The Venezuelan military directed by socialist dictator Nicolas Maduro has blocked a border bridge linked with Colombia in an effort to prevent the delivery of aid to the country's starving citizens.
What are the details?
Venezuela is in the midst of a power struggle following the National Assembly's declaration that Maduro is an usurper, and several countries — including the U.S. — now recognize opposition leader Juan Guaido as the nation's legitimate president.
But Maduro is still in control of the military and is using it as leverage to maintain power. According to the New York Times, Maduro has "long relied on food handouts to keep his political base loyal during the country's long economic collapse," so shipments of aid are seen as a threat to the dictator as he struggles to fend off a coup.
Earlier this week, opposition leaders announced the coordinated shipments of baby formula, medical supplies, and food from the U.S., Colombia, and Venezuelans abroad. CNN reported that Guaido "is begging the military to let the goods enter the country, but President Nicolas Maduro [is] having none of it, insisting 'we are not beggars,'" and refusing to accept the charity.
The Times noted that there were other border roadways that were open where vehicles could cross, calling the blockade "a show of defiance by the government of President Nicolas Maduro."
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted a picture of the blocked highway bridge on Wednesday, calling for Maduro to "let the aid reach the starving people."
The Venezuelan people desperately need humanitarian aid. The U.S. & other countries are trying to help, but… https://t.co/z5WkKSqz04— Secretary Pompeo (@Secretary Pompeo) 1549472150.0
The same day, Reuters reported that the United Nations warned against "politicizing humanitarian aid in Venezuela." U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters in New York, "humanitarian action needs to be independent of political, military or other objectives."
"When we see the present stand-off it becomes even more clear that serious political negotiations between the parties are necessary to find a solution leading to lasting peace for the people of Venezuela," Dujarric continued. "What is important is that humanitarian aid be depoliticized and that the needs of the people should lead in terms of when and how humanitarian aid is used."