at Yad Vashem, the Soviet Union and the Eastern European countries in its bloc cut off diplomatic relations with Israel. But Mr. Arad took pride in having established working relationships with archivists in those countries and securing hundreds of thousands documents that detailed the scope of the Holocaust.

Under his leadership, Yad Vashem added a number of monuments, including the Valley of the Communities, 2.5 acres of intersecting walls made of rough-hewed stone blocks engraved with the names of 5,000 Jewish communities, most of which were destroyed in the Holocaust.

He lectured at Tel Aviv University and wrote several books considered essential for scholars, including “The Holocaust in the Soviet Union,” which won a National Jewish Book Award in 2009, and “Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka: the Operation Reinhard Death Camps,” which chronicled the murder of millions in those death camps.

In 2006, he was briefly the target of a war crimes investigation in Lithuania. A state prosecutor claimed there was evidence that a Soviet partisan band to which he belonged had killed 38 civilians, mostly women and children, in January 1944 in the village of Koniuchy.

Mr. Arad denied ever killing anyone in cold blood and pointed out that the village had been defended by a Lithuanian militia that collaborated with the Nazis. In the international outcry that ensued, historians noted that, at that point, Lithuania had never charged any non-Jews with war crimes despite the thousands of Lithuanians who had collaborated with the Nazis in the slaughter of 200,000 Jews. The case was dropped in 2008.

Mr. Arad was born on Nov. 11, 1926, in the ancient town of Swieciany, then within Poland but now part of Lithuania and known as Svencionys. (Another prominent resident was Mordecai Kaplan, the co-founder of Reconstructionist Judaism.) His father, Israel, was a synagogue cantor, and his mother, Chaya, a homemaker. The family moved to cosmopolitan Warsaw and sent Yitzhak to a Hebrew school. He belonged to a club that was part of the Zionist movement.

After the German blitzkrieg, his parents sent him and his older sister to live with his grandparents in his hometown, Swieciany, thinking they would be safe there. But the Germans occupied the town in June 1941, ordered all the Jews into a ghetto and soon began deportations to death camps and labor camps.

Mr. Arad’s wife, Michal, died in 2015. He is survived by two sons, Giora and Ruli, a daughter, Orit Lerer, 11 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren.

Mr. Arad remained active with Yad Vashem until his last weeks. Last year, he took part in a photography exhibition about Holocaust survivors and their lives after the war. When it was his turn to speak, he confronted the audience with a hard truth borne of his own ordeals.

“What happened in the past,” he said, “could potentially happen again, to any people, at any time.”

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What to Know About Gaza’s Rocket Arsenal

CAIRO — They smuggle the parts or make their own, aided with know-how from Iran. They repurpose plumbing pipes scavenged from abandoned Israeli settlements and components culled from dud Israeli bombs. They assemble the rockets underground or in dense neighborhoods that the Israelis are reluctant to strike.

Despite Israel’s vaunted surveillance capability and overwhelming military firepower next door, Palestinian militants in Gaza have managed to amass a large arsenal of rockets with enhanced range in the 16 years since Israel vacated the coastal enclave it had occupied after the 1967 war.

Hamas, the militant group that has run Gaza since 2007 and does not recognize Israel’s right to exist, has parlayed the arsenal into an increasingly lethal threat, as seen in the most recent upsurge of hostilities with the Israeli military. By Thursday, Israeli officials said, the militants had fired about 1,800 rockets.

The arsenal pales in comparison to the vast destructive powers of Israel’s air force. But to Israelis, the rockets are the tools of what their country and many others including the United States regard as a terrorist organization, embedded among the nearly two million Palestinian inhabitants of Gaza.

Michael Armstrong, an associate professor of operations research at Brock University in Canada, found a significant increase in the rate of fire. Using numbers from the Israel Defense Forces, Mr. Armstrong, who studies these weapons, cited 470 rockets fired from Gaza during the first 24 hours of the most recent escalation compared to a peak of 192 rockets per day in 2014 and 312 in 2012.

Hamas, he says, also launched more long-range attacks with 130 rockets fired at Tel Aviv late Tuesday, representing close to 17 percent of all fired until that point. In 2014 that rate was at eight percent and in 2012 at less than one percent.

“We still don’t know if Hamas has more long-range rockets, or if they are choosing to use their best stuff first,” Mr. Armstrong said.

Michael Herzog, an Israel-based international fellow at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy and a retired brigadier general in the Israel Defense Forces, said Israeli military and intelligence officials are now far more concerned about the abilities of the militants to produce rockets they once had to import.

“The focus of I.D.F. targeting now is on the production facilities so that when this round of fighting ends, there will not only be less rockets but also less production capabilities for making them,” Mr. Herzog said.

The Gaza militants have openly attributed their success to help supplied by Iran, which Israel regards as its most potent foreign adversary. Iranian officials, too, are not shy about their relationship with Hamas.

Speaking to a large gathering in May 2019, the leader of Hamas in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, could not have been more explicit in acknowledging Iran’s critical role in assisting Hamas.

