Venezuela standoff turns deadly

Published February 24, 2019, 6:53 PM

by Dhel Nazario, Jeffrey G. Damicog, and Rey G. Panaligan

By the Associated Press

CUCUTA, Colombia — A US­-backed drive to deliver foreign aid to Venezuela met strong resistance as troops loyal to President Nicolas Maduro blocked the convoys at the border and fired tear gas on protesters in clashes that left two people dead and some 300 injured.

A protestor stands behind a fire during a protest at the border between Brazil and Venezuela, on Saturday, Feb.23, 2019. Tensions are running high in the Brazilian border city of Pacaraima. Thousands remained at the city's international border crossing with Venezuela to demand the entry of food and medicine.(AP Photo/Ivan Valencia)
A protestor stands behind a fire during a protest at the border between Brazil and Venezuela, on Saturday, Feb.23, 2019. Tensions are running high in the Brazilian border city of Pacaraima. Thousands remained at the city’s international border crossing with Venezuela to demand the entry of food and medicine.(AP Photo / Ivan Valencia / MANILA BULLETIN)

As night fell Saturday, opposition leader Juan Guaido refrained from asking supporters to continue risking their lives trying to break through the government’s barricades at the Colombian and Brazilian borders. Instead, he said he would meet US Vice President Mike Pence on Monday in Bogota at an emergency meeting of mostly conservative Latin American governments to discuss Venezuela’s crisis.

But he did make one last appeal to troops to let the aid in and urged the international com­munity to keep “all options open” in the fight to oust Maduro given Saturday’s violence.

“How many of you national guardsmen have a sick mother? How many have kids in school without food,” he said, standing along­side a warehouse in the Colombian city of Cucuta where 600 tons of mostly US-supplied boxes of food and medicine have been stock­piled. “You don’t owe any obedience to a sadist…who celebrates the denial of humanitarian aid the country needs.”

Earlier, Maduro, who considers the aid part of a coup plot, struck a defiant tone, breaking diplomatic relations with Colombia, accusing its “fascist” government of serving as a stag­ing ground for a US-led effort to oust him from power and possibly a military invasion.

“My patience has run out,” Maduro said, speaking at a rally of red-shirted supporters in Caracas and giving Colombian diplomats 24 hours to leave the country.

 
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