Caracas/Bogota, Feb 24 (IANS) At least five people were killed and hundreds injured as violence broke out along the Venezuela-Colombia border, where international aid intended for Caracas is awaiting transport.
The violence broke out on Saturday night as opposition leader and self-proclaimed interim Venezuelan President Juan Guaido named Saturday as the deadline for the aid to cross the border resulting in incumbent President Nicolas Maduro severing diplomatic relations with Colombia, CNN reported.
Maduro has vowed to stop the supplies from coming into the country, calling the plan part of a coup attempt.
The toll was confirmed to CNN by opposition National Assembly Representative Adriana Pichardo, adding that 51 people were arrested.
Meanwhile, Maria Angela Holguin Cuellar, the Colombian Foreign Minister, said 285 people were injured after the Venezuelan National Guard fired tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters near the country’s border.
Three trucks of aid were set on fire by tear gas grenades as they approached the first border checkpoint at the Santander bridge connecting Venezuela to Colombia.
Also Saturday, humanitarian aid moved through the Brazilian-Venezuelan border in Pacaraima, according to Maria Teresa Belandria, Venezuela’s opposition-appointed ambassador to Brazil, CNN reported.
In the wake of the violence, Guaido vowed that “we will not stop until we see freedom in Venezuela” and “we must keep all our options open for the liberation of our homeland”.
Guaido will head to Bogota for a meeting on Monday with US Vice President Mike Pence, and regional leaders in the Lima Group — Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru.
Mike Pompeo, the US secretary of state, blasted Maduro on social media, calling him “a sick tyrant” and saying: “The US will take action against those who oppose the peaceful restoration of democracy in Venezuela. Now is the time to act in support of the needs of the desperate Venezuelan people.”
The US recognises Guaido as the legitimate president of Venezuela.