Billionaire Branson hopes aid concert opens Venezuela's borders

Venezuelan refugees unfurl their national flag after crossing the border into Cucuta Colombia on Feb. 12 2019

Venezuelan refugees unfurl their national flag after crossing the border into Cucuta Colombia on Feb. 12 2019

Maduro has scheduled a competing benefit concert for Friday and said aid will be given to Colombians and Venezuelans at the same time in the border region.

The US considers Maduro usurper and recognizes as the head of state the self-proclaimed acting president Juan Guaido, whose opposition group is the designated receiver of the "aid".

Guaido, recognised as the interim leader by 50 countries, was himself heading to the Colombian border today with his supporters to try to collect aid being stockpiled there. "And I think the United States has gotta work with the global community to make sure there is a free and fair election in Venezuela".

In televised comments on Thursday, Maduro said the stockpiling was a "provocation".

Crowds formed alongside a main highway out of the capital, waving Venezuelan flags and whooping in support, as the convoy of opposition lawmakers' buses departed.

The restrictions come amid a tense stand-off over U.S. attempts to deliver what Washington describes as humanitarian aid into Venezuela in defiance of the wishes of its government.

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Wednesday, Guaido issued an ultimatum for Venezuelan military personnel to stop supporting President Nicolas Maduro before the aid arrives - offering amnesty to those who do.

Guaido still has not provided details on how the aid will come in.

The United States and scores of other countries have openly backed Guaido, who last month invoked constitutional provisions to assume the interim presidency after declaring Maduro's re-election past year illegitimate.

Opposition leaders said they also plan to bring emergency supplies of food and medicine from Curacao and across the jungle-covered border with Brazil. Vice President Delcy Rodriguez has alleged the aid is poisonous and could lead to cancer.

Addressing supporters, he listed the planned transit points of entry at the Brazilian and Colombian borders, the island of Curacao and the seaports of Puerto Cabello and La Guaira.

"We know there is interest by the Maduro dictatorship in affecting national security because of coming events", agency director Christian Kruger added in the statement.

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