Five European lawmakers who were expelled from Venezuela yesterday said they would try to re-enter the country via Colombia along with a shipment of humanitarian aid sent by the US.
The European Parliament members were tossed out of Venezuela with no explanation on Sunday shortly after they arrived in Caracas, according to Spanish MEP Esteban Gonzalez Pons who led the group.
But after he returned to Madrid, Pons said he received a phone call from Colombia’s foreign minister inviting the five to go to his country on Saturday.
“We have accepted the invitation and... we are going to try to cross over with rations and medicine from Cucuta,” Pons told reporters in Madrid, referring to the Colombian border city where US humanitarian aid is being stockpiled for planned delivery to Venezuela.
The expulsion of the lawmakers is the latest point of tension between the international community and Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, who is in the grip of a power struggle with opposition leader Juan Guaido, the head of the National Assembly who proclaimed himself interim president last month.
Pons said the five had been invited by Guaido to visit Venezuela.
The delegation included two other Spanish lawmakers as well as one each from Portugal and the Netherlands.
Writing on Twitter, Guaido said the MEPs had been “deported by an isolated and increasingly irrational regime”.
Both Spain and France have condemned Venezuela’s decision to kick them out.
Venezuela’s crisis was deepening yesterday as opposition leader Guaido’s deadline to let in desperately needed humanitarian aid loomed, and President Nicolas Maduro showed no sign of backing down on blocking the shipments.
Opposition officials hit out at state Internet provider CANTV yesterday for blocking the website where volunteers are signing up to help bring in the aid, mostly supplied by the US but stockpiled in Colombia just over the border from Venezuela.
Bringing in humanitarian aid is crucial to Guaido, who has given Maduro’s government until Saturday to let the shipments into the country.
Guaido is recognised as interim president by 50 countries in his challenge to socialist leader Maduro’s authority.
Venezuela is in the grip of a humanitarian crisis due to shortages of food and medicine exacerbated by hyperinflation.
“On February 23 we have the opportunity to save the lives of hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans,” Guaido said.
Last week, CANTV had also redirected traffic from the volunteer website to an almost identical-looking page in another bid to slow down the mobilisation.
Yesterday a second aid collection centre began operations in Brazil’s northeastern state of Roraima, which borders Venezuela. A third centre is due to open this week in the Dutch island of Curacao, off Venezuela’s north coast.
“We are committed to achieving change in Venezuela,” said Guaido on Twitter.
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