US President Donald Trump on Monday urged Venezuela’s military to accept opposition leader Juan Guaido’s amnesty offer or stand to “lose everything,” as a crisis deepened over Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s refusal to let in desperately needed humanitarian aid.
Bringing in humanitarian aid is crucial to the viability of Guaido, who has denounced Maduro’s re-election last year as fraudulent and last month declared himself interim president, a move recognized by about 50 nations.
He has given the Maduro government until Saturday to let shipments of mainly US aid into the nation, which is in the grip of a humanitarian crisis due to shortages of food and medicine exacerbated by hyperinflation.
Addressing supporters and Venezuelan expatriates in Miami, Trump said he had a message for officials helping keep Maduro in place.
“The eyes of the entire world are upon you today, every day and every day in the future,” Trump said. “You cannot hide from the choice that now confronts you. You can choose to accept president Guaido’s generous offer of amnesty to live your life in peace with your families and your countrymen, or you can choose the second path: continuing to support Maduro. If you choose this path, you will find no safe harbor, no easy exit and no way out. You will lose everything.”
Maduro responded to Trump in comments broadcast on state television.
He accused the US president of speaking in an “almost Nazi style” and lashed out at Trump for thinking he can deliver orders to the Venezuelan military.
“Who is the commander of the armed forces, Donald Trump from Miami?” Maduro said. “They think they’re the owners of the country.”
Guaido has set a target of signing up to 1 million volunteers to help bring in the aid, with 600,000 already registered.
“On February 23rd, we have the opportunity to save the lives of hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans,” he said.
Maduro countered with his own announcement of 300 tonnes of aid from Russia, which he said would reach Venezuela by today — three days ahead of a potential showdown.
Speaking at an official event broadcast on TV, Maduro said the shipment contained “high-value medicine.”
Maduro has previously announced the arrival of aid from China, Cuba and Russia, his main international allies.
Earlier, opposition officials hit out at state Internet provider CANTV for blocking the Web site where volunteers are signing up to help bring in the US aid stockpiled in Colombia just over the border.
A second aid collection center is due to begin operations in Brazil’s northeastern state of Roraima, which borders Venezuela, but there is much uncertainty over the aid in Brazil, with officials there saying they have no information.
Military officials in Roraima said they had yet to receive orders, although a collection center could be set up quickly, with some businesses having already provided warehouses to that effect.
A third center is due to open this week on the Dutch island of Curacao, off Venezuela’s north coast.
The humanitarian aid standoff is due to come to a head this weekend, when caravans of buses are set to carry volunteers to border entry points to meet and transport arriving cargo.
It is unclear how Guaido plans to overcome the border barriers put up by the Venezuelan military, on Maduro’s orders.
Additional reporting by AP
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