US trying to spur mutiny in military against Maduro

REUTERS  Marco Bello

Eerie photo sums up humanitarian crisis facing starving Venezuela

CNN reported Thursday that the Maduro government blocked a bridge on the Colombia-Venezuela border, preventing US -sent humanitarian aid from reaching the country.

The United States, along with allies Colombia and Brazil, are trying to bring aid into Venezuela, a move that Maduro says is a precursor to a U.S. invasion. He also said that if they really want to help, the economic sanctions with which they suffocate the Bolivarian Government in its efforts to stabilize the social rights of the population must cease. Some Maduro critics say the Venezuelan people would welcome a USA led regional effort to force the entrenched leader from power.

Juan Caicedo, a spokesperson from Migration Colombia, Colombia's Ministry of Immigration and Immigration Control, said the Venezuelan military put the blockade into place Tuesday afternoon, adding that there are cameras monitoring activity on the bridge.

Two US trucks carrying food and medical supplies arrived at Venezuela's border this afternoon, according to a US official in the Colombian border town of Cucuta.

Trump said last month that "all options are on the table" in dealing with Maduro.

Estimates of how many Venezuelans have left their home country during the tenures of former President Hugo Chavez and current leader Maduro vary widely, with some opponents and academics putting the figure at 4 million. But Maduro has refused calls for him to step down, insisting Washington is orchestrating a coup against his government.

China is a close ally of Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro, to whom it has lent billions to help shore up his embattled regime. Guaido maintains that Maduro's second term as president is illegitimate, citing the May 2018 election that faced widespread worldwide condemnation. On Friday, Romania's president became the latest world leader to recognize Guaido as interim president nearly a week after other European Union countries did so.

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The aid squabble is now the latest front in the battle between Guaido and President Nicolas Maduro, who is vowing not to let the supplies enter the country.

Venezuela's Foreign Ministry has denounced any worldwide support for Guaido, suggesting that European governments were acting as part of a US-led effort to topple Maduro, who has showed no signs of relinquishing power.

Toledo suggested one strategy: A mass mobilization of his countrymen reminiscent of how in 2016 a large group of Venezuelan women dressed in white and intent on crossing the closed border with Colombia made their way through a line of national guardsmen in order to buy food on the other side. Simultaneously, President Donald Trump's administration has been urging Venezuelan officers to defect and support the opposition's claim to power.

Guaido says the May 2018 vote in which Maduro won a second term as president was a sham and on January 23 invoked a constitutional provision to declare himself president, promising free and fair elections.

Present at the meeting were representatives from France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Britain, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico and Uruguay, as well as the EU.

"You don't feed a country with humanitarian aid", Francisco Rodriguez, chief economist at Torino Economics in NY, said in an interview this week. The Trump administration has pledged $20 million in aid and Canada has promised another $53 million. "There is no plan B. The only plan is the definite change in Venezuela", he said.

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