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Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro speaks during an interview earlier this week AP/PA Images
crisis point

Nicolas Maduro claims US has 'war plans against Venezuela' as Guaido mobilises aid volunteers

US aid has already arrived on the Colombian border as the country deals with a political crisis.

VENEZUELA’S SELF-DECLARED interim leader Juan Guaido has announced plans to mobilise thousands of volunteers to help bring American aid into the country next week.

It comes as the country’s president Nicolas Maduro vowed to strengthen border security and block what he called a US invasion.

Guaido’s announcement came as tonnes of US food aid began piling up along the border with Colombia, the latest flashpoint in the country’s building political crisis.

Guaido, whose claim to be interim president now has the support of more than 50 countries, told his rally that 600,000 people had registered to help bring desperately needed aid in through different border points.

“Not only will this be happening at the border where the volunteer movement will be, but in cities up and down the country where there will be demonstrations on 23 February for the aid to come in,” the National Assembly leader told thousands of supporters.

In addition to the aid arriving in Colombia, Guaido said, more would be coming through Brazil and the Caribbean island of Curacao.

Several tonnes of US aid have already arrived in the Colombian border town of Cucuta.

The US Army plans to deliver an additional 200 tonnes in coming days, a Pentagon official said on Friday, speaking on grounds of anonymity.

Rotten food

Guaido repeated his call on Venezuela’s military – whose support for Maduro has been crucial in the growing crisis – to stand aside and let the aid pass.

“You have, in your hands, the possibility of fighting alongside the people who are suffering the same shortages you are,” Guaido said in a tweet addressed to soldiers.

But Maduro, who asserts that aid could be used as a cover for a US invasion, called for reinforced border security.

He dismissed the arriving aid as “crumbs” and “rotten and contaminated food”.

On Friday, he instructed his army to prepare a “special deployment plan” for the 2,200-kilometer border with Colombia.

He said he would examine “what new forces” might be needed to keep the frontier “inviolable”.

Maduro claimed that US President Donald Trump and Colombian counterpart Ivan Duque had worked out “war plans against Venezuela” when they met Wednesday in Washington.

Duque told Guaido on Friday that he would help ensure that humanitarian aid reaches Venezuela.

A grave economic crisis has left millions in the once-wealthy country living in poverty, facing shortages of basic necessities such as food and medicine.

Some 2.3 million Venezuelans have fled the country since 2015 as a result, according to the United Nations.

- © AFP 2019

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