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Colombia leader urges China to back Maduro foes

Saturday, February 16, 2019

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CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — The president of Colombia says China's role in Latin America would be stronger if the Asian country recognised Venezuelan Opposition Leader Juan Guaido as the country's interim president instead of backing President Nicolas Maduro.

Speaking during a visit to Washington, Ivan Duque said Thursday: “I really would advise China to make that decision.”

China is one of 16 countries that have publicly supported Maduro during the recent resurgence of Venezuela's political crisis. The United States, Canada, most Latin American nations and many European countries are siding with Guaido.

The Colombian leader is also urging the international community to cooperate so humanitarian aid can be taken into Venezuela on February 23 as Guaido is planning. Venezuelans have been suffering with severe shortages of food and medicine amid their country's economic collapse.

Duque says, “February 23 has to be the day in which everybody mobilises and tells the dictatorship: 'That's it. Allow the humanitarian aid.'”

Duque says he considers Maduro to be a criminal against humanity who should be tried by the International Criminal Court and not granted amnesty.

Maduro, at the same time, said he won't give up power and called the US humanitarian aid currently sitting on the border with Colombia mere “crumbs” after the US administration froze billions of dollars in Venezuela's assets.

And Russia's US ambassador says Moscow is “very much concerned that some hotheads may be considering a military action against Venezuela”.

Vassily Nebenzia told reporters at UN headquarters in New York on Thursday that this “would be a very bad development”.

Nebenzia says that even those Latin American countries supporting Venezuela's opposition against President Nicolas Maduro “are categorically against any military action and intervention into Venezuela”.

He also says humanitarian aid for struggling Venezuelans that is being shipped to Venezuela's borders is being used “as a tool in the political game”. He calls it a provocation that may “lead to something much worse than that.”

Nebenzia says Maduro's socialist government can always ask the United Nations for humanitarian aid.

Meanwhile, billionaire adventurer Richard Branson says he is throwing a concert in a campaign to raise US$100 million for suffering Venezuelans and open the borders to emergency aid.

Branson released a video Thursday announcing support for Venezuelan Opposition Leader Juan Guaido, the leader of the country's congress who has declared himself interim president as part of the effort to unseat President Nicolas Maduro.

Branson says the live-streamed concert will be at the Colombian border town of Cucuta where Maduro has blocked humanitarian aid from entering. The concert featuring regional and international artists will be Februay 22 — a day before Guaido says the Opposition will try to force emergency food and medicine across the border with the help of caravans.

Branson says he's working with Guaido and to break Maduro's impasse so the aid can reach millions of Venezuelans who need it.

US President Donald Trump will warn of “the dangers of socialism” Monday in a speech in support of Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido.

The White House said Thursday that Trump will travel to Florida International University in Miami to speak out against President Nicolas Maduro's Government and its socialist policies.

The hard-line rhetoric against socialism comes as Trump seeks to rally other nations to support Guaido, the head of the Opposition-controlled congress, whom Trump has recognised as Venezuela's rightful leader.

Trump is also looking to draw a contrast with the policies of progressive Democrats, which he brands as “socialist” as he gears up for re-election.

Trump is to spend the holiday weekend at his private club in West Palm Beach, Florida.


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