Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido on Tuesday told tens of thousands of supporters that desperately needed humanitarian aid would be brought into the country on Saturday next week, despite opposition from Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.
“It’s sure that the humanitarian aid will enter Venezuela, because the usurper will have no choice but to leave Venezuela,” said Guaido, recognized by 50 countries after declaring himself as Venezuela’s interim leader.
US aid has been piling up in Colombia at the border with crisis-hit Venezuela, but until now, the bridge border crossing has been barricaded by the military, under Maduro’s orders.
“We have almost 300,000 Venezuelans who will die if the aid doesn’t enter. There are almost 2 million at health risk,” Guaido said.
Taking his authority from the constitution, Guaido, president of the Venezuelan National Assembly, considers Maduro “illegitimate” following his re-election last year in a poll widely viewed as fraudulent.
Guaido is trying to force the socialist leader from power so that he can set up a transitional government and hold new presidential elections.
Venezuelans have faced shortages of basic necessities such as food and medicine as the economy collapsed under Maduro. About 2.3 million Venezuelans have fled since 2015, as hyperinflation rendered salaries and savings worthless.
Maduro has denied that there is a humanitarian emergency and has branded the crisis a “political show” and pretext for a US-led invasion.
“It’s not the first time Venezuela is going to be liberated from a tyrant,” Guaido said. “Here is a direct order to the armed forces: Allow in the humanitarian aid once and for all [and] end the repression.”
The fate of tonnes of aid piling up in Colombian collection centers at the border with Venezuela has become central to the power struggle between Guaido and Maduro, who is backed by the armed forces.
Guaido had called the Youth Day demonstrations across the country in part to honor 40 people killed in anti-government rallies last month.
While waiting for him to speak in eastern Caracas, his supporters chanted: “Freedom.”
Maduro, meanwhile, was due to speak at a march of young leftists in the center of Caracas denouncing “imperialist intervention” in Venezuela’s affairs and collecting signatures of people who reject US President Donald Trump.
“We want peace for Venezuela,” chanted protesters, and “for the threats of military invasion to recede.”
Guaido has offered amnesty to military personnel who dump Maduro and told them that refusing to allow in aid was a “crime against humanity.”
He asked the 250,000 people who signed up as volunteers to bring in the aid to organize themselves over the weekend, “because we’re going to have to go in caravans.”
The government distributed food and medicine on Monday when Guaido’s envoys met Brazilian officials and announced plans to establish a second aid storage center in the state of Roraima, which is on the country’s southeastern border, sometime next week.
However, Venezuelan Minister of Defense General Vladimir Padrino said the armed forces were deploying a “reinforced presence all along the border.”
Although he has wide international support in his bid to oust Maduro, Guaido requires the backing of the armed forces.
The US has presented a draft resolution to the UN Security Council calling for international aid deliveries and new presidential elections.
Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergei Lavrov said the move was “an excuse for direct military intervention.”
Speaking to reporters last week, Guaido refused to rule out asking for foreign intervention.
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