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President Maduro closed the border with Brazil to stop aid from reaching starving Venezuelans

He said the aid was designed to create instability and instigate a military intervention in the Latin American country.

by David Gilbert
Feb 22 2019, 12:13pm

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Surrounded by members of the military, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro announced on TV Thursday that he was closing the border with Brazil to stop shipments of aid from entering the country.

He also threatened to close the border with Colombia, after shutting Venezuela’s maritime borders earlier this week.

U.S.-backed opposition leader Juan Guaidó, meanwhile, has been organizing the aid to help desperate Venezuelans suffering under a collapsing economy.

Maduro used the address to lash out at the U.S., accusing Washington of “provocation.” Defending his decision, he said the aid sent to Venezuela was designed to create instability and instigate a military intervention in the Latin American country.

“[The U.S.] aimed to generate a huge national mess, but they didn't succeed. The country wants peace,” Maduro said. “I don't want to take any decision of this type, but I am evaluating it, a total closure of the border with Colombia.”

Within minutes of the announcement, dozens of cars streamed across the border to the Brazilian city of Pacaraima to stock up on supplies, local media reported.

Earlier this week Venezuela closed its maritime border with the Dutch Caribbean islands of Aruba, Curacao and Bonaire, after authorities there said they would help store aid.

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The military has also issued a decree banning any vessel from leaving Venezuelan ports until Sunday, to avoid actions by "criminal" groups.

View of boxes with US humanitarian aid goods in Cucuta, Colombia, on the border with Tachira, Venezuela, on February 8, 2019. (RAUL ARBOLEDA/AFP/Getty Images)

The Colombian border is set to become the focal point of the fight between Maduro and Guaidó on Friday when two competing concerts will take place on either side of the Tienditas Bridge.

On the Colombian side at Cúcuta, British entrepreneur Richard Branson has organized a “Live Aid”-style concert that is seeking to raise $100 million to buy food and medicine for Venezuelans. Up to 250,000 people are expected to attend.

In response, Maduro announced his own event on the Venezuelan side of the crossing, called the “Hands Off Venezuela” concert.

Maduro continues to insist there is no humanitarian crisis in Venezuela, but has also announced that 300 tonnes of aid would be arriving from Russia, one of Maduro’s main backers, along with China.

Workers set up a stage for a concert organized by British billionaire Richard Branson to raise money for the Venezuelan relief effort in Cucuta, Colombia, on February 21, 2019 at the Tienditas International Bridge. (RAUL ARBOLEDA/AFP/Getty Images)

The standoff over aid could come to a head on Saturday. Guaidó claims 600,000 people have signed up to help carry supplies across the border at Cúcuta and has organized a fleet of buses and cars. The convoy has already prompted armed scuffles.

Maduro’s government says it will be delivering over 20,000 boxes of aid to the area on the same day.

Cover Image: Nicolas Maduro, Venezuela's president, pauses while speaking during a televised press conference in Caracas, Venezuela, on Friday, Feb. 8, 2019. (Carlos Becerra/Bloomberg via Getty Images)