“If it wasn’t for Iran’s support,” he said, “we would not have had these capabilities.”

Along with providing smuggled weapons and equipment, Iran has been focused on training to help Hamas upgrade local production, extend the range of rockets and improve their accuracy, according to both Palestinian and Israeli officials and experts.

“It is a huge improvement going from firing one or two rockets at a time to launching 130 rockets in five minutes,” said Rami Abu Zubaydah, a Gaza-based military expert, referring to the frequency of fire seen in the past few days.

“Most weapons are now manufactured in Gaza, using technical expertise from Iran,” he said.

While still having to rely on smuggling parts and raw materials, Hamas leaders say the group has engineered creative workarounds to overcome tighter border controls and surveillance.

A 50-minute documentary broadcast by the Qatari-owned television channel Al Jazeera in September showed rare scenes of Hamas militants recovering dozens of Israeli missiles that had not detonated in previous strikes on Gaza.

They brought the remnants into what looked like a hidden manufacturing facility, carefully extracted the explosives packed inside and recycled some of the parts. The same documentary also showed militants digging up old water pipes from where Israeli settlements used to sit and repurposing the empty cylinders in the production of new rockets.

Referring to the repurposed plumbing pipes, while speaking in another gathering in 2019, Mr. Sinwar said, “There is enough there to manufacture rockets for the coming 10 years.”

Nada Rashwan, John Ismay and Rick Gladstone contributed reporting.

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Armed Groups Step Into Venezuela as Lawlessness Grows

GUARERO, Venezuela — They bring drinking water to residents in the arid scrublands, teach farming workshops and offer medical checkups. They mediate land disputes, fine cattle rustlers, settle divorces, investigate crimes and punish thieves.

They’re not police officers, civil servants or members of the Venezuela government, which has all but disappeared from this impoverished part of the country.

Quite the opposite: They belong to one of Latin America’s most notorious rebel groups, considered terrorists by the United States and the European Union for carrying out bombings and kidnappings over decades of violence.

Venezuela’s economic collapse has so thoroughly gutted the country that insurgents have embedded themselves across large stretches of its territory, seizing upon the nation’s undoing to establish mini-states of their own.

brutal armed groups known as syndicates that dominate illegal mining manage the supply of electricity and fuel, while also providing medical equipment to clinics in the towns they control.

Along Venezuela’s 1,400-mile border with Colombia, the ELN and other insurgents hold sway. Just a decade ago, the town of Paraguaipoa in the Guajira peninsula had several banks, a post office and a court. All have since closed. The hospital is out of basic medicines. The power goes out for days on end. Water pipes have been dry for years.

proven oil reserves in the world.

“There’s nothing here, just slow death,” said Isabel Jusayu, a Wayuu weaver in the town of Guarero.

The tourists who bought her woven purses and hammocks have disappeared with the pandemic. Her family now survives by biking to Colombia to sell scavenged scrap metal every week. But Ms. Jusayu has been homebound because of a stray bullet that injured her during the recent gang war.

When violence broke out in Guarero in 2018, the police and soldiers largely stood by as criminals fought brutally over the smuggling routes, according to residents and local rights activists.

Gunmen terrorized neighborhoods just steps away from military barracks, spraying houses with bullets, they said. The shooting became so common in Guarero that pet parrots began imitating machine gun fire. Residents said their children were traumatized.

As the violence spiraled, entire Wayuu clans became targets. Magaly Baez said 10 of her relatives were killed and that her entire village, located along a major gasoline trafficking route, was demolished. Most residents fled to Colombia.

“We suffered hunger, humiliation,” said Ms. Baez, “listening all day to children crying: ‘Mami, when are we going to eat?’”

Residents spoke of massacres, forced curfews and mass graves that brought to their remote corner of Venezuela the kind of terror Colombia experienced during its decades-long civil war.

“As long as you stayed alive, you stayed silent,” said Ms. Baez.

Some people dared to report homicides, but it didn’t lead to charges, residents said. The crimes went unpunished — until the ELN stepped in to help last year, said Mr. Hernández, the Wayuu leader in Guarero. His account was corroborated by interviews with dozens of other Indigenous residents.

As the ELN took control, the fighting subsided last year, and refugees began trickling back. Street life resumed in previously deserted towns, and young men went back to ferrying fuel drums from Colombia on bicycles and motorbikes to resell in Venezuela.

In Guarero, when the heat cools at sunset, children once again gather at the soccer field where Junior Uriana, a 17-year-old, was shot dead in 2018.

His aunt, Zenaida Montiel, buried him in her backyard in a simple grave next to her son, José Miguel, who was murdered a week earlier. Ms. Montiel said she still didn’t know why they died. She was too scared to go to the police or ask for help, she said.

Now, things have changed, she said.

“A new law is here now,” she said. “I feel safer.”

Reporting was contributed by María Iguarán from Guarero; Isayen Herrera from Caracas, Venezuela; and Sheyla Urdaneta from Maracaibo, Venezuela.

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