Sat, Feb 09, 2019 - Page 4 News List

US emergency aid arrives at the Venezuelan border

AP, CUCUTA, Colombia

Trucks carrying US humanitarian aid destined for Venezuela arrived on Thursday at the Colombian border, where opposition leaders vowed to bring them into their troubled nation despite objections from embattled Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

Two semi-trailers loaded with boxed emergency food and medicine rolled into the Colombian border city of Cucuta, which is just across the river from Venezuela.

“The United States is prepositioning relief items — including food, nutritional supplements, hygiene kits and medical supplies — in Colombia so they are available to reach those most in need in Venezuela, as soon as possible,” said a US official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the issue.

The focus of Venezuela’s political fight now hinges on whether Maduro decides to allow the aid to enter the country, a move anticipated in coming days.

Maduro denies a humanitarian crisis exists.

The Venezuelan military has barricaded a bridge between the two nations with a tanker and two cargo trailers in an apparent attempt to block the aid.

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido, who requested the international assistance, said it is necessary in a country racked by shortages of food and medicines.

Guaido, who has the backing of about 40 countries, including the US, is seeking to oust Maduro following an election last year that many have denounced as a sham.

Long-time allies Russia and China and several other countries continue to support Maduro.

About a dozen human rights activists stood at the gated entrance to the Tienditas International Bridge on Colombia’s side, demanding Maduro allow the emergency aid to cross into Venezuela. They waved flags while Colombian police trucks carrying armed officers and other authorities drove by throughout the day.

Also on Thursday, a coalition of European and Latin American nations called on Venezuela to hold free and transparent elections to peacefully resolve its crisis.

A majority of 14 countries in the “International Contact Group” urged Venezuela to return to the rule of law and respect its constitutional institutions — starting with the democratically elected Venezuelan National Assembly.

Spain, Italy and Portugal were among European nations signing the declaration with Uruguay, Ecuador and Costa Rica. Mexico and Bolivia participated, but did not sign.

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