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: January 22, 2020 - 7:20am

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

January 22, 2020 - 7:20am

Venezuela intelligence agents searched Guaido offices, opposition says. -- AFP

January 14, 2020 - 11:34am

When Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido called for street protests at the weekend in a bid to rekindle popular outrage against President Nicolas Maduro, only a few hundred people turned up.

It's a far cry from the tens of thousands he mobilized a year ago after declaring himself interim president and winning recognition from more than 50 countries. 

Many, like Jhoan Navarro, would rather turn their attention to the beach these days, glad of a distraction from the seemingly unending political standoff which they say has brought little change to their lives.

Navarro on Sunday made the hour's journey north from Caracas to Camuri Chico beach on the Caribbean coast with his wife and daughter "for a change of air, to clear our minds."

"When I have a problem with my wife we work it out together, but we know that neither Maduro nor Guaido are going to solve our economic problems," said Navarro, bopping to music blaring from the speakers of his car, parked on the edge of the sand. — AFP

January 6, 2020 - 11:12am

The United States on Sunday congratulated opposition leader Juan Guaido on being re- elected Venezuela's national assembly speaker -- despite the vote being hotly disputed and a rival also claiming to have won the post.

"I congratulate Juan Guaido on his re-election as president of the Venezuelan National Assembly and condemn the failed efforts of the former Maduro regime to negate the will of the democratically elected National Assembly," US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said.

"The United States and 57 other countries continue to regard him as the legitimate leader of the National Assembly and thus the legitimate interim president of Venezuela." — AFP

January 6, 2020 - 7:33am

Juan Guaido was re-elected Venezuela's parliament speaker by opposition lawmakers on Sunday in a session held at a newspaper office after police blocked him from entering the National Assembly legislature.

Earlier in the day, rival lawmaker Luis Parra proclaimed himself the new speaker following a vote in parliament that Guaido was unable to attend.

Guaido received the votes of around 100 legislators, including several forced last year into exile or to take shelter in foreign diplomatic missions due to a crackdown by the regime of President Nicolas Maduro that the opposition has branded "political persecution." -- AFP

November 17, 2019 - 10:46am

Thousands of supporters of Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido took to the streets of Caracas on Saturday, demanding the departure of embattled President Nicolas Maduro, but the turnout was far less than expected.

Guaido had hoped to capitalize on the situation in Bolivia, where leftist leader Evo Morales resigned in the face of accusations of election fraud, to deal a death blow to his own political nemesis.

Opposition demonstrators did answer the call — about 5,000 of them marched, according to AFP's crowd estimate. They carried national flags and banners with slogans such as "Maduro out" and "Follow Bolivia's example." — Agence France-Presse

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