Guaido, US military leader push Venezuelan army to allow aid
Venezuela’s self-proclaimed acting president, Juan Guaido, was joined Wednesday by the head of the US military’s Southern Command in calling on the Venezuelan armed forces to allow the entry of humanitarian aid.
Opposition activists will mount “peaceful, very powerful” demonstrations at military bases across Venezuela to demand that troops facilitate the delivery of the aid, Guaido said in Caracas.
In Miami, meanwhile, Adm. Craig Faller took the opportunity of a joint press conference with Colombian armed forces chief Maj. Gen. Luis Navarro Jimenez to advise Venezuelan military officers on their duty.
“This message is for the Venezuelan military: In the end, you will be responsible for your own actions. Do the right thing. Save your people and your country,” Faller said as he welcomed Navarro to SouthCom headquarters.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has barred the entry of the supplies, denouncing the US-led aid initiative as a prelude to military intervention by Washington.
Guaido said that starting Saturday, volunteers will bring into Venezuela the aid being gathered in the Colombian border city of Cucuta, the Brazilian state of Roraima and the island of Curaçao.
The opposition insists that oil-rich Venezuela is experiencing a humanitarian crisis and has made an international appeal for donations.
Maduro, however, says that the donations carry “the venom of humiliation” and has arranged to have supplies brought in from allies such as Cuba, China and Russia to address shortages of medicines and other necessities.
Asked Wednesday about the possibility of US military action in Venezuela, Faller referred to President Donald Trump ‘s statement earlier this week that all options would be considered.
“The president has been clear and our obligation as professional military is to be ready,” the SouthCom commander said, while maintaining that Washington’s preference is for a diplomatic solution.
Diosdado Cabello, widely seen as the No. 2 figure in Venezuela’s governing leftist PSUV party, said Wednesday that invaders would meet with a fierce reaction.
“We will give them the most terrible response they can imagine,” he told thousands of government supporters in the southern state of Bolivar. “Venezuela will continue being free, sovereign and independent.”
Guaido, the speaker of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, proclaimed himself interim president on Jan. 23, a day after US Vice President Mike Pence encouraged him to take that step and assured him of Washington’s support.
Trump quickly recognized Guaido and roughly 50 other countries have followed suit, including Canada, Colombia, Argentina and Brazil, as well as major European powers France, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom.
Those nations agree with the Venezuelan opposition that Maduro’s May 2018 re-election victory was a sham.
Cucuta is linked to the Venezuelan city of San Cristobal by the Tienditas bridge, a modern span completed in 2016 that has never been opened to traffic amid ongoing quarrels between Bogota and Caracas over migration, smuggling and cross-border crime.
As the US shipments began to arrive in Cucuta, the Venezuelan army parked large vehicles on their side of Tienditas, which was already bisected by mental fencing.
British billionaire Richard Branson is staging a concert Friday in Cucuta aimed at raising $100 million in donations to fund humanitarian assistance in Venezuela.
Latin American musical icons such as Juanes and Mana are scheduled to perform at the “Venezuela Aid Live” event, which organizers expect to attract as many as 250,000 people.
Soon after Branson announced the concert, the Maduro administration countered by saying it would hold a “Hands Off Venezuela” music festival, accompanied by an effort to provide food and medical care to needy Colombians who cross the border to attend.
But Caracas is reported to be having problems finding artists willing to perform.