Venezuela’s Guaido makes appearance at aid concert


Venezuelan self-proclaimed acting president Juan Guaido arrived in this Colombian border city late Friday in time for the finale of a star-studded concert meant to raise money for humanitarian relief in Venezuela.

The speaker of Venezuela’s opposition-controlled National Assembly was embraced by the presidents of Colombia, Ivan Duque; Chile, Sebastian Piñera; and Paraguay, Mario Abdo Benitez; and by Organization of American States chief Luis Almagro, who spent the day in Cucuta for the Venezuela Aid Live event.

Guaido, the trio of presidents and Almagro made their way through the crowd and took spots in front of the stage to watch Colombian superstar Juanes and Venezuelan performers Chyno Miranda finish their set.

This is the first time Guaido has set foot outside Venezuela since declaring himself acting head of state on Jan. 23.

Venezuela’s Supreme Court, which supports President Nicolas Maduro , barred Guaido from leaving the country while he remains under investigation for his attempt to seize power.

A video posted online showed Guaido and a handful of aides and supporters jogging across a bridge linking Venezuela to Colombia.

“Thank you. Here we are. This bridge is mine. We can, we can, of course we can,” Guaido is heard to say as he advances toward Colombia.

The concert took place at the Colombian end of the Tienditas bridge, a modern span completed in 2016 that has never been opened to traffic amid disputes between Bogota and Caracas over migration, smuggling and cross-border crime.

Warehouses in Cucuta are holding 600 tons of humanitarian aid meant to be brought into Venezuela on Saturday. The aid has been provided by the United States and other countries in response to an appeal from Guaido.

The driving force behind Venezuela Live Aid was British billionaire Richard Branson .

“Today we’ll be building bridges of hope for Venezuela,” Branson told a press conference before the first performers took the stage in Cucuta.

“Venezuelans are suffering and that is why ... tens of thousands are crossing every day trying to leave Venezuela, so we need to do something about it,” the Virgin Group founder said.

Oil-rich Venezuela suffers from hyperinflation and shortages of basic goods.

Maduro’s administration dismisses the aid initiative as a ruse to provide a pretext for US military intervention and says it will not allow the goods to enter Venezuela.

Organizers said that more than 200,000 people attended the concert, whose stated aim was to raise $100 million within 60 days to be used for assistance to Venezuela.

The 32 performers from Argentina, Colombia, Spain, the United States, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Sweden and Venezuela agreed to donate their time and talent to the project, Branson said.

Branson’s friend Bruno Ocampo, a Colombian businessman, helped organize the event.

He said that the idea for Venezuela Aid Live took shape during a video-conference among him, Branson, Guaido and Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, who remains under house arrest for his role in an abortive 2002 coup against Maduro’s predecessor, Hugo Chavez , and in violent anti-government protests in 2014.

The US and the major European nations - save for Italy - are among the roughly 50 governments that have recognized Guaido.

Several dozen other countries, including Russia, China and India, continue to recognize Maduro as Venezuela’s president.