The situation on the Venezuelan borders is beginning to spiral out of control as several aid caravans carrying thousands of tons of food and medicine are being denied entry by President Nicolas Maduro. Yesterday, an incident at the border resulted in soldiers firing into a crowd, killing two. Today, protesters at the border with Colombia clashed with police, who fired tear gas and rubber bullets into the crowd.
Five Venezuelan soldiers defected to Colombia, abandoning their posts at the Simon Bolivar International Bridge. They urged their fellow soldiers to join them.
Earlier today, Maduro broke off relations with Colombia, which continues to facilitate U.S. efforts to bring humanitarian aid into Venezuela.
Maduro’s order to close Venezuelan borders comes as the country’s opposition steps up the pressure to allow the aid to flow unrestricted.
The clashes occurred as Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido, who most Western nations recognize as Venezuela’s legitimate leader, gave a personal send off to an aid caravan from the Colombian city of Cucuta.
Guaido briefly boarded one of a dozen trucks carrying U.S.-backed humanitarian aid before they set off toward the border, where they were pushed back by Venezuelan security forces.
Colombia’s government said their contents would be unloaded and transported by “human chains” that have formed on the road that leads toward Venezuela.
But in the towns of San Antonio and Urena, just across the border, troops fired tear gas and rubber bullets at opposition activists including lawmakers walking toward the frontier who were waving Venezuelan flags and chanting “freedom.”
Witnesses reported constant gunfire without being able to identify the origin.
Maduro is terrified that if the aid caravans begin relieving the desperate situation in Venezuela his absolute control over the country will wane:
Maduro argued that foreign aid was an attempt by the United States to undermine his authority. The United States has vocalized support for Maduro’s opposition, while Maduro has received support from countries such as Russia, Cuba and China.
“What the U.S. empire is doing with its puppets is an internal provocation,” Maduro said on Thursday. “They wanted to generate a great national commotion, but they didn’t achieve it.”
Through his Twitter account on Saturday, Maduro emboldened Venezuelans to “mobilize.”
“Let’s all take to the streets to defend our independence with conscience and joy,” he wrote.
In answer to his call, his supporters poured into the streets of Caracas in an impressive show of support. Maduro is not going to leave as long as he feels he has the army and his core supporters among Chavistas in the slums.
Running interference for Maduro on the international stage are Russia, China… and Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.
Some leading Florida Democrats are furious with Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders for declining to call disputed Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro a dictator or recognize opposition leader Juan Guaidó as the country’s interim president.
“I’ll make it clear,” Democratic Florida Rep. Donna Shalala tweeted. “@SenSanders does not reflect the majority of the Democratic Party.”
It appears now that the only power that will force Maduro out is the Venezuelan military, which, despite the few defections, is still solidly backing the dictator.
Meanwhile, the Venezuelan people continue to suffer from living in Maduro’s “socialist paradise” while Democrats in the U.S. mindlessly parrot his ideas.