MADURO SHUTS VENEZUELA’S BORDER WITH BRAZIL AMID AID STANDOFF
22 FEBRUARY 2019 (SOURCE: ALJAZEERA) – President Nicolas Maduro said Venezuela would shut its border with Brazil on Thursday “until further notice” amid a tense standoff with US-backed opposition leader Juan Guaido over allowing in humanitarian aid.
Maduro said he was also considering a “total closure of the border with Colombia” where he has already ordered the military to barricade a major border bridge to prevent aid from entering the country from Cucuta, Colombia, where supplies are being stockpiled, most of it from the United States.
In a televised address, Maduro called the aid a “provocation” and “child’s game”, suggesting the aid is a precursor for a US military intervention in the oil-rich, but economically crippled Latin American country.
“[The US] aimed to generate a huge national mess, but they didn’t succeed. The country wants peace,” he said, surrounded by members of the military.
The border with Brazil – which along with Colombia is one of the main potential avenues for aid delivery – would be “completely and absolutely” closed from 8pm (00:00 GMT) until further notice, Maduro said.
In a decree, the Venezuelan military said it was also banning vessels from sailing out of Venezuela’s ports until Sunday to avoid actions by “criminal” groups.
Later on Thursday, Brazilian presidential spokesman Otavio Rego Barros said his country was going ahead humanitarian aid airlifts for Venezuela despite Maduro’s announcement.
He said the non-perishable food and medicine would be stockpiled in the Brazilian border town of Pacaraima until Venezuelan opposition leader Guaido was able to send trucks to pick up the aid.
Meanwhile, Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido set out on Thursday to personally collect US-supplied food and medicine stockpiled in Colombia.
Guaido has set a Saturday deadline for the aid to be allowed into Venezuela. He said he aims to rally a million volunteers to start bringing to those in need.
“Confirmed – it’s rolling,” a spokesman for Guaido said on Thursday, referring to the collection operation announced Wednesday by Guaido.
“We know that the regime is going to put all obstacles to prevent us from reaching the border, but nothing is stopping us, we are going to continue,” said opposition politician Yanet Fermin.
Maduro has ordered a shipment of thousands of food boxes to be distributed to Venezuelans along the Colombian border.
Food Minister Luis Medina Ramirez said on Twitter that 20,600 boxes of food from the government’s long-running subsidised food distribution programme left for the Colombian border area from the port of La Guaira.
A video posted on the minister’s account showed 11 container trucks exiting the port near Caracas.
“This is the real humanitarian aid of Venezuela,” Ramirez said.