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On Saturday, presidents, music stars and activists backing the Venezuelan opposition’s attempt to break a government blockade and bring food and medical supplies into the country, and most of the journalists covering the showdown, clustered around the border with Colombia.
But it was the remote frontier with Brazil that saw the worst violence and the boldest – though unfounded – claims of success in getting aid into Venezuela.
At least three people were killed and more than 20 injured over two days of extraordinary violence and tension in the area that saw the regional military chief briefly captured by indigenous people and the most senior local official flee into hiding.
“I am protecting the mayor and indigenous leaders,” Candy, a leader of the indigenous Pemón Territorial Guard, told the Guardian. “This flight into the forest is isn’t some kind of protest. It’s a war that they have launched, they have orders to fire at us, whoever we are.
The ongoing crisis in Venezuela devolved over the weekend, as embattled president Nicolás Maduro’s military blocked help and humanitarian aid from entering the country — occasionally with deadly force.
Starting Friday, violent clashes erupted at several points along Venezuela’s border with Colombia as armed government forces tried to block shipments of aid from entering the country. By the end of Saturday, at least four people had reportedly been killed along that line and along the Latin American country’s border with Brazil; hundreds more were injured. Maduro has insisted that the humanitarian supplies are unnecessary and spent the weekend continuing to celebrate his ongoing rule with his supporters — even as the United States and other international leaders amped up calls for him to step down.
The conditions inside Venezuela, however, paint a dramatically different picture than Maduro’s salsa-dancing rally Saturday does. The country has been consumed by political turmoil and an economic free-fall that has pushed Venezuela beyond the brink of a humanitarian crisis. Vox’s Alex Ward has a run-down of just how dire the situation has become:
Inflation in the country now hovers above a million percent, and could reach 10 million percent this year, according to the International Monetary Fund. Food and medicine are too expensive for many to purchase. And since 2015, more than 3 million Venezuelans have left the country in search of better opportunities elsewhere, primarily in Colombia. (It’s expected that another 2 million will become refugees in 2019 alone.)
Despite the declining conditions, Maduro has vowed to block any humanitarian aid from crossing the border into Venezuela. He denies that a humanitarian crisis even exists in his country and he’s called the international shipments a potential “trojan horse” that would lead to military intervention.
The attempt to deliver humanitarian aid to Venezuela, orchestrated by Juan Guaidó, who is recognised as the country’s interim president by its opposition-controlled legislature and by most western and Latin American democracies, had three objectives. The first was publicly to shame the dictatorial regime of Nicolás Maduro. Its corruption and incompetence have inflicted years of hardship on Venezuelans. The second was to relieve that hardship by delivering some 600 tons of aid, most of it provided by the United States. The third and most important was to bring the regime down by driving a wedge between its leaders and the various armed forces that keep it in power. The operation succeeded in its first objective, but has so far failed to achieve the other two.