US instigating 'dangerous provocation' in Venezuela using aid supplies: Russia
Story Code : 779614
Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Washington and its allies were planning to supply Venezuela's self-proclaimed president, Juan Guaido, and his supporters with a wide range of weapons as they challenge the legal government of President Nicolas Maduro.
"We have information that companies from the US and its NATO allies are considering the possibility of buying a large batch of weapons in one of Eastern European countries in order to provide them to the Venezuelan opposition," she told the media in Moscow on Friday.
"The batch will reportedly include heavy machine guns, grenade launchers, portable missile launchers and ammunition for light weapons and artillery systems. So this is what they mean when they talk about delivering humanitarian aid," Zakharova added.
Guaido, who has already welcomed US threats of potential military intervention in his country, has set a Saturday deadline for the government to let in the alleged US “aid” supplies.
Maduro has said that US President Donald Trump wants to facilitate regime change in Venezuela under the cover of manufacturing a humanitarian crisis there. On Thursday, he ordered Venezuela's border with Brazil to be shut and threatened to also close the border with Colombia as well.
Guaido, however, has claimed that 300,000 Venezuelans could die without aid and he would rally a million volunteers to start bringing the US shipments into the country by Saturday.
Zakharova said Friday that the plan to use aid shipments as a cover allowed Washington to move special forces and military equipment “closer to Venezuelan territory” by causing tensions at the border.
Guaido's intentions to bring the supplies across the border were aimed at provoking violence, she further noted.
Earlier in the day, deadly clashes erupted near the border with Brazil, where at least two people were killed and several others injured after trying to confront Venezuelan troops in the southern town of Kumarakapay. Venezuelan troops were forced to open fire on a group of people who tried to block a road with the aim of preventing military vehicles from passing, according to witnesses.
Venezuelan Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino has made it clear that the military is on alert at the country’s frontiers and would block any territorial infringement.
The Russian ministry spokeswoman warned that a US military intervention in Venezuela would lead to a “sharp increase in tensions” around the world.
US President Donald Trump said in a recent interview with CBS that military action against Maduro remained “an option.”
Other US officials have also doubled down on the possibility of military action, with National Security Adviser John Bolton going as far as warning the Venezuelan military to join Guaido and take his “amnesty” before they lose the chance.
Bolton cancels Korea trip to focus on Venezuela
Meanwhile, Bolton, a known war hawk whose name has been tied with possible US military plans to invade Venezuela and many other countries, canceled his trip to South Korea next week to follow the developments in Venezuela instead.
"Ambassador Bolton has canceled his travel to the Republic of Korea to focus on events in Venezuela," US National Security Council spokesman Garrett Marquis said in a statement on Friday.
The trip to South Korea was aimed at facilitating a two-day summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Hanoi, Vietnam which begins on February 27.
Marquis said Bolton still planned to travel to the Vietnamese capital to attend the summit.
The Venezuelan military has reaffirmed its support for Maduro despite Trump's threat to wither abandon him or face dire consequences. The South American defense minister, appearing alongside senior officers, said on Wednesday that any attempt to impose a new government would have to be done over “our dead bodies.”
Citing political analysts, Reuters said on Saturday that Washington’s “looming showdown” at the border “is less about solving Venezuela's needs and more about testing the military's loyalty to Maduro by daring it to turn the aid away.”
The series of incidents occurring in the Latin American nation are reminiscent of the events that triggered the conflict in Syria. US troops entered the war in Syria in late 2015 under the pretext of fighting Daesh but ended up training Takfiri militant outfits against the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The Arab country has been gripped by foreign-backed militancy to this day.
Maduro supporters, opponents attend rival concerts at Colombia border
In the meantime, on the Venezuelan side of the border with Colombia, hundreds of people gathered for a three-day concert dubbed Hands off Venezuela to express support for President Maduro.
A line-up of Venezuelan and Cuban artists took to the stage against a screen with the message "#Trump Hands off Venezuela".
"I'm here to support President Nicolas Maduro because we're always loyal, never traitors," said a young man.
"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," said Dario Vivas, from the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela.
Maduro’s "Hands off Venezuela" festival was taking place only several hundred meters from a concert held to support Guaido.
The opposition music festival, known as Venezuela Aid Live, was organized by British entrepreneur Richard Branson on Friday.
The opposition leader, who defied a travel ban by a Venezuelan court, also traveled to Colombia on Friday.
He appeared arm-in-arm with Colombian President Iván Duque Márquez at the concert. The Presidents of Chile and Paraguay were also attending the festival in Colombia.