Tuesday 26 March 2019

Maduro to close the border with Brazil in aid standoff

Nicolas Maduro. Photo: Reuters
Nicolas Maduro. Photo: Reuters

Kelly Valencia

Nicolás Maduro, Venezuela's president, ordered the border with Brazil to be closed and said he was considering doing the same with Colombia as US aid stacked up on both frontiers last night.

Mr Maduro dismissed efforts to deliver basic food and medicine as a "provocation" as opposition groups headed to the border to carry aid packages through in defiance of the regime.

Juan Guaidó, the opposition leader now recognised as Venezuela's legitimate president by 52 countries, was heading to the frontier with Colombia in a motorcade last night personally to oversee the aid delivery. Political analysts say Saturday's border showdown is less about solving Venezuela's needs and more about testing the military's loyalty towards Mr Maduro and the socialist regime by daring it to turn the aid away.

On Wednesday, Mr Maduro's socialist administration said it had closed the country's maritime border with the Dutch Caribbean islands of Aruba, Curacao and Bonaire, after Curacao's government said it would help store aid destined for Venezuela.

Mr Guaidó was due to arrive across the border from Cucuta, the Colombian city that has become a focal point for the standoff, with pallets of aid mounting up and a concert organised by Richard Branson due to take place today. Residents already feeling the strain of hosting tens of thousands of Venezuelan refugees are concerned about the show's safety and its provocative location on the Tienditas bridge that connects the two hostile countries. Mr Branson has said that he hopes 250,000 people will attend the free concert.

Residents fear the planned delivery of humanitarian aid had made the already-tense city yet more fraught.

Irish Independent

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