Colombian policemen stand guard under the Simon Bolivar International Bridge, in the border between Tachira, Venezuela and Cucuta, Colombia, on February 7, 2019. Ministers from more than a dozen European and Latin American states began meeting Thursday in Montevideo to negotiate a solution to the Venezuelan crisis as President Nicolas Maduro and opposition leader Juan Guaido clashed in Caracas over allowing humanitarian aid into the crisis-wracked country.
AFP/Raul Arboleda
Venezuela 'on alert,' closes Curacao border ahead of aid shipment
Roland Lloyd Parry, Maria Isabel Sanchez (Agence France-Presse) - February 20, 2019 - 9:09am

CARACAS, Venezuela — Venezuela's military said Tuesday it was on "alert" at its frontiers following threats by US President Donald Trump and ordered its border with Curacao closed ahead of a planned aid shipment.

Opposition leader and self-declared interim president Juan Guaido vowed to bring aid in from various points Saturday "one way or another" despite military efforts to block it.

But commanders doubled down on their allegiance to President Nicolas Maduro after Trump warned them to abandon him.

"The armed forces will remain deployed and on alert along the borders... to avoid any violations of territorial integrity," said Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino.

Regional commander Vladimir Quintero later confirmed media reports that Venezuela had ordered the suspension of air and sea links with Curacao and the neighboring Netherlands Antilles islands of Aruba and Bonaire.

Shipments of food and medicine for Venezuelans suffering in the country's economic crisis have become a focus of the power struggle between Maduro and Guaido.

Aid is being stored in Colombia near the Venezuelan border and Guaido aims also to bring in consignments via Brazil and Curacao.

A Brazilian presidential spokesman said the country was cooperating with the United States to supply aid to Venezuela but would leave it to Venezuelans to take the goods over the border.

Maduro says the aid plan is a smokescreen for a US invasion. He blames US sanctions and "economic war" for Venezuela's crisis.

'No safe harbor'

Guaido, the 35-year-old leader of the Venezuelan legislature, has appealed to military leaders to switch allegiance to him and let the aid through.

He has offered military commanders an amnesty if they abandon Maduro.

But the military high command has so far maintained its public backing for Maduro -- seen as key to keeping him in power.

"We reiterate unrestrictedly our obedience, subordination and loyalty" to Maduro, Padrino said.

Guaido posted a series of tweets calling by name on senior military leaders commanding border posts to abandon Maduro.

He has branded Maduro illegitimate, saying the elections that returned the socialist leader to power last year were fixed.

The United States and some 50 other countries back Guaido as interim president.

Trump has refused to rule out US military action in Venezuela. He raised the pressure on Monday, issuing a warning to the Venezuelan military.

He told them that if they continue to support Maduro, "you will find no safe harbor, no easy exit and no way out. You will lose everything."

Padrino rejected Trump's threat, branding the US president "arrogant."

If foreign powers try to help install a new government by force, they will have to do so "over our dead bodies," Padrino said.

'Pack of lies'

Despite sitting on the world's biggest oil reserves, Venezuela is gripped by a humanitarian crisis, with a shortage of food and medicine.

It has suffered four years of recession marked by hyperinflation that the International Monetary Fund says will reach 10 million percent this year.

An estimated 2.3 million Venezuelans have left the country since 2015.

Guaido says 300,000 people face death without the aid but Maduro denies there is a humanitarian crisis.

Padrino said the military would not be "blackmailed" by "a pack of lies and manipulations."

Maduro said that 300 tonnes of Russian aid would reach Venezuela on Wednesday. He previously announced the arrival of goods from China, Cuba and Russia, his main international allies.

In a series of tweets, Guaido urged supporters to write to the generals "from the heart, with arguments, without violence, without insults," to win them over.

Battle of the bands

Guaido says he has enlisted the support of 700,000 people to help bring in the aid on Saturday and is aiming for a million in total.

He thanked Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Spain for pledging "more than $18 million for the humanitarian aid."

