Venezuela closes Colombia border as aid dispute turns deadly

The Wider Image Malnourished Venezuelans hope urgently needed aid arrives soon

Juan Guaido, recognised by most Western nations as the country's legitimate head of state, defied court orders not to leave Venezuela by arriving on Friday in the Colombian border city of Cucuta, where aid from the USA and Colombian governments is stockpiled in warehouses. Guaido has accused Maduro of rigging his re-election and is demanding a new vote.

The aid initiative is a watershed in Guaido's campaign to replace Maduro, which began last month when Guaido said the constitution made him acting president because last year's election was a fraud.

The opposition hopes the aid will drive a wedge between the military-which continues to back Maduro despite little popular support-and Maduro by forcing an order that they can not follow: deny people food and medicine they desperately need and risk violence against civilians.

The US military, at the request of Guaido and in coordination with Colombia's hard-right President Ivan Duque, has been dropping tons of humanitarian aid near where Branson organized the concert.

Maduro has presided over a massive economic crisis, with annual inflation running at millions of per cent, while more than 3 million Venezuelans have fled overseas.

On a bridge along the Colombian-Venezuela border, shipping containers have blocked the lanes, with security forces standing guard.

The plan to bring in aid is one of the most ambitious - and potentially risky - that the opposition has attempted to undertake since Guaido declared himself interim president in January.

Gonzalez said soldiers shot and killed a 34-year-old indigenous Venezuelan woman and injured 17 others.

Venezuela closed its border with Colombia yesterday after Guaido crossed it in defiance of a travel ban.

Guaido called on the military to arrest those responsible for the killings, "or you will be responsible".

Venezuela's incumbent President Nicolas Maduro blasted these actions as an attempted coup and said he was cutting diplomatic ties with Washington.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged Venezuelan authorities to refrain from using lethal force against protesters. Late Friday, Bolton tweeted that "the world is watching" the situation on the Brazilian border.

Early Saturday two large trucks carrying eight tonnes of emergency aid left Boa Vista in Brazil en route to the Venezuelan border.

Days after Branson launched his concert, Maduro's government announced that not only would they hold a rival festival but that they would also deliver over 20,000 boxes of food for poor Colombians in Cucuta on Friday and Saturday.

While in Venezuela border clashes and military desertions raised tensions, on the sleepy Caribbean island of Curacao a handful of expatriates applied pressure on a separate front, waving flags and singing.

With inflation running at more than 2 million per cent a year and currency controls restricting imports of basic goods, many Venezuelans lack vital medicines and a growing share of the country's roughly 30 million people is suffering from malnutrition. The leaders greeted the crowd before the concert ended.

"We didn't know what we were getting into at the time", Ocampo said Thursday.

Almost 200,000 people attended a festive benefit concert in Cucuta on Friday featuring Latin pop stars, including Luis Fonsi of "Despacito" fame, many of whom called on Maduro to step down.

Maduro said the event would last until Sunday.

Maduro, who retains the support of allies China and Russian Federation, has blocked the entry of aid and accused the United States of plotting a military intervention.

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