Venezuelan army blocks humanitarian aid fearing military intervention

A Colombian policeman looks down the Tienditas Bridge, which links Tachira, Venezuela, and Cucuta, Colombia, after it was blocked with containers by Velezuelan forces, on February 6, 2019. - Venezuelan military officers blocked a bridge on the border with Colombia ahead of an anticipated humanitarian aid shipment, as opposition leader Juan Guaido stepped up his challenge to President Nicolas Maduro's authority. (Photo by Raul Arboleda / AFP)

Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaido stepped up efforts Wednesday to win recognition from EU holdout states and insisted the armed forces allow desperately needed humanitarian aid to enter the country.

“Today we talked with representatives of the EU to consolidate their support for the democratic transition,” Guaido said, adding that he would send a delegation to holdout state Italy to present his “action plan to relaunch democracy”.

The National Assembly leader has been recognised by more than 40 countries since declaring himself interim president on January 23 in defiance of President Nicolas Maduro.

However, several countries including Italy and Greece have so far blocked an EU bid for tougher action against Maduro’s socialist regime.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, meanwhile, demanded Venezuela’s military allow aid into the country.

“The Maduro regime must LET THE AID REACH THE STARVING PEOPLE,” Pompeo tweeted.

In Geneva, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said it was doubling its resources to cope with the crisis, where food and medicine shortages have pushed 2.3 million people to flee since 2015.

“Our focus is really to, on the one side increase our response to Venezuelans, and on the other hand to keep away from the political controversy and political divisions which are characteristic to the crisis in Venezuela,” ICRC chief Peter Maurer said.

Humanitarian aid blocked

Maduro, who is supported by Russia, China, Turkey, Cuba and Iran, has refused all humanitarian aid shipments to Venezuela, which he says would open the way to allow a US military invasion.

Key to the delivery of humanitarian aid is Venezuela’s armed forces, which remain loyal to the socialist leader.

Late Tuesday, the army blocked a road on the Colombian border near where US humanitarian aid is being stockpiled.

Troops used a tanker truck and huge shipping container to block access to the Tienditas bridge, which links Cucuta, Colombia to Urena, Venezuela.

Venezuela’s army “have an important responsibility – whether to continue on the side of a dictatorship that does not have an iota of humanity, or to side with the consititution,” Guaido said in an interview on Colombian radio.
He claims that up to 300,000 people face death if the aid is not delivered.

Maduro dismissed the need for aid on Wednesday as a “political show.”