Tear gas and gunfire stopped a humanitarian convoy from entering Venezuela this weekend. Hundreds were left wounded and several are dead after forces loyal to dictator Nicolás Maduro opened fire, raising fears the political standoff is veering into open conflict.
Today, US Vice President Mike Pence meets Venezuela’s interim president, Juan Guaidó, in Colombia. This comes as Maduro sealed off Venezuela’s borders with Colombia to prevent more aid from entering the country.
The border violence began Friday when Venezuelan troops opened fire on unarmed protesters as they tried to bring truckloads of aid across the border from Brazil, killing two and wounding 12 more.
There was also pandemonium on the Colombian border. National Guard troops loyal to Maduro blocked bridges to stop the aid, which Maduro claims is part of a US-led coup against him.
Lester Toledo, a representative of Guaidó’s party, led the effort to get aid across the border. Days earlier, he talked of success: “On 23 of February, in this bridge, you are going to be a witness to a humanitarian tsunami that will be around here, and we are coming into Venezuela with this humanitarian aid.”
But things didn’t go as planned. Saturday, thousands of desperate Venezuelans led by Guaidó himself tried to rush the blockades and deliver 235 tons of American aid to their countrymen.
By mid-afternoon, the effort fell apart as Venezuelan forces torched four aid trucks and fired tear gas at hungry protesters. Just across the border, criminal gangs loyal to Maduro looted stores and attacked those supporting the aid effort.
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