Aid arrives at Venezuela border, forum warns of ‘chaos’

Cúcuta: Trucks carrying desperately-needed humanitarian aid for crisis-wracked Venezuela arrived at its border with Colombia on Thursday as ministers from more than a dozen European and Latin American countries called on socialist leader Nicolas Maduro to hold “free” presidential elections.
The International Contact Group meeting in Montevideo said it was committed to finding a “peaceful, democratic” way out of the power struggle between Maduro and opposition rival Juan Guaido “without the use of force.”
That coincided with the arrival at Colombia’s border with Venezuela of the first trucks bearing US humanitarian aid.
Several vehicles loaded with food and medicines rumbled into a collection centre on the Colombian side of the Tienditas border bridge, which remains blocked by Venezuelan troops, heightening tensions with Washington.
The convoy, which departed the day before from the city of Bucaramanga in northeastern Colombia, was cheered on its arrival by a group of Venezuelan migrants.
Claiming his legitimacy from the constitution, Guaido — the 35-year-old National Assembly leader — stunned Venezuelans when he proclaimed himself interim president on January 23, setting up a tense standoff with Maduro. Both men called huge rival rallies onto the streets.
Guaido is trying to force from power the socialist leader — labelled a dictator by the West and his Latin American neighbours after presiding over Venezuela’s economic collapse — aiming to set up a transitional government and hold new presidential elections.
Venezuelan migrants gathered at the Colombian town of Cucuta to see if they could receive some of the aid arriving at the border and being stockpiled in nearby warehouses.
Yajaira Gonzalez, 64, said she was begging Maduro to let through the aid — food, medicine and personal hygiene kits — to her desperate compatriots back home.
“Mr. President, we are not OK. We are suffering,” she said, referring to Maduro.
Gonzalez said she used to be a Chavista — a supporter of Maduro’s predecessor, the late socialist firebrand Hugo Chavez — but not anymore.
Dajelys Lopez crossed from the other side of the border with her baby in a stroller to see if she could find in Cucuta what she cannot get in Venezuela. — AFP