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How did we get here? Venezuela’s humanitarian aid standoff explained

Critics accuse Maduro, Chavez’s hand-picked successor, of unfairly winning an election last year for a second six-year term by banning his popular rivals from running. Some anti-Maduro leaders are jailed and others have fled Venezuela fearing for their safety.

Last month, the 35-year-old Guaido was named leader of the opposition-controlled National Assembly. He’s managed to rally masses of Venezuelans into the streets to show their support, and he’s won backing from nearly 50 countries worldwide, including the United States.

Venezuela's self proclaimed president Juan Guaido arrives for a meeting with university students at the Central University of Venezuela, in Caracas on Friday.

Venezuela’s self proclaimed president Juan Guaido arrives for a meeting with university students at the Central University of Venezuela, in Caracas on Friday.Credit:AP

How does aid fit in?

Offers of humanitarian assistance are coming in from around the world. The Trump administration offered Guaido’s interim presidency an initial $20 million in support and Guaido says the aid will come in through neighboring Colombia, Brazil and as yet unidentified Caribbean islands.

The first shipment includes food kits for 5000 Venezuelans and high-protein nutritional supplements that can treat an estimated 6700 young children with moderate malnutrition. It arrived at the Colombian border city of Cucuta, where volunteers are bagging them in preparation for attempts to bring them across the border.

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The boxes of emergency aid came from the U.S. Agency for International Development, and are marked with USAID labels.

What’s Maduro saying?

Maduro has refused the aid, disavowing any humanitarian crisis and saying Venezuela is not a country of beggars. He’s offered to try to resolve the political impasse in a dialogue with opposition leaders, which critics call a stalling tactic that has failed to lead to any changes.

Nicolas Maduro during a televised press conference in Caracas, during which he denounced the presence of trailers of humanitarian aid brought to the Colombian border.

Nicolas Maduro during a televised press conference in Caracas, during which he denounced the presence of trailers of humanitarian aid brought to the Colombian border.Credit:Bloomberg

More defiantly, the socialist President contends that the aid is part of a US-led coup against him, with a goal to colonize Venezuela and exploit its vast oil resources. The Venezuelan military has barricaded a bridge connecting the two nations with a tanker and two cargo trailers in an apparent attempt to block the aid.

What’s the opposition’s next move?

It’s unclear what will break the standoff playing out at the Venezuela-Colombia border. US Ambassador to Colombia Kevin Whitaker said the US will get supplies to the border, and Guaido will take it from there.

Guaido has given few details of his strategy, but says the food and supplies will reach Venezuela’s most vulnerable people in the next days. Lester Toledo, who represents Guaido in the aid mission in Cucuta, issued a message to Venezuelan troops, telling them the aid contains food and medicine their own families need.

Lester Toledo, an ally of Venezuelan National Assembly leader Juan Guaido, centre, speaks as US humanitarian aid is packaged at a warehouse in Cucuta.

Lester Toledo, an ally of Venezuelan National Assembly leader Juan Guaido, centre, speaks as US humanitarian aid is packaged at a warehouse in Cucuta.Credit:Bloomberg

Toledo suggested one strategy: a mass mobilization of his countrymen reminiscent of how in 2016 a large group of Venezuelan women dressed in white and intent on crossing the closed border with Colombia made their way through a line of national guardsmen in order to buy food on the other side.

AP

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