Venezuelans suffer

Gov't shuts sea links to Dutch Caribbean, preventing well-needed aid from coming

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

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CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — A Venezuelan official said yesterday that the country is banning sea trips to and from three Dutch Caribbean islands — a region that has been linked to efforts to undermine President Nicolás Maduro by sending emergency aid to the South American nation.

The indefinite shutdown of the “maritime border” applies to commercial and fishing boats between Venezuela and the islands of Curacao, Aruba and Bonaire, said Falcon state Civil Protection Director Gregorio Jose Montano.

It comes as opposition leader Juan Guaidó has been rallying international support for his challenge to Maduro. Guaido has called for international emergency aid for Venezuela, including from Curacao, about 40 miles (65 kilometres) from Venezuela.

Maduro vows to block the aid, saying it's part of a US-led coup. Dutch officials have said they're opening Curacao as a hub for emergency shipments.

Guaidó also says that he's organising caravans to try to bring in the emergency food and medicine from the United States and other countries, starting on Saturday. It's expected also to come into Venezuela through Brazil and the Colombian border town of Cucuta, where supplies are being warehoused.

Maduro has said the aid is unnecessary, denying a humanitarian crisis in Venezuela.

The Maduro Government last year temporarily closed air and maritime ties with the three islands, saying it was trying to stamp out smuggling of Venezuelan products to the islands.

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