China warns against actions that may lead to violence in Venezuela
23 February, 2019, 01:26
Maduro denies any humanitarian crisis exists, and the plan to bring in aid is one of the most ambitious - and potentially risky - that the opposition has attempted since opposition leader Juan Guaido declared himself interim president in January.
Even as several million Venezuelans flee the country and those who remain struggle to find basic goods like food and antibiotics, the embattled president claims the relief effort led by opposition leader Juan Guaido is a USA orchestrated ploy to oust him from power.
Maduro has declared Venezuela's southern border with Brazil closed and threatened to do the same with the Colombian border ahead of a Saturday deadline by the opposition to bring in humanitarian assistance.
British billionaire and adventurer Richard Branson is sponsoring a Live Aid-style concert featuring dozens of musicians including Latin rock star Juanes on one side of a crossing that Colombian officials have renamed the "Unity Bridge", while Maduro's socialist government is promising a three-day festival deemed "Hands Off Venezuela" on the other.
Some political analysts said Saturday's showdown was less about solving Venezuela's needs and more about testing the military's loyalty to Maduro, by daring it to turn the aid away.
The convoy entered the indigenous village of Kumarakapay anyway, opening fire to clear the way and killing a woman, Zoraida Rodriguez, according to community leaders Richard Fernandez and Ricardo Delgado.
"If forcibly deliver humanitarian aid to Venezuela, once violence erupted, there'll be severe consequences that neither side wants to see".
Praising the countries who have taken in the refugees, the UNHCR said it was of the "utmost importance that the people in need of global protection can seek the protection they require".
There was no immediate information on the condition of those injured in the clash along the Brazil and Venezuelan border, but Gonzalez said they were taken for medical treatment after soldiers fired rubber bullets and tear gas.
The supplies are part of a package announced last month when the Trump administration recognized National Assembly leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela's legitimate leader and called on Maduro to step down. On Friday, Venezuelan soldiers opened fire on protestors along the country's border with Brazil, killing at least one person and injuring at least a dozen.
The bloodshed contrasted with the joyous ambience at Branson's "Venezuela Aid Live" in Cucuta, where Venezuelan and Colombian attendees, some crying, waved flags and chanted "freedom" under a baking sun.
"For those people who think Venezuela is a utopia and Venezuela isn't suffering they should really come here into the crowd today and ask them why they are leaving", Branson said.
The president of Colombia, Ivan Duque, arrived Friday in the border city of Cucuta, where he and his counterparts Sebastian Piñera (Chile) and Mario Abdo (Paraguay) will develop an intense agenda focused on the onslaught against Venezuela.
"You must decide which side you are on in this definitive hour", Guaido wrote on Twitter.