Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro is preventing a convoy of aid from entering his country by blocking access to a bridge that connects it to Colombia.
Photos from Wednesday (Feb. 6) show the Tienditas International Bridge, outside of Cúcuta, Colombia, virtually empty after a pair of shipping containers and a fuel tanker were strewn across it.
Maduro’s denial of foreign aid is part of his government’s struggle with Juan Guaidó, the National Assembly leader who declared himself interim president last month. The US, Canada, and many other nations have recognized Guaidó as the rightful leader of Venezuela.
Canada and the US also pledged millions of dollars in aid, some of which is already in Colombia, ready to be shipped into Venezuela.
Maduro, meanwhile, has characterized the aid as tantamount to an intervention, saying Venezuela is not a nation of “beggars.”
By accepting the shipments, which have been organized by the opposition (paywall,) he would give Guaidó a big win. But refusing the aid could also be politically disastrous. After years of economic collapse and inflation, most Venezuelans are struggling to buy food and medicine, if it is available at all. Many make the difficult journey across the border into Colombia to buy the most basic of necessities.
Guaidó is already using the government’s aid blockade to encourage members of the Venezuelan military, which supports Maduro, to switch sides. “Are you going to deny your family the possibility of aid?” he said during a recent speech. “The moment is now, soldier.”