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23 Feb, 2019 14:18

Tensions flare at Venezuela-Colombia border amid aid row (VIDEO)

Opposition supporters clashed with Venezuelan police on Saturday in several places on the border with Colombia. They attempt to force a way for American ‘aid’ to enter the country against the wishes of the government.

The confrontation started in the morning in the border town of Urena. Footage from the scene showed several protesters pelting police officers with rocks and setting tires on fire.

Also in Urena, demonstrators stole a bus and set it on fire. The blaze damaged a building beside which the protesters had left the vehicle.

On Saturday morning, local TV broadcasts showed an apparent attempt by some civilians to dismantle a metal barrier, which prevents travel across the Simon Bolivar international bridge, which is located some 10km south of the Venezuelan town.

Later in the day the bridge became the scene of intense confrontation between Venezuelan opposition supporters coming from the Colombian side and the Venezuelan security troops defending the crossing. The protesters pelted the police with stones while the law enforcement responded with tear gas, footage from the scene showed.

There are three cross-border bridges near Urena, including the one made internationally famous earlier this month by the US administration, which claimed it was shut down to prevent the delivery of humanitarian aid to Venezuela – despite the connection never being open to traffic.

The third bridge, named after Francisco de Paula Santander and the closest one to Urena, witnessed dramatic events of its own. Amid clashes between opposition forces and border guards, a truck carrying aid caught fire, though it was not immediately clear if it was torched deliberately or accidentally.

In a separate incident in the morning, three members of Venezuela’s Bolivarian National Guard (GNB) were reported to have defected to the Colombian side after driving their vehicle towards a security cordon on the Simon Bolivar bridge. TeleSUR, a pro-government news channel, said the defection had been organized by the opposition.

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The sporadic flare-ups occurred on the day that opposition leader and self-declared interim president Juan Guaido promised to begin moving shipments of humanitarian aid into crisis-stricken Venezuela after the expiry of a deadline that he set. The shipment was provided by the US, which considers Guaido to be the legitimate head of Venezuela, and the elected President Nicolas Maduro to be a usurper.

Guaido showed up in the city of Cucuta on the Colombian side of the border after defying an order by a Venezuelan court not to leave the country. He boasted that the first truck of American aid had made it to Venezuela from Brazil, and said a convoy of trucks had been deployed from Colombia as well, calling on Venezuelan troops to let them in.

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The Maduro government sees the planned delivery as a PR stunt and possibly a cover to deliver weapons intended to arm opposition fighters supporting Guaido. International humanitarian organizations such as Red Cross have distances themselves from the so called US humanitarian aid calling it "politicised."

On Saturday, the Venezuelan military deployed additional troops at the border with Colombia, boosting existing forces in apparent preparation for a possible escalation of the situation.

Caracas says Washington uses is using its protege in a bid to topple the legitimate government of the country, and take control of its natural resources – a sentiment which apparently was confirmed by US National Security Advisor John Bolton in an interview.

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This week, Maduro ordered the closure of the country’s border with Brazil, and on Saturday, he ordered the closure of border bridges with Colombia.

On Saturday, unverified reports were also received, that several people were killed in the eastern Venezuelan border town of Santa Elena de Uairen, after National Guard troops opened fire on protesters.

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