The Slatest

Venezuela Security Forces Manage to Push Back Aid Convoys as Clashes Kill at Least Four

A demonstrator gestures in front of Venezuelan national policemen standing guard at the Simon Bolivar international bridge, in Cucuta, Colombia after President Nicolas Maduro's government ordered to temporary close down the border with Colombia on February 23, 2019.
A demonstrator gestures in front of Venezuelan national policemen standing guard at the Simon Bolivar international bridge, in Cucuta, Colombia after President Nicolas Maduro’s government ordered to temporary close down the border with Colombia on February 23, 2019.
LUIS ROBAYO/Getty Images

It was a tense and violent day along Venezuela’s international borders Saturday as opponents of President Nicolás Maduro fought against tear gas and rubber bullets as they tried to get humanitarian aid into the country. At least four people were killed and dozens injured in clashes that broke out in chaotic scenes that included burned trucks and at least 23 soldiers switching loyalties to opposition leader Juan Guaidó, who has been recognized by most of the Western world as the legitimate ruler of Venezuela.

Although there were isolated reports that some aid convoys managed to get through to Venezuela, there was little evidence that was the case. Guaidó himself had celebrated that a shipment of humanitarian aid managed to make it through the border from Brazil but reports from the ground suggest the trucks didn’t actually make it through the final Venezuelan customs checkpoint.

The events that took place Saturday came after weeks that the opposition had been stocking up aid along Venezuela’s borders to carry out what they described as a “humanitarian avalanche” marking one month after Guaidó declared he was the new interim president of Venezuela. As much as the aid is desperately needed, the opposition is also clearly hoping that the high-profile efforts to get much-needed food and medicine into Venezuela will help boost defections from security forces that have so far largely remained loyal to Maduro.

Speaking from Caracas, Maduro insisted he was “stronger than ever” and he broke off diplomatic relations with Colombia. “We can’t keep putting up with the Colombian territory being used for attacks against Venezuela,” Maduro said. “For that reason, I have decided to break all political and diplomatic relations with Colombia’s fascist government.” He gave Colombian diplomats 24 hours to leave the country. Maduro, who has long described the aid as part of a plot by the United States to invade Venezuela and topple him, called Guaidó a “puppet of imperialism.”

For now at least what had been billed as a potentially momentous day in the ongoing Venezuelan crisis turned out to be further proof that Maduro may last longer in power than many were predicting one month ago. And now remains unclear if Guaidó would even be allowed to return to Venezuela after he traveled across the border to assist in the aid deliveries.

Trump appeared to be following along the events of the day in Venezuela and he sent out a tweet on Saturday afternoon saying “God Bless the people of Venezuela!