Venezuela to distribute food to poor Colombians amid aid tension

February 18, 2019

CARACAS (Reuters) – Venezuela’s government will distribute food to poor residents of the Colombian border city of Cucuta this weekend, the Information Minister said on Monday, an effort that would parallel opposition plans to bring in humanitarian aid.

Opposition activists have vowed to bring in food and aid provided in part by the United States via neighboring countries on Saturday, despite President Nicolas Maduro’s refusal to accept assistance. Millions face hunger and malnutrition amid severe food shortages in the hyperinflationary country.

“We are going to take more than 20,000 boxes of (food) to the brothers and sisters of Cucuta to help with the situation of extreme need facing the boys and girls of Cucuta,” Information Minister Jorge Rodriguez said in televised statements.

He did not explicitly say the food would be distributed in Cucuta.

Opposition leader Juan Guaido, who last month invoked articles of the constitution to declare himself president, has launched a nationwide campaign to bring food and medicine into the country by land and sea on Saturday.

Guaido described Rodriguez’s statements as “cynical.”

“This does not in the slightest change our plan to generate pressure, to ensure the arrival of the aid,” he said at a news briefing.

“If it doesn’t enter on the twenty-third, it will enter on the twenty-fourth, it will enter on the twenty-fifth” of February, he said.

U.S. President Donald Trump will say in a speech on Monday that Venezuela’s military officials should “work toward democracy” or risk losing everything they have.

(This story has been refiled to remove extraneous letter in Maduro’s name in second paragraph.)

(Reporting by Brian Ellsworth; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

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