Maduro: Venezuela severs diplomatic ties with Colombia

"This is a great achievement, Venezuela!" wrote Guaido in a tweet.

Reuters, citing Colombia's migration agency, reported three Venezuelan National Guard members deserted their posts early Saturday before the effort to bring aid into Venezuela began.

The soldiers tried to disperse the crowds with tear gas and plastic buckshot, and armored vehicles pushed them away from the global crossing. Guaido has vowed humanitarian aid would enter his country despite a blockade.

The U.S. special envoy for Venezuela, who joined regional leaders and diplomats in Cucuta to show support for the opposition, called the killings "a crime and a disgrace".

Guaido had appealed to Venezuela's armed forces to stand to one side and allow aid in, promising amnesty to all officers who disavowed Maduro.

Venezuela is gripped by a humanitarian crisis that has seen poverty soar during years of recession.

The violence came just hours before dueling concerts were expected to begin on the country's western border with Colombia, where tons of donated food and medicine are stored.

Maduro has presided over a massive economic crisis, with annual inflation running at millions of per cent, while more than 3 million Venezuelans have fled overseas.

The socialist president, who took power in 2013 and was re-elected in an election a year ago widely viewed as fraudulent, has declared Venezuela's southern border with Brazil closed and threatened to do the same with the Colombian frontier ahead of the opposition's plan to bring in the aid today. The concert is aimed at raising funds to help the relief effort.

As the musical propaganda war played out, Maduro sent Venezuelan missiles and increased military presence at the border.

The Venezuelan government, which has claimed the concert serves to create a pretext for military intervention by the United States, announced it would also organize a concert on the other side of the Tienditas bridge that has yet to be opened.

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Moscow has also claimed the U.S. is delivering military equipment disguised as aid deliveries with plans to engage in "dangerous provocation".

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has branded it a "show" and a smokescreen for a United States invasion.

An indigenous couple were killed and at least 15 people were injured, residents said.

Venezuela's incumbent President Nicolas Maduro blasted these actions as an attempted coup and said he was cutting diplomatic ties with Washington.

Clashes broke out as volunteers tried to pass aid via the Brazilian and Colombian borders. The vehicles are driven by Venezuelans and escorted by Brazilian police, organizers said.

The violence occurred in southeastern Bolivar state close to the border with Brazil, which Maduro ordered closed on Thursday. After Guaido invoked Venezuela's charter on January 23 to declare himself head of state, the USA urged other nations to recognize the 35-year-old as president. The leaders greeted the crowd before the concert ended.

Almost 200,000 people attended a festive benefit concert in Cucuta on Friday featuring Latin pop stars, including Luis Fonsi of "Despacito" fame, many of whom called on Maduro to step down.

"Performers took to the stage against a giant backdrop emblazoned with the words "#Trump Hands off Venezuela", with around 2,500 people in attendance.

Maduro has said peace is what he wants.

Maduro said the event would last until Sunday.

FILE - Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro attends a gathering in support of his government in Caracas, Venezuela, Feb. 7, 2019.

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)
 
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