Venezuelan troops will remain stationed along the country’s borders to prevent territorial violations, the defence minister said yesterday, ahead of the opposition’s plan to bring in humanitarian aid to alleviate an economic crisis.
President Nicolas Maduro has rejected offers of foreign food and medicine, denying there are widespread shortages and accusing opposition leader Juan Guaido of using aid to undermine his government in a US-orchestrated bid to oust him.
Guaido has said that aid will enter Venezuela from neighbouring countries by land and sea on Saturday.
The US has sent tonnes of aid to Colombia’s border with Venezuela, but Maduro has refused to let it in.
In comments broadcast on state TV, Defence Minister Vladimir Padrino said the opposition would have to pass over “our dead bodies” to impose a new government.
Guaido, who has invoked the constitution to assume an interim presidency, denounces Maduro as illegitimate and has received backing from some 50 countries.
Earlier US President Donald Trump warned members of Venezuela’s military who remain loyal to Maduro that they would “find no safe harbour, no easy exit and no way out.”
“You’ll lose everything,” Trump told a crowd of Venezuelan and Cuban immigrants in Miami.
Guaido has beseeched the armed forces to disavow Maduro, promising them future amnesty, though only a few high-ranking military officials have so far done so.
Padrino said it was unacceptable for the military to receive threats from Trump, and said officers and soldiers remained “obedient and subordinate” to Maduro.
“They will never accept orders from any foreign government...they will remain deployed and alert along the borders, as our commander in chief has ordered, to avoid any violations of our territory’s integrity,” Padrino said.
“Those that attempt to be president here in Venezuela...will have to pass over our dead bodies,” he said, referring to Guaido.
Maduro, who won a second term last year in an election, retains the backing of Russia and China and control of Venezuelan state institutions.
Bringing in humanitarian aid is crucial to the viability of Guaido.
He has given the Maduro government until Saturday to let shipments of mainly US aid into the country.
Maduro countered with his own announcement of 300 tonnes of aid from Russia, which he said would reach Venezuela by today — three days ahead of a potential showdown brought about by his February 23 deadline.
Speaking at an official event broadcast on TV, Maduro said the shipment contained “high-value medicine.”
Maduro has previously announced the arrival of aid from China, Cuba and Russia, his main international allies.
Earlier, opposition officials hit out at state internet provider CANTV for blocking the website where volunteers are signing up to help bring in the US aid stockpiled in Colombia just over the border from Venezuela.
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