73ºF

Maduro's anti-Venezuela Aid Live concert gets little support

Small crowd waits for Hands Off Venezuela concert to start in Tachira

TACHIRA, Venezuela – As "Fher" Olvera the lead vocalist of Maná and the other members of his Mexican rock band took over the Venezuela Aid Live stage in front of a crowd of about 250,000 people in Colombia's city of Cucuta, a few people were dancing in front of a large stage in Venezuela's state of Tachira. 

Both stages were on the opposite sides of the Táchira River, which divides the border between Venezuela and Colombia and runs under the Tienditas bridge, a set of two vehicular bridges with three lanes and a parallel 919-foot-long pedestrian bridge. 

Although the bridges remain closed since the construction was completed in 2016, the Venezuelan military placed blocks earlier this month, as opponents of embattled Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro gathered medications and food from the United States in Cucuta. 

"We are here to support humanitarian aid, not politics," Olvera said later adding that he and his bandmates support democracy in Venezuela. 

Maduro has said he doesn't want U.S. aid, but he is accepting about 300 tons of aid from Russia. The Venezuelan military placed two large blue shipping containers on one of the Tienditas' vehicular bridges and another on the pedestrian bridge. An orange tanker trailer blocked the vehicular bridge in the center, and on Friday there were additional concrete barriers in place. 

Colombian star Juan "Juanes" Aristizabal, who lives in Miami-Dade County's village of Key Biscayne, traveled to Cucuta for the concert sponsored by Billionaire British mogul Richard Branson. Juanes was  among the long line of Hispanic celebrities who volunteered their time to deliver a message.

"Hate will never be bigger than love, never," said Juanes during his Venezuela Aid Live performance.

Maduro has said peace is what he wants. The word was painted in white letters on one of the containers on the bridge. His administration didn't release the list of performers, but Venezuela's Minister of Culture Ernesto Villegas said there were "an infinite number" of artists who were willing to participate.

While the Venezuela Aid Live concert started about 11 a.m., Villegas said the Hands Off Venezuela concert was starting at 6 p.m. Marina Bianquis, who was missing a front tooth, lined up early for the concert. She was wearing a T-shirt with a picture of Hugo Chavez and a red bandanna.  

"We are here to show our support for Nicolas Maduro and to say that Venezuela doesn't need humanitarian aid," Bianquis said in Spanish. "We have already have healthcare and food in Venezuela."

Bianquis and Miti Gamez said they were not attending the concert to be entertained. Gamez wore a red military beret and a red shirt. He was holding a large Venezuela flag as the small crowd was growing near a set of white tents. 

"For this country, we are willing to give our lives before we let them invade on Saturday," Gamez said about the efforts of Maduro's opposition lawmakers to bring U.S. aid to Venezuela.