British entrepreneur Richard Branson said he will hold a pro-aid concert just over the border in Colombia on Friday.

British rock star Peter Gabriel and Colombian pop singer Carlos Vives are among those scheduled to perform.

Former Pink Floyd singer Roger Waters weighed in on Maduro's side in a video broadcast on Venezuelan state media, criticizing Branson and Gabriel and said the aid was being politicized.

Maduro's government plans to stage a rival concert on its side of the border.

CURACAO VENEZUELA
As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: July 17, 2019 - 10:02am

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro accuses Colombia of being behind an "attack" with an explosive-laden drone he said targeted him on Saturday (Sunday, Manila time).

Speaking shortly after state television showed him cut off mid-speech in front of a Caracas military parade by a bang, Maduro says a "flying object exploded in front of me" and blamed the incident on Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos.

"It was an attack to kill me, they tried to assassinate me today," Maduro says in a state broadcast. "I have no doubt that the name Juan Manuel Santos is behind this attack." — AFP

July 17, 2019 - 10:02am

Starved of advertising revenue and battling a stranglehold on the newspaper industry by the government, Venezuela's independent media have been decimated by the country's years-long crisis — with many migrating online to survive.

"It was a course we couldn't get away from," Jorge Makriniotis, manager at the 75-year-old El Nacional, told AFP.

The newspaper ran its last physical edition — which had already dropped from 72 to just 16 pages  on December 13 last year.

Like many other former print media, it is only available on the internet now.

In 2013, Venezuela's socialist government created a state-run company to control the import and distribution of paper.

Carlos Correa, director of the Espacio Publico non-governmental organization, said the move created "discriminatory dynamics" that saw pro-regime media favored  while others were starved of printing paper, and advertising revenue.

Since then, 58 daily newspapers have ceased circulation, Correa says. — Agence France-Presse

July 12, 2019 - 10:39am

Venezuela's government and opposition have agreed to set up a platform for ongoing negotiations to resolve the country's simmering political crisis after three days of talks in Barbados, mediator nation Norway said Thursday.

Representatives of President Nicolas Maduro and opposition leader Juan Guaido met from Monday to Wednesday in the Caribbean island nation for negotiations, which Maduro has hailed as successful.

The Barbados talks were an extension of the first round of negotiations in Oslo in May, which ended with no concrete advances. — AFP

July 5, 2019 - 6:32pm

The UN human rights chief laments the erosion of rule of law in Venezuela, pointing to attacks on political opponents and activists, including using torture and killings.

"Essential institutions and the rule of law in Venezuela have been eroded," Michelle Bachelet tells the UN Human Rights Council.

She was presenting a damning report published late Thursday, following her visit to the troubled South American Country last month.

The report pointed out that, according to a count by Caracas, nearly 7,000 people have been killed during security operations in Venezuela in the past year and a half. — AFP

July 3, 2019 - 8:49am

Venezuela's opposition leader Juan Guaido says there were no plans to re-open talks with the "murderous dictatorship" of President Nicolas Maduro, following the death of an officer in custody over an alleged coup plot.

"For democrats, there is never a time to negotiate with hostage-takers, human rights abusers, or with a dictatorship," Guaido says. "We are facing a deadly dictatorship."

He tells reporters that if fresh talks aimed at "facilitating the cessation of the usurpation" of Maduro was announced, "we will officially communicate."

Guaido, who has been recognized by more than 50 countries as interim president, is speaking as lawmakers of the opposition-controlled National Assembly met to discuss the suspicious death of retired naval officer Rafael Acosta Arevalo. — AFP

June 27, 2019 - 8:05am

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro warns he will be "ruthless" with the opposition if they attempt a coup d'etat, after his government says it had thwarted a plot to assassinate him.

"We would be ruthless in a revolutionary counter-offensive against a attempted fascist coup — ruthless!" an agitated Maduro says in an address broadcast nationwide on radio and television. — AFP

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