Soldiers from the Venezuelan national guard have left their posts ahead of an opposition-led effort to bring aid into the country, Colombia's migration agency said. In a separate development, Venezuelan troops have fired tear gas at people looking to cross into Colombia to work. Tensions have been rising over a row about the delivery of humanitarian aid.
President Nicolás Maduro said the border with Colombia is partly closed to stop aid being delivered. But self-declared interim president Juan Guaidó has vowed that hundreds of thousands of volunteers will help bring in the aid deliveries, which include food and medicine, on Saturday. The first delivery of aid has already entered Venezuela through Brazil, Mr Guaidó tweeted. The delivery of aid to the stricken country has proven to be a key area of contention between the two men who see themselves as Venezuela's leader.
National Guard fires tear gas amid Venezuela border tension [usatoday.com]
Venezuela's National Guard fired tear gas on opposition activists at a barricaded border bridge to Colombia on Saturday, and two protesters were killed near the border in Brazil, as the opposition tried to execute a high-risk plan to deliver humanitarian aid over the obstinate refusal of President Nicolas Maduro.
Opposition leader Juan Guaido pulled himself onto a semitruck and shook hands with its driver as he and Colombian President Ivan Duque gave a ceremonial send-off to an aid convoy looking to transport nearly 200 metric tons of mostly U.S.-supplied emergency food and medical supplies from the Colombian border city of Cucuta. "Our call to the armed forces couldn't be clearer: put yourself on the right side of history," he said in an appeal to troops constituting Maduro's last-remaining major plank of support in a country ravaged by hyperinflation and widespread shortages.
Amid the aid push, Maduro struck back, breaking diplomatic relations with Colombia, whose government he accuses of serving as a staging ground for a U.S.-led effort to oust him from power. "My patience has run out," Maduro said, speaking at a rally of red-shirted supporters in Caracas and giving Colombian diplomats 24 hours to leave the country.
The opposition is calling on masses of Venezuelans to form a "humanitarian avalanche" to escort the trucks across several border bridges. But clashes started at dawn in the Venezuelan border town of Urena, when residents began removing yellow metal barricades and barbed wire blocking the Francisco de Paula Santander bridge. Venezuela's National Guard responded forcefully, firing tear gas and buckshot on the protesters who demanded that the aid pass through. Some of the protesters were masked youth who threw rocks and later commandeered a city bus and set it afire. At least two dozen people were injured in the disturbances, according to local health officials in Urena.
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