In the conflict over planned aid deliveries from the United States, Venezuela continues to seal itself against the outside world: head of state Nicolás Maduro announced on Thursday after a meeting with the army chief that the border with Brazil was closed "until further notice".
Previously, the government had already blocked border crossings to Colombia with transversely placed containers. The government wants to prevent delivery of aid from the US and demanded the opposition to enter the country.
However, Brazil rejects any US military intervention in Venezuela. Vice-President Hamilton Mourao said on Thursday that military action would be "premature and would not make sense". "The Venezuelan question must be resolved by the Venezuelans."
The United States – like Brazil – supports Venezuela's self-proclaimed transition president Juan Guaido in a power struggle with the controversial left Nicolas Maduro. US President Donald Trump has the opportunity to open military action. "I think there is more to rhetoric than action," said Brazilian Vice President and former General Mourao.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Brazilian presidency said that the closure of US aid states as Maduro announced the border with Brazil will not lead to "friction". But Brazil wants to provide logistical support for aid deliveries from Brazil to reach Venezuela.
Maduro rejects US aid deliveries. The left nationalist calls it a "show" and an excuse for US military intervention. In the Colombian border town of Cucuta, lots of tools were already stored. A border bridge was blocked by Venezuelan armed forces.
Venezuela's humanitarian aid has become a game in the power struggle between Maduro and the opposition. Opposition leaders and self-appointed transition president Juan Guaidó has given the government a deadline on Saturday to allow several tons of US drugs and foods to be dumped in Colombia.
US Help as a Hoax
However, Maduro categorically refuses to accept US aid. He sees these as pretext and fraud to pave the way for US-led military intervention. Guaidó was recognized as the transition president of about 50 states, including Austria, on a convoy from Caracas on Thursday against the Colombian border to get aid to the country.
Earlier, Guaidó had confirmed that aids would be made against government opposition: "Humanitarian aid comes in, no matter what happens – at sea or on land," he said. But he didn't say exactly how the interim president wanted to enforce this.
In their lineup, both sides are planning large concerts along the Colombian border. On the initiative of the British Virgin Chief and billionaire Richard Branson on Friday in Cucuta on the Colombian side of the "Venezuela Aid Live" Benefit Concert, where donations are to be collected for the Venezuelan population.
appear international stars such as Alejandro Sanz and Miguel Bosé from Spain, Juan Luis Guerra from the Dominican Republic, Juanes and Carlos Vives from Colombia and Puerto Ricas Luis Fonsi, known for the battle "Despacito".
Closing the border to Colombia?
Meanwhile, the Venezuelan government stopped a concert under the motto "Hands off Venezuela" in just 300 meters away on the Tienditas-Grenzbrücke. Who should be shown there, not informed, the concert should also start on Friday and last three days. "What they do across the border is their problem – we will defend our territory," said Diaro Vivas of that government party.
"I also think of the total closure of the border with Colombia," Maduro said in the meantime. "I want an open border without provocation and aggression, but as the head of state and commander of the armed forces, I am determined to ensure peace and quiet".
Pedestrians can still cross the border between Venezuela and Colombia. Every day, thousands of Venezuelans come across pedestrian bridges to Colombia to shop, go to doctors or work. In addition, many Venezuelans use border crossings to Colombia to permanently leave the country.
Maduro accuses the Colombian government of President Iván Duque over and over again, along with the Venezuelan opposition and the United States to conspire against his government. "I blame Iván Duque for any kind of violence that can break out on the border between Colombia and Venezuela."
Maduro had officially started her second term on January 10. Most of the opposition boycotted the presidential election in May 2018 and did not confirm the outcome. A month ago, opposition parliament president Guaidó declared himself a transitional chief in mass protests.
Serious supply crisis
Venezuela has experienced a serious supply crisis for years despite having the world's largest oil reserves. More than 2.3 million people have fled the country, where drugs, food and other essential items are missing.
"This is a disaster of man," said US Foreign Minister Mike Pompeo on Thursday at NBC, "Over the weekend we will try to deliver the relief that the American people, our taxpayers have generously paid, and we hope we can bring them across the border. "
The Catholic Church also called Maduro to give Let passages pass. "The country needs humanitarian aid," said a statement issued on Thursday by the Venezuelan episcopal conference. "To seek help and to accept it is not a pretext for the Father, but a moral obligation."
Bishops also appealed the military not to stop deliveries. "We invite the armed forces to stand on the side of the people," the statement said. "They should not obey schemes directed at the lives and safety of the population."
Diseases are spreading
Now, researchers are also alarming, as many infectious diseases in the crisis reappear. Public health has largely collapsed, many doctors have left the country, preventive programs have been interrupted. As a result, diseases spread by insects have spread rapidly in recent years, according to a study published in the journal Lancet. These include malaria, dengue fever and Zika virus.
Number of malaria infections increased from just under 30,000 in 2010 to over 411,000 in 2017. "The increase in malaria cases would soon become uncontrollable" warns one of the leading authors of the Martin Llewellyn study from the University of Glasgow. They cite the decrease of mosquito populations and the lack of drugs as causes of the increase in infections. "In view of the lack of monitoring, diagnosis and prevention, these figures are likely to underestimate the real situation."
The number of cases of dengue fever and infection with the Zika virus has also increased significantly, according to the study. "The return of many infectious diseases leads to a public health crisis in Venezuela and can undermine regional efforts to eradicate diseases," the study's authors write.
Venezuela was a pioneer in the fight against infectious diseases in the region and had a long history of a healthy public health system. In 1961, Venezuela was the first country to be declared Malaria Free by the World Health Organization (WHO). For some years, the only rich country suffers from a serious supply crisis. Venezuela cannot import food, medicine and hygiene items due to a lack of foreign currency.
Catastrophic hygiene conditions
"The situation is critical: we have no medication, we have no material," says internist Ana Vielma of Algodonal Hospital last week during protests in Caracas. She demanded that the government of the controversial left president Nicolas Maduro release humanitarian aid to the country.
At the Venezuelan border, food, medicine and hygiene products are ready for the poor. Maduro, however, does not leave the deliveries because he considers them an excuse for military intervention. President of the Maduro disempowered parliament and self-proclaimed interim president Juan Guaido want to help with the help of thousands of helpers this weekend.
"We don't even have claws to clean," says Mauro Zambrano in the hospital union. "That's why the bacteria multiply – patients enter the clinic with a disease and go out with another."
The health crisis in Venezuela can become a problem for the whole region. About three million people have already fled abroad. On average, about 5,500 Venezuelans left their homes each year over the past year – often they may have taken diseases to neighboring countries. For example, in the Brazilian Roraima border area, the number of malaria cases has doubled between 2014 and 2017.
"We urge the members of the organization of US states and other international institutions to increase the pressure on the Venezuelan government to offer it humanitarian aid," researchers say. Llewellyn. "Without the effort, the progress made in public health over the past 18 years could soon be eradicated."
(APA / AFP / dpa)