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    Humanitarian aid for Venezuela is carried after being unloaded from a U.S. Air Force plane at Camilo Daza Airport in Cucuta, Colombia February 16, 2019

    Venezuela Crisis Reaching ‘Flashpoint’ After Attempted Aid Delivery

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    On Friday, a number of border incidents in Venezuela were reported as the US and its right-wing allies in Colombia and Brazil set the stage for intervention. February 23 is the deadline for Caracas to accept foreign aid, but a journalist in the country told Sputnik that as the coup attempt fails, invasion becomes more likely.

    It's been nearly a month since Juan Guaido declared himself Venezuela's interim president, but the internal movement against President Nicolas Maduro is no closer to seizing power. As the country organizes around Maduro's government, the US and its allies have prepared the ground for an intervention into the country in the name of delivering humanitarian aid. Tons of supplies have been assembled near the border, and Maduro has been given until February 23 to accept them. It's unclear exactly what comes after that deadline, but US forces have landed alongside the aid packages, and US politicians seem unlikely to cease fanning the flames for regime change.

    Radio Sputnik's Loud and Clear spoke with Paul Dobson, a writer for VenezuelAnalysis.com, about recent events and events anticipated this weekend.

    ​"Without a doubt this weekend is a flashpoint in the ongoing political crisis which has been initiated, stimulated, by the Washington White House," Dobson said. "We have seen, obviously apart from the border incident, which we'll talk a little bit more about just now, we're also seeing in Caracas, for example, the beginning of the International Assembly of the Peoples, which have seen hundreds and hundreds of well-known figures — academics, journalists and social leaders — flock to Caracas to attend this assembly in support of the constitutional government of Venezuela. We are seeing nearly daily protests, mass protests, not just in Caracas, but in other parts of the country, against US imperialism and rejecting the threats of intervention into the country."

    "And of course early this morning, we saw an incident on the Brazilian border, still a little bit unclear as to what exactly happened. What we can gather is that a group of indigenous citizens close to the border with Brazil tried to block a military convoy which was en route to close the border following the wording of the orders of President Maduro. We're not quite sure what happened at the confrontation; however, there have been reports that two indigenous citizens have died as a result. There are also rumors that the indigenous community kidnapped three high-ranking military officers, although these reports are yet to be confirmed."

    ​"On the Colombian border as well, we're seeing mass amounts of people flock to the border for both of the concerts you mentioned — one on the Colombian side and one on the Venezuelan side — and tensions are definitely growing."

    In the Colombian border town of Cucuta, billionaire Richard Branson is preparing a "Venezuelan Aid Live" concert, aiming to raise $100 million for "food and medicine for Venezuelans," according to the Washington Post.

    The concert will be on one end of the embattled Tienditas International Bridge, which has never been opened but nonetheless became the object of international scorn when the Venezuelan government took measures to further blockade the bridge earlier this month.

    ​At the Venezuelan end of the bridge will be a three-day "Hands Off Venezuela" festival.

    "We'll be here to denounce all the barbarity, the conspiracy, the blockades with which the United States government have been attacking the democratic stability in Venezuela," Dario Vivas of the ruling United Socialist Party told Al Jazeera on Thursday while speaking from that concert's construction site.

    Dobson said the two concerts are "maybe 20 minutes away" from each other.

    "We're also seeing a heavy military presence from both governments at the moment. We've seen US military on the Colombian side of the border in recent days. Three large cargo planes arrived with all of the military personnel, and we don't know what else, about three or four days ago."

    "And obviously there's a lot of talk about what is going on at the border. The opposition concert is calling for the entry of what they call ‘humanitarian aid' into the country, and the pro-government concert is under the title of ‘Hands Off Venezuela,' so they are calling for a rejection of the US threats and the respect for the sovereignty of the country."

    Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro gestures during a news conference at Miraflores Palace in Caracas, Venezuela, February 8, 2019
    © REUTERS / Andres Martinez Casares

    Dobson said that while things had been rather quiet in the country, contrary to what news outside of Venezuela might have said, "this weekend it is starting to heat up a little bit, although the vast, vast majority of the country is entirely calm at the moment. We're not seeing any road blockades being set up; we're not seeing any shift in the power dynamics which would indicate that there is an imminent coup — or an imminent success of the coup which is currently going on. In the rest of the country, people are going out to work, to the schools, to the hospitals, doing their shopping and so on, as usual."

    "Tomorrow we are expecting to see large, right-wing opposition protests across the country, with obviously their focus being on the border regions, but we have also seen pro-government supporters mobilize to defend the country's right to self-determination."

    Dobson said that "without a doubt," the US would try to manipulate the optics of the situation so as to appear to be championing a noble cause.

    The journalist said that right-wing events usually work like this: "Small groups of right-wing youth protest; they start Molotov cocktails at government institutions, even nurseries, hospitals, things like this, start trying to burn them down, start shooting from the rooftops. The armed forces or the national guard are then called upon to restore public order, which obviously involves a confrontation, given the nature of the protesters. As a result, some are either arrested or, unfortunately, harmed in the protest, and international mainstream media reports this as ‘repression by the dictator.' So there is definitely a precedent there."

    "It's also worth pointing out that the indigenous communities in that area of the country have, for a long time, had an ongoing spat with the government, essentially revolving around mining rights. The indigenous communities frequently practice illegal mining — or illegal according to the government's interpretation of the word — and the government have been trying for the last two or three years to regulate the mining industry in that sector, which has obviously been confronted with resistance by the very lucrative miners, who stem from the indigenous communities," Dobson explained.

    "So we have seen numerous confrontations. The last was only in December, a couple of months ago, between the Pemon indigenous groupings and government security forces. So the recent confrontation has to definitely be seen in that context. I'm not indicating that mining was the cause of the confrontation; it seems to be more revolving around the closing of the Brazilian border. However, there is certainly plenty of bad will between this particular indigenous community, which is unique in its anti-government stance, [and the government]. The vast majority of the indigenous communities in Venezuela are pro-government, but this particular community is anti-government," Dobson said.

    He cautioned however, that Guaido, "Washington's ‘man' in Venezuela," was failing in his objective to take power in the country, because "this worryingly pushes him down the path of foreign military intervention as the only means to which he can actually assume a presidency. So the longer the government stays in power here, the threat of government intervention is, in fact, more likely. This will mean huge bloodshed — not just for Venezuelans but for other peoples across the region, and will entirely destabilize the whole of Latin America. Therefore it must be opposed, for anyone who supports a diplomatic solution to the situation."

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    Political Crisis in Venezuela (537)

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    indigenous communities, regime change, intervention, deadline, border, concert, humanitarian aid, Loud and Clear, Richard Branson, Paul Dobson, Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela
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