Venezuela’s Guaido warns military on blocked aid

BBC : CARACAS, Feb 11, 2019 (BSS/AFP) – Opposition leader Juan Guaido, recognized
by some 50 countries as Venezuela’s interim president, warned the military
Sunday that blocking humanitarian aid from entering the country is a “crime
against humanity.”

The warning comes as international aid has taken center stage in a test of
wills between Guaido and President Nicolas Maduro in which Venezuela’s armed
forces are seen as the pivotal player.

Medicine and food sent by the United States has been blocked for three days
on the border in Cucuta, Colombia after Venezuelan soldiers closed a bridge
linking the two countries.

On the Venezuelan side of the border, dozens of doctors protested Sunday
demanding the aid be allowed in — including surgeon Jose Luis Mateus de la
Riva, who accused Maduro of sinking Venezuelan medicine back to the “medieval
era.”

“There are people responsible for this and the regime should know it,”
Guaido said after attending Sunday mass with his wife and 20-month-old baby.
“This a crime against humanity, men of the armed forces.”

Accusing those blocking aid of being “almost genocidal,” he likewise warned
that the military would be held responsible for the deaths of protesters —
and reaffirmed his call for a mass march on Tuesday in memory of the
estimated 40 people killed in disturbances since January 21.

Guaido has offered amnesty for any members of the armed forces who disavows
Maduro — but the military leadership still publicly backs the president.

On Sunday, the Venezuelan military announced it had started conducting
exercises, set to run until February 15 across the country, to “reinforce the
country’s defensive capacity.”

– ‘Political show’ –

Maduro has rejected humanitarian aid as a US ploy to intervene in
Venezuela, calling the deployment of aid a “political show” and blaming US
sanctions for the country’s widespread shortages of food and medicine.

Guaido countered that the regime was refusing to acknowledge a “crisis that
they themselves generated,” while Venezuelans were working to deal with the
humanitarian emergency.

Speaking to AFP Friday, Guaido vowed to do “whatever necessary” to “stop
the usurpation” of power and “save lives” — without ruling out the
possibility of authorizing foreign intervention.

And on Sunday, he said hundreds of volunteers had signed up over the
weekend to help bring aid into Venezuela — with further shipments set to
arrive in neighboring Brazil and on a Caribbean island.

Suffering the worst crisis of its modern history, Venezuelans have had to
grapple with life-threatening scarcities amid eye-popping levels of
hyperinflation that have rendered salaries and savings worthless.

According to the United Nations, some 2.3 million Venezuelans have fled the
country since 2015.

But Guaido on Sunday reiterated that he would not negotiate with Maduro —
as he believes Maduro would use such talks to buy himself time.

“Democracy is closer than ever before, the future is ours,” he said.

An international Contact Group, made up of European and Latin American
countries, called for snap presidential elections following a meeting in
Montevideo this week.

But Maduro, who has asked Pope Francis to act as a mediator, rejected what
he said was “bias” by the group.

Last week Maduro also rejected a call by European Union countries to hold
elections, prompting them to recognize Guaido.

Guaido, the 35 year-old head of the opposition-controlled National
Assembly, stunned Venezuela in January by declaring himself interim president
after the legislature declared Maduro a “usurper” following his May 2018
reelection in a vote disputed by the opposition and international community.

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