Venezuelan Authorities Clash With Protesters Along Colombian Border


The dueling concerts will set the stage for a showdown between Venezuela's beleaguered government and opposition leaders who are pledging to draw masses of people to the country's western border Saturday to try to usher in aid that Maduro has vowed not to accept into the country.

In the Venezuelan border towns of San Antonio and Urena, troops fired tear gas and rubber bullets at opposition supporters, including lawmakers, walking toward the frontier waving Venezuelan flags and chanting "freedom".

The violence came just hours before dueling concerts were to begin on the country's western border with Colombia, where much of the USA -supplied aid is being stored in a warehouse.

Demonstrators push away a bus that was torched during clashes with the Bolivarian National Guard in Urena, Venezuela, near the border with Colombia, Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019.

National Guard troops man a barricade blocking access to the Francisco De Paula Santander worldwide bridge in Urena, Venezuela, on the border with Colombia, Feb. 23, 2019. "You can't say anything against the government". The concert is aimed at raising funds to help the relief effort. Broadcaster TN showed footage of civilians facing off against heavily armed soldiers while fires burned on the border. The country now faces widespread food and medicine shortages and hyperinflation of over one million percent which makes even the most basic goods unattainable. "But in less than 24 hours we are going to witness something historic". We want to work: "the people attempted to force their way through", said Viviana Meza, 29, who works in a Cucuta restaurant.

Not to be outdone, Maduro's government will be holding a three-day festival of its own on the other side of the Colombian border called "Hands Off Venezuela".

Despite the nation's rampant inflation and food shortages, embattled president Nicolas Maduro has rejected offers of aid from other countries, saying his countrymen are not beggars.

"If there is any type of violence, or if there is any type of negative reaction from the hierarchy of the Venezuela armed forces, there may also be measures that are announced by the vice president and other countries in regards to closing even further the worldwide financial circle", the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. "The world is watching".

Guaido, 35, head of the opposition-run Congress, has provided few details on the transport plan.

Maduro blames Venezuela's dire situation on USA sanctions that have blocked funds and hobbled the OPEC member's vital oil industry.

Friday's violence broke out in the village of Kumarakapay in southern Venezuela after an indigenous community stopped a military convoy heading toward the border with Brazil that they believed was attempting to block aid, according to community leaders Richard Fernandez and Ricardo Delgado.

The U.S. government condemned the killings.

Thousands attend the "Venezuela Aid Live" concert at Tienditas International Bridge in Cucuta, Colombia.

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

With inflation running at more than 2 million percent a year and currency controls restricting imports of basic goods, many Venezuelans lack vital medicines, and a growing share of the country's roughly 30 million people is suffering from hunger and malnutrition.

Brazilian Foreign Minister Ernesto Araujo urged Venezuela's military to let the trucks in.

"Egregious violation of human rights by Maduro and those who are following his orders will not go unpunished", White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Friday night.

A concert known as Paz Sin Fronteras - Peace Without Borders - was held in 2008 after a diplomatic flare-up that drew Venezuelan troops to the Colombia border.