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.
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: March 9, 2019 - 2:35pm

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

March 9, 2019 - 2:35pm

Thousands of Venezuelans are expected to protest once again as opposition leader Juan Guaido cranks up the pressure on beleaguered President Nicolas Maduro -- in the midst of a sweeping electricity blackout that has crippled the crisis-wracked country. 

Both Guaido and Maduro, who are locked in a bitter power struggle for the right to lead the oil-rich South American nation, have asked their supporters to fill the streets of Caracas and other cities. — AFP

March 9, 2019 - 11:22am

Venezuela's government struggles to cope with a massive electricity blackout that paralyzed much of the country as President Nicolas Maduro blamed the chaos on US sabotage.

Even by the standards of crisis-weary Venezuelans, the power cut -- which began late Thursday -- was one of the longest and most widespread in memory, heightening tensions in Maduro's power struggle with his US-backed rival, opposition leader Juan Guaido. — AFP

March 4, 2019 - 7:40am

Opposition leader Juan Guaido calls for mass protests across Venezuela against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Monday as he announced his return after a week touring Latin American allies.

His reappearance in Venezuela would pose an immediate challenge to the embattled Maduro, who will have to decide whether to arrest him for defying a travel ban -- thereby provoking strong international condemnation -- or allow him to enter unmolested, which would undermine his authority, analyst say.

"I'm announcing my return to the country. I am calling on the Venezuelan people to mobilize all over the country tomorrow at 11:00 am (1500 GMT)," Guaido wrote Sunday on Twitter.

Guaido, who has been recognized by more than 50 countries as Venezuela's interim president, did not say how or when he would return, though speculation is rife that a flight from the Colombian capital Bogota to Caracas is the most likely route. -- Agence France-Presse

March 2, 2019 - 5:20pm

The United States and Russia clash Friday over how to assist crisis-wracked Venezuela, with Moscow pledging new relief channeled through President Nicolas Maduro and Washington slapping sanctions over the blocking of US aid it tried to push through the border.

A day after Russia and China vetoed a US and European resolution at the UN Security Council that called for unimpeded aid deliveries, Washington said it was targeting six Venezuelan military officers for stopping last weekend's US-led convoy. — AFP

March 1, 2019 - 7:42am

Venezuela's opposition leader Juan Guaido vowed to return home "in the coming days... despite threats" from President Nicolas Maduro's regime, as he continues a tour of regional allies to rally international support, Agence France-Presse reports.

Guaido, recognized as interim president by more than 50 countries, met with Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro on Thursday afternoon while Paraguay's leader Mario Abdo announced Guaido would be in Asuncion on Friday.

After flouting a travel ban by Maduro's regime, Guaido went to Colombia last Friday where he met President Ivan Duque, US Vice President Mike Pence, Abdo and Sebastian Pinera of Chile.

Guaido was in Colombia to try to force desperately needed humanitarian aid -- which is also stockpiled in Brazil -- into Venezuela but was thwarted by a determined military blockade ordered by Maduro.

Guaido "wants to show the Venezuelan people that he's being hosted by the president of Brazil... He wants to give the message that he's recognized" as Venezuela's true leader, Brazil Vice President Hamilton Mourao said in an interview with Globo. -- Agence France-Presse

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