Venezuela military reinforces Colombian border blockade

2019-02-14 19:00
Opposition National Assembly President Juan Guaido, who declared himself interim president of Venezuela. (Ariana Cubillos, AP)

Opposition National Assembly President Juan Guaido, who declared himself interim president of Venezuela. (Ariana Cubillos, AP)

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Venezuela's military reinforced a blockade on Thursday morning at the border with Colombia where opposition leader Juan Guaido has vowed to bring in desperately-needed humanitarian aid despite President Nicolas Maduro's vow to keep it out.

AFP journalists saw several new freight containers blocking the road that connects the town of Urena in Venezuela to Cucuta in Colombia, where tons of US aid has been piling up for a week.

There was also a contingent of around 20 National Guard troops guarding the blockade.

Last week, the military initially placed two freight containers and a tanker across the road to prevent vehicles from passing.

During a mass street protest on Tuesday, self-proclaimed acting president Guaido said the aid would be brought in on February 23 and issued a direct order to the military not to block it.

Maduro, who has presided over an economic meltdown in Venezuela, has vowed to stop it from entering. The armed forces remain loyal to him.

His regime denies Venezuela is suffering from a humanitarian crisis and has dismissed the aid as a "publicity show" and pretext to a US-led invasion.

Venezuela has suffered four years of recession and is now ravaged by hyperinflation that the International Monetary Fund predicts will reach a staggering 10 million percent this year.

Salaries and savings have been rendered worthless while millions have been left in poverty faced with shortages of basic necessities such as food and medicines.

The United Nations says some 2.3 million Venezuelans have fled the country since 2015.

Guaido has been recognized as interim president by 50 countries and has strong backing from the US and neighbors Colombia and Brazil as he attempts to wrest power from Maduro, whose reelection last year the opposition denounced as fraudulent.

The National Assembly president has also announced plans for a second collection center in the northwestern Brazilian state of Roraima, which borders Venezuela. A third storage facility is to be established in Curacao, a Dutch island around 65km off the northern coast of Venezuela.

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