Venezuela’s Guaido to leave for Colombia as aid standoff hardens

- AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, CARACAS

Feb 22, 2019-

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido made plans to head for the border with Colombia to personally bring in US-supplied food and medicine in defiance of the military-backed government, raising fears of possible weekend confrontations.

Guaido, who has set a Saturday deadline for bringing in the aid, planned to depart at 6:00 am Thursday in a caravan of buses with members of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, forcing a high-stakes showdown with President Nicolas Maduro.

On Maduro’s orders, the military has beefed up border security and barricaded a major border bridge to prevent the supplies from entering the country from Cucuta, Colombia, where tons of supplies are stockpiled.

Although it was unclear exactly what Guaido intends to do, he says he has enlisted hundreds of thousands of volunteers in recent days to help bring in and distribute the aid.

On Wednesday, he rallied bus drivers to go to the borders to collect aid for Venezuelans suffering shortages.

“Even though they point guns at us — and all of us have received threats, rubber bullets and even live ones — we are not afraid,” Guaido said, standing on the back of a truck in a throng of  supporters.

“We will stay out in the street with our chests bared, demanding freedom for all of Venezuela.”

Shipments of food and medicine for the crisis-stricken population have become a key focus of the power struggle between Maduro and Guaido.

The 35-year-old leader of the Venezuelan legislature proclaimed himself acting president January 23, and has since won the backing of more than 50 countries.

He wants to oust Maduro, set up a transitional government and hold new elections.

“This could be very soon, between six and nine months, once Maduro’s current usurpation ends,” Guaido told Mexican television station Televisa.

A million volunteers - Guaido, who says 300,000 people could die without an influx of aid, says he aims to rally a million volunteers to start bringing it in by Saturday.

Published: 22-02-2019 10:29

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