Aid deliveries from Colombia blocked; some Venezuelan police desert
Venezuela’s National Police on Saturday impeded a human cordon that formed on a border crossing to accompany several trucks carrying humanitarian aid from this northeastern Colombia city.
In blocking the aid deliveries, the security forces fired tear gas at hundreds of civilians who had taken up positions on the Simon Bolivar International Bridge in the early-morning hours.
The civilians, who had demanded that the aid be allowed to cross and also called on the police to abandon their posts, responded by throwing rocks at the security forces.
Colombia’s police did not intervene in the conflict and remained positioned at the Migracion Colombia (migration agency) posts set up on that bridge to control the movement of people and goods across the border.
Several members of the National Police who were assigned to that border crossing deserted on Saturday and crossed over to the Colombian side of the frontier.
Several Colombian police escorted their Venezuelan counterparts to the other side amid the applause of Venezuelans gathered in the area.
Migracion Colombia confirmed that at least 11 members of Venezuela’s National Guard and two police deserted on Saturday amid the attempts to deliver humanitarian aid from Colombia to Venezuela, which has been racked by severe food and medicine shortages and hyperinflation.
“At this time, Migracion Colombia, in Norte de Santander province, is expediting interviews with 10 members of the Venezuelan National Guard and two women with the Bolivarian National Police who arrived in the country fleeing Nicolas Maduro ‘s dictatorship,” that migration agency said.
One other member of Venezuela’s security forces deserted and crossed the border into the northeastern Colombian province of Arauca, according to the official report.
These isolated instances notwithstanding, the vast majority of Venezuela’s armed forces have remained loyal to leftist President Nicolas Maduro.
Separately, Venezuelan authorities on Saturday blocked the entry of trucks being used to carry humanitarian aid over two other border crossings - the Francisco de Paula Santander and Tienditas bridges.
They fired tear gas to disperse demonstrators on both of those bridges.
The speaker of Venezuela’s opposition-led National Assembly, Juan Guaido, who proclaimed himself interim president last month, traveled to Cucuta on Friday for a massive aid concert organized by British businessman Richard Branson and also to receive the international humanitarian aid stockpiled in Colombia.
He said Saturday that the trucks carrying the aid from Colombia were already in Venezuelan territory but that the leftist government was impeding their advance.
“The usurper regime is blocking (the trucks). They can’t deal with our irreversible decision to live in freedom,” Guaido wrote on Twitter.
The opposition leader said earlier Saturday that humanitarian aid trucks had entered Venezuela via that country’s border with Brazil.
Maduro has ordered both of those borders closed, saying that the humanitarian aid is a Trojan horse for a US-led military intervention.
Venezuela’s opposition, as well as the United States and much of the international community, regards Maduro’s May 2018 re-election victory to be fraudulent.
The US has also imposed severe sanctions on Venezuela’s oil industry in a bid to expedite regime change.
The major European nations - save Italy - also 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.