Maduro blocks aid to crisis-stricken nation

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Cucuta (Colombia), Feb 8 (IANS) The government of embattled Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has blocked a bridge on the Colombia-Venezuela border amid rising tensions over opposition plans to bring humanitarian aid into the country.

Venezuela’s opposition leader and self-declared president, Juan Guaido, last week named the Colombian border town of Cucuta as one of three collection points for the delivery of international aid.

His move ramped up tensions with Maduro’s government even as many in Venezuela remain in desperate need of food and medical supplies, CNN reported.

Maduro has rejected the international aid, saying: “We are not beggars.”

Guaido on Thursday said he was confident his efforts to bring humanitarian aid into the country would work out.

“We will succeed in letting the humanitarian aid in, because it’s about saving lives,” Guaido posted on his official Twitter feed. “While we work every day to reach the delivery of humanitarian aid, they insist in siphoning the medicines and food from those who urgently need it.”

Colombian officials and a CNN photojournalist at the scene confirmed the presence of the blockade, which would effectively prevent humanitarian aid from reaching Venezuela via this route.

Juan Caicedo, a spokesperson from Migration Colombia, Colombia’s Ministry of Immigration and Immigration Control, said the Venezuelan military put the blockade into place Tuesday afternoon, adding that there are cameras monitoring activity on the bridge.

It’s possible the Venezuelan government fears aid crossing the border could be used as cover for an invasion to depose Maduro.

Guaido called Wednesday on the conscience of Venezuela’s military — which has so far been loyal to the government — to permit aid into the country from Colombia, which is run by a right-wing government critical of Maduro.

“Brother, let the aid in. Do not stop it,” he said, appealing to members of the country’s armed forces while speaking at a meeting with farmers in Caracas. “The end of the usurpation will be the end of hunger,” he added, as he called for Venezuelans to reject the Maduro government.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also urged Venezuela to open the bridge, tweeting that “the Maduro regime must let the aid reach the starving people.”

–IANS

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