Maduro accused of risking lives by blocking aid

Aerial view of the Tienditas Bridge in the border between Cucuta Colombia and Tachira Venezuela after Venezuelan military forces blocked it with containers

Despite the warning, United States and Colombian officials have said they do not plan to use military force to get tens of millions of dollars of humanitarian aid into Venezuela.

On January 23, the leader of Venezuela's opposition Juan Guaido, whose appointment as parliamentary speaker had been annulled by the Supreme Court two days before that, declared himself as interim president.

We call upon the entire like-minded global community, the private sector, and non-governmental organizations to join us in providing life-saving aid to Venezuelans.

The border bridge near where the aid is being stored has been blocked by the Venezuelan military.

"I am convinced that the way we are going to pass this aid is with the Venezuelan people", Toledo said at a press event unveiling the aid.

"The main objective here is to bring humanitarian assistance- and if it must be done by military support, so be it", he said.

China is a close ally of Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro, to whom it has lent billions to help shore up his embattled regime.

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Under Maduro's direction, Venezuela has descended into economic chaos marked by hyperinflation, recession and shortages of basic necessities, including food and medicine.

"At the same time, what they did with humanitarian aid is a cheap spectacle". Opposition leaders said three countries in the region will become aid hubs and that some nations, like Colombia, will likely have more than one collection site.

High protein energy supplements were also included for young Venezuelan children suffering from malnutrition.

Additional aid is being stored in Miami and Houston and "ready to be deployed to the region immediately", the USA said in a statement. "This is a down payment".

Responding to that meeting, China's foreign ministry said in a statement late on Friday that China supported the efforts of the global community on the peaceful settlement of the Venezuela issue and hoped all parties would continue to play a constructive role.

The aid squabble is now the latest front in the battle between Guaido and President Nicolas Maduro, who is vowing not to let the supplies enter the country.

Guaido identified the three collection points for worldwide humanitarian aid as the Brazil-Venezuela border, an as-of-yet unidentified Caribbean island, and Cucuta.

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Humanitarian organizations have warned that attempting to force the aid into the country would be risky, and a top USA official on Thursday said Washington did not plan to do so.

A growing list of almost 50 countries has thrown their support behind Guaido.

He also denounced a meeting in Montevideo of ministers from more than a dozen European and Latin American countries who are seeking a mediated path to end Venezuela's standoff.

Guaido said the military has to decide whether to "take the side of the constitution" or to "continue on the side of an increasingly isolated dictator".

Members of the South American country's security forces fear they or their families could be targeted by Maduro if they defect, so the US would need to offer them something that could outweigh those concerns, said Eric Farnsworth, vice president of the Council of the Americas think tank in Washington.

Justice Mendoza says Guaido is usurping presidential powers.

The Times noted that there were other border roadways that were open where vehicles could cross, calling the blockade "a show of defiance by the government of President Nicolas Maduro".

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Smith reported from Caracas, Venezuela.

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