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Guaido pins hopes on army while aid remains blocked at border

Bogota: The Venezuelan opposition is pinning its hopes on the country’s army turning against President Nicolas Maduro and opening the border, its representatives said on Friday, while 100 tonnes of humanitarian aid remained blocked in Colombia.

Trucks carrying food, medicine and hygiene products donated by the United States arrived in the border city of Cucuta on Thursday.

The aid had been requested by opposition leader Juan Guaido, who declared himself interim president in January and quickly won the recognition of the US and a large number of Latin American and European countries.

Guaido and his allies are demanding the resignation of Maduro, who won an election widely criticized as undemocratic last year.

The aid is stored at a centre which was opened in Cucuta, but the bridge crossing the border has been blocked by Venezuela.

A tanker lorry and two containers were reported to have been placed there, and the Venezuelan army is patrolling its side of the border.

Guaido says the aid will be sent to up to 300,000 Venezuelans suffering from acute food and medicine shortages. Maduro has presided over an economic collapse, with inflation expected to reach 10 million per cent this year and millions of Venezuelans having fled abroad.

Maduro on Friday made it clear he would not let the aid through, dismissing it as a plot to stage a US military intervention in Venezuela and blaming the country’s goods shortages on sanctions from Washington.

Representatives of Guaido, the US and Colombia’s disaster risk management agency meanwhile addressed the media at the aid collection centre in Cucuta, without dissipating the uncertainty about how the aid would be taken across the border. The success of the aid deliveries is seen as depending on the army, which has so far sided with Maduro but is believed to be divided.

“Soldiers will side with the people and turn their backs to the tyrant,” Guaido’s representative Lester Toledo said, adding that he trusted that Venezuelans would demonstrate in favour of the aid.

The US ambassador to Colombia, Kevin Whitaker, called on Venezuelan soldiers to help open a humanitarian corridor.

The army “needs to allow the urgent assistance to Venezuelans at risk of dying,” Guaido tweeted, while US National Security Adviser John Bolton said he hoped “to see the people of Venezuela, and members of its military, peacefully coming together to allow this aid into Venezuela.”

Despite what many Venezuelans describe as an urgent need for aid in their country, Caracas on Friday sent 100 tonnes of humanitarian aid to Cuba.

A Venezuelan navy vessel carrying construction vehicles and materials arrived in the port of Havana, according to Cuban state television.

The aid was meant for victims of a tornado which hit the Cuban capital late last month, killing six people and damaging thousands of houses.

The commander of the Venezuelan navy vessel, Vladimir Maldonado, told Cuban state media that the aid arrived “at a time when Venezuela is suffering a political and economic attack led by the United States.”

Cuba’s Deputy Foreign Trade Minister Antonio Carricarte thanked Caracas for the “gesture” and said his country supported “the Venezuelan government and people in the face of internal and external action to impose a change of regime.” — dpa

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