Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Venezuela’s National Guard blocks lawmakers from traveling to border

National Assembly deputies wave from a bus at the Francisco Fajardo highway, in Caracas, Venezuela, 21 February 2019, as they head to the Tachira state, at the border with Colombia, where the humanitarian aid remains. EFE

Caracas, Feb 21 (EFE).- Venezuela’s National Guard (GNB) on Thursday blocked a convoy of opposition lawmakers from traveling from this capital to the Venezuela-Colombia border, video footage uploaded to social media showed.

The guardsmen forced the legislators to get off of buses, leading to a brief confrontation and pushing and shoving.

The footage showed that tear gas was fired during the incident, which occurred at around 2 pm at the La Cabrera tunnel that links the central states of Aragua and Carabobo.

Juan Guaido, the speaker of Venezuela’s opposition-controlled National Assembly and self-proclaimed acting president of the oil-rich nation, was expected to be leading the delegation that left Caracas Thursday morning for the western border state of Tachira.

The purpose of the trip is to receive international aid that has been stockpiled in the Colombian city of Cucuta.
Preparations are being made to deliver the aid to the crisis-hit country even though leftist Venezuelan head of state Nicolas Maduro vows not to let it enter.

A member of Guaido’s team said he was traveling along with numerous other opposition lawmakers in the convoy of three buses, although EFE was unable to independently confirm that information.

Late last month, Venezuela’s Attorney General’s Office opened an investigation into Guaido, who has had his bank accounts frozen and also is barred from selling his assets or leaving the country.

That latter restriction could prevent him from joining other opposition leaders who have gathered in Cucuta to coordinate the delivery of aid shipments from the United States.

Venezuela’s opposition, which does not recognize Maduro’s May 2018 re-election victory and his new six-year term in office that began on Jan. 10, has called on the international community to help supply food and other basic goods to a country racked by shortages and hyperinflation.

A view of buses carrying National Assembly deputies at the Francisco Fajardo highway, in Caracas, Venezuela, 21 February 2019, as they head to the Tachira state, at the border with Colombia, where the humanitarian aid remains. EPA/Miguel Gutierrez

A portion of that aid is being stockpiled in Cucuta, and opposition lawmakers say they will deliver it to their homeland on Saturday amid a large mobilization of ordinary citizens.

Such a move would be in defiance of Maduro, who has says Venezuela has long been the victim of US-led economic warfare and earlier this month described the aid as a “rotten gift” carrying the “poison of humiliation.”

Separately, the White House said Thursday that US Vice President Mike Pence will visit Colombia on Feb. 25 to “voice the United States’ unwavering support for interim President Juan Guaido and highlight the Venezuelan people’s fight for democracy over dictatorship.”

The US led the way in recognizing Guaido after he declared himself interim president at a rally last month. Several Latin American countries, Canada and the major European powers also regard the senior lawmaker as Venezuela’s legitimate head of state.

While in Bogota, Pence will meet with Colombian President Ivan Duque and deliver remarks at a Lima Group meeting focused on “addressing the tragic humanitarian and security crises unfolding in Venezuela and ongoing US efforts to deliver aid to the country.”

Duque, one of Guaido’s biggest backers, on Thursday received the credentials of the Venezuelan opposition leader’s designated ambassador to Colombia, Humberto Calderon Berti.