Maduro Closes Venezuela’s Border With Brazil to Block Aid
MEDELLÍN, Colombia — President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela ordered its border with Brazil closed Thursday, part of his escalating effort to stop opponents from sending humanitarian aid into his poverty-stricken country.
Juan Guaidó, the parliamentary opposition leader who declared himself president of Venezuela last month, has vowed to bring tons of aid donated by the United States and others into Venezuela on Saturday. Mr. Maduro, who has called Mr. Guaidó an American lackey, has vowed not to let the aid in.
The Brazil-border closure, announced on television, followed a Venezuelan government announcement on Wednesday that it would block air and sea travel between Venezuela and three Caribbean islands where the opposition said it wished to stage relief supplies.
“It’s better to prevent than to regret,” said Mr. Maduro.
The move comes 48 hours ahead of the deadline set by the opposition for Mr. Maduro to end his aid blockade or have it broken by force. The situation has led to a tense standoff between the two sides and to fears of violence.
On Monday, President Trump called on the military to abandon Mr. Maduro and allow the aid in or “lose everything.”
Mr. Maduro has said Venezuela is not a country of “beggars” and does not need the aid. But once-prosperous Venezuela is reeling from its worst economic crisis in history, with deep-seated hunger, shortages and hyperinflation that Mr. Maduro’s opponents have blamed on corruption and mismanagement. More than three million Venezuelans have fled in recent years.
Brazil has said that it would be staging aid, with the help of the United States, in its western cities of Boa Vista and Pacaraima. The aid would be driven by Venezuelans into their country.
In the speech Wednesday Mr. Maduro warned that Mr. Trump and Colombia President Iván Duque were amassing military troops on the border of Colombia for a possible invasion. He said he was considering a “total closure of the Colombian border” in response.
Mr. Maduro already has stationed large shipping containers on a border bridge where the Colombian aid was staged. On Thursday, opposition supporters said they planned to storm the bridge and carry the containers away with heavy machinery.
Mr. Guaidó has said he will join activists on the Colombian border.
Tomás Guanipa, a legislator who opposes Mr. Maduro, posted a photograph Thursday of national guard soldiers blocking a caravan of opposition lawmakers from going through a tunnel on their way out of Caracas.
“Do what they may, but they can’t stop the humanitarian aid from entering Venezuela,” Mr. Guanipa said in the posting on Twitter.