Groups traveling to Colombia to get aid for Venezuela face threat of Maduro's paramilitary allies
Sen. Marco Rubio to Venezuelan military: The historic moment is here
CUCUTA, Colombia – Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó defied embattled Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's travel ban and opposition to U.S. aid, as he was in Colombia on Saturday.
Guaidó said he and other opposition lawmakers walked to Colombia with the help of members of the Venezuelan military who support his push for elections. With the help of the United States and allies, Guaidó was set to start delivering the aid to Venezuela.
Guaidó summoned Venezuelans to mobilize to the barracks while dressed in white and carrying signs with messages to the military for a show of patriotism to pledge allegiance to the flag of Venezuela.
"We go in peace, without violence and with determination," he wrote in Spanish under "#23FVzlaALaCalle" on Twitter.
The opposition was determined to start the process despite Maduro's military blocks in the borders with Brazil and Colombia. Venezuelan Vice President Delcy Rodriguez, a Maduro loyalist, said the decision to close the border was due to serious threats.
Sen. Marco Rubio said on Twitter the only threats to safety were from the government's paramilitary allies, who were armed with rifles and included armed members of Colombia's National Liberation Army's Marxist guerrilla, or ELN.
"Military leaders of Venezuela, the historic moment is here," Rubio wrote in Spanish on Twitter early Saturday morning. "In the coming hours, inspired by the ideals and actions of Bolivar, you can defend the dignity of the Venezuelan people and their homeland. Now is the time. Tomorrow will be too late."
A group of Venezuelan opposition lawmakers and journalists from Venezuela's VPITV reported a group of heavily armed men detained their bus for 30 minutes, beat them and robbed them early Saturday morning.
"Despite the armed group's robbery and kidnapping, the lawmakers and our VPITV team will continue their journey to Tachira to reach Cucuta to receive the humanitarian aid," VPITV tweeted.
The U.S. State Department's Special Representative for Venezuela, Elliott Abrams, visited a warehouse in Cucuta where the United States Agency for International Development was holding boxes that were still arriving to Cucuta from Miami under the supervision of the U.S. Southern Command.
"We don’t even know what’s in those boxes," Maduro's foreign minister Jorge Arreaza told the Associated Press adding that Maduro has the support of Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, Syria, South Africa and Bolivia at the United Nations.
Arreaza told a press conference at U.N. headquarters in New York late Friday that there is a meeting pending with Abrams to "work out, flesh out" an agreement.
Guaidó was with Colombian President Ivan Duque, Chilean President Sebastian Pinera and President of Paraguay Mario Abdo Benítez on Friday, after British billionaire Richard Branson held the Venezuela Aid Live concert in Cucuta with a long list of celebrity volunteers and hundreds of thousands of attendees.
"Here is a Venezuela in search of freedom," Guaidó told reporters. "Thank you, to the people of the world for opening your doors to us."
As the concert was livestreamed online, which not everyone in Venezuela was able to watch due to YouTube and Google outages, Guaidó and opposition lawmakers shared their concern on Twitter about a fatal shooting near the border with Brazil.
On Friday and Thursday, near the stage of Maduro's Hands Off Venezuela rival concert in Tachira, where there was a small crowd of Maduro supporters, there were armed civilians in motorcycles. On Saturday morning, there were roadblocks every few miles in Urena and a strong military presence in San Cristobal.
Aguirre is reporting from Cucuta. Weddle is reporting from Tachira. Torres is reporting from Miami.
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