Venezuela crisis: US threats, border tensions & humanitarian aid provocations
While the White House is applying maximum pressure on Maduro to force ‘humanitarian’ convoys into Venezuela, Juan Guaido sneaked into a concert in Colombia in hopes of returning to his supporters with a shipment of US aid.
The US-backed, self-proclaimed leader of Venezuela set February 23 as his flashpoint date for a showdown with the government of President Nicolas Maduro over foreign humanitarian aid, which has been stockpiled in Colombia, Brazil and Curacao. Maduro refused to allow the opposition get hold of the US cargo and, with the military on his side, sealed borders with neighboring countries.
US mounts pressure on Maduro & Venezuelan military
Relentless in its drive to sway the army’s support away from Maduro, Donald Trump’s administration has reportedly threatened to deport the relatives of any Venezuelan officers if they follow their government’s orders, harm the opposition or prevent the aid from entering Venezuela. Earlier this week, Trump issued an ultimatum to Venezuela’s military, urging them to join the US-led effort to depose Maduro, or to suffer consequences.
Washington has never ruled out the possibility of using military force to reinstate ‘democracy’ in Venezuela – and the US national security adviser John Bolton abruptly canceled his trip to South Korea just ahead of Donald Trump’s planned meeting with Kim Jong-un. According to Bolton’s spokesperson, the notorious hawk will instead keep a close eye on Venezuela from Washington – alongside the special US envoy for Venezuela Elliott Abrams, who, by coincidence, is known for running guns –under the guise of humanitarian aid– for the Contras in Nicaragua.
Washington denies using aid as a decoy
After another US Air Force plane landed in Colombia on Friday afternoon, the State Department rushed to dismiss as “preposterous” any rumors that it was carrying anything else but humanitarian aid. Yet, Moscow believes the US is preparing a sizeable weapons shipment for the Venezuelan opposition in early March, according to FM spokeswoman Maria Zakharova. The armaments, likely to be purchased “in an eastern European country,” could include large-caliber machine guns, grenade launchers, assault rifles and portable anti-aircraft rocket systems.
Guaido sneaks into Colombia for ‘humanitarian aid concert’
In violation of the travel ban, Guaido arrived in Colombia to attend a fundraising concert bankrolled by the British billionaire Richard Branson. Besides massive cheers from the crowd, the 35-year-old opposition politician was greeted by the presidents of Colombia, Chile and Paraguay.
Yet the show was purely humanitarian in its nature and without any political agenda, the organizers claimed. Guaido reportedly plans to stay in the border town of Cucuta to personally lead the aid caravan across the border into Venezuela on Saturday.
Caracas seals borders & holds rival #HandsOffVenezuela concert
To prevent any security threats and illegal crossings, the Government of Venezuela announced the temporary closures of border bridges that connect the country to Colombia. Fearing potential provocations, the government earlier closed the border with Brazil and shut the maritime border with the Dutch Caribbean island of Curacao.
Venezuelan authorities insist they would accept European aid or deliveries under the auspices of the UN, but would never allow US shipments to cross the border and go directly into the hands of the opposition, bypassing official channels. In the meantime, thousands of supporters of the Maduro government gathered for a ‘rival’ concert to demonstrate their resilience and readiness to defend Venezuela’s sovereignty.
Border clashes & no-shoot orders
Despite the precautionary measures adopted by the government, Friday saw heightened tensions and the first clashes at the border with Brazil. At least two people were allegedly killed and over a dozen others injured in the town of Kumarakapay during skirmishes with security forces. Yet the government was quick to dismiss the opposition’s accusations that soldiers used live fire against civilians.
“What happened has nothing to do with the versions that have circulated,” Venezuela’s foreign minister, Jorge Arreaza, said in New York at UN headquarters, claiming that some of the wounded were injured with “knives, machetes, and even arrows.” Maduro “would never give orders to shoot unarmed people,” the foreign minister insisted, accusing the opposition of following US regime change script and seeking to provoke the armed forces into clashes.