WASHINGTON. – US President Donald Trump on Monday urged Venezuela’s military to accept opposition leader Juan Guaido’s amnesty offer, or stand to “lose everything,” as a crisis deepened over President Nicolas Maduro’s refusal to let in desperately needed humanitarian aid.
Bringing in humanitarian aid is crucial to the viability of Guaido, who has denounced President Maduro’s re-election last year as fraudulent and in January declared himself interim president, a move recognised by some 50 countries.
He has given the President Maduro government until Saturday to let shipments of mainly US aid into the country, which is in the grip of a humanitarian crisis due to shortages of food and medicine exacerbated by hyperinflation.
Addressing supporters and Venezuelan expatriates in Miami, Trump said he had a message for officials helping keep Maduro in place.
“The eyes of the entire world are upon you today, every day and every day in the future.
“You cannot hide from the choice that now confronts you. You can choose to accept “president” Guaido’s generous offer of amnesty to live your life in peace with your families and your countrymen.
“Or you can choose the second path: continuing to support (President) Maduro. If you choose this path, you will find no safe harbour, no easy exit and no way out. You will lose everything.”
Guaido has set a target of signing up to a million volunteers to help bring in the aid, with 600,000 already registered.
“On February 23, we have the opportunity to save the lives of hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans,” he said.
President Maduro countered with his own announcement of 300 tonnes of aid from Russia, which he said would reach Venezuela by Wednesday — three days ahead of a potential showdown brought about by his February 23 deadline.
Speaking at an official event broadcast on TV, President Maduro said the shipment contained “high-value medicine.”
President Maduro has previously announced the arrival of aid from China, Cuba and Russia, his main international allies.
Earlier, opposition officials hit out at state Internet provider CANTV for blocking the website where volunteers are signing up to help bring in the US aid stockpiled in Colombia just over the border from Venezuela.
A second aid collection centre is due to begin operations in Brazil’s northeastern state of Roraima, which borders Venezuela. But there is much uncertainty over the aid in Brazil, with officials there saying they have no information at this point.
President Maduro has dismissed the humanitarian assistance as “crumbs” and “rotten and contaminated food,” while blaming shortages of food and medicine on US sanctions. – AFP