Friday 22 February 2019

Venezuelan military blocks border bridge to stop humanitarian convoy

‘Red line’: An aerial view of the Tienditas Bridge, on the border between Cucuta, Colombia, and Tachira, Venezuela, after Venezuelan military forces blocked it with containers yesterday. Photo: Getty
‘Red line’: An aerial view of the Tienditas Bridge, on the border between Cucuta, Colombia, and Tachira, Venezuela, after Venezuelan military forces blocked it with containers yesterday. Photo: Getty

Mathew Charles and Harriet Alexander

Venezuelan troops have barricaded a bridge on the country's western border with Colombia in an attempt to block the delivery of humanitarian aid, and stop what Nicolas Maduro claims is a prelude to a full invasion.

Juan Guaido, the self-declared interim president, has welcomed an offer from the United States of $20m (€15m) of food and medical supplies, which are being transported to the border. But Mr Maduro, who has the support of the army, will not allow it to cross.

Yesterday, Venezuelan soldiers were using a fuel tanker and cargo containers to cut off access to the Tienditas Bridge, which links the Colombian border town of Cucuta to Urena, in Venezuela.

Members of Venezuela's Bolivarian national guard could also been seen at the border crossing. The Colombian Foreign Ministry said a second crossing in the northern department of La Guajira had also been blocked.

Co-ordinated aid: Juan Guaido heads to a session of the National Assembly in Caracas. Photo: Getty
Co-ordinated aid: Juan Guaido heads to a session of the National Assembly in Caracas. Photo: Getty

John Bolton, the US national security adviser, accused Mr Maduro of seeking only to look after himself. "Maduro and his cronies live lavishly in Europe and enrich their Cuban patrons while plundering Venezuela's wealth," he said.

"Meanwhile, they are physically blocking the Venezuelan people, including the military rank and file, from receiving humanitarian assistance."

Mr Maduro has become increasingly isolated, and has sought to sell off the country's gold reserves to keep his regime afloat. The Bank of England, which holds £930m (€1.05bn) in Venezuelan gold, blocked him from doing so.

Carlos Paparoni, a Venezuelan politician, said that Mr Maduro's government last year sold 73 tonnes of gold to Turkey and the United Arab Emirates without the required approval of the opposition-led national assembly. He also said that Mr Maduro's administration had transferred €127m to bank accounts in Russia, without specifying when.

Mr Guaido on Tuesday met with former cabinet members of the late Hugo Chavez to discuss the way out of the country's political impasse.

Telegraph.co.uk

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