Aid showdown shaping up at Venezuela-Colombia border (Feb. 18, 2019)
Shipments of U.S. aid destined for Venezuela are piling up in Cúcuta, Colombia, this weekend the U.S. military used C-17 cargo planes to bring in an estimated 200 tons of cargo. The aid in the border town has become a symbol of the legitimacy showdown between embattled Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro, and his challenger, Juan Guaidó. The tensions are likely to come to a head next Saturday, when the Venezuelan opposition is planning to lead thousands of protesters dressed in white to confront the military on the border and bring the aid in somehow.
Maduro and Guaidó agree that the ultimate goal of the aid -- meant to alleviate Venezuela's humanitarian crisis -- is to undermine Maduro's hold on power., The U.S. and the opposition hope the confrontation will spur a mass defection from the armed forces. "There comes a time in many people’s lives when they have to make a decision that will define them forever," said U.S. Senator Marco Rubio on a visit to Cúcuta on Sunday. "That time has come for the Venezuelan soldiers."
Maduro and his international supporters, namely Russia, say the efforts amount to intervention in Venezuela.
Experts are concerned that the U.S. might use military force to enter the aid, or otherwise intervene in support of Guaidó, potentially setting off an armed conflict in the region. (New York Times)
Guaidó said more than 600,000 Venezuelans signed up for his initiative, though there is little detail on the plan -- emailed directives were promised for later today. Last week a platform was set up for volunteers to sign up and the opposition has appealed to thousands of Venezuelans living in Cúcuta to join the effort. (Guardian, Wall Street Journal and Miami Herald)
Opposition forces will also try to enter aid vía Roraima, in Brazil, and by sea, in a flotilla from Curacao.
British billionaire Richard Branson is planning a concert in Cúcuta this Friday in support of the aid initiative. He plans to raise $100 million for Venezuela, though plans for actual distribution are sketchy, notes the Washington Post.
Yesterday five members of the European Parliament, invited to meet with Guaidó in Caracas, were barred from entering the country and deported by Venezuelan authorities. Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza said they were part of a conspiracy plan and had been warned beforehand they would not be permitted entry. (Efecto Cocuyo)
More from Venezuela
Moisés Naím interviews Guaidó in Efecto Naím.
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