KUMARAKAPAY, Venezuela/CUCUTA, Colombia (Reuters) – Venezuelan soldiers opened fire on members of an indigenous community near the border with Brazil on Friday, killing at least one and injuring others, as President Nicolas Maduro defied U.S.-backed efforts to bring aid into his economically devastated nation.
The United States, which is among dozens of Western nations to recognize opposition leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s legitimate president, has been stockpiling aid in the Colombian frontier town of Cucuta to ship across the border this weekend.
With tensions running high after Guaido invoked the constitution to declare an interim presidency last month, Maduro has denied there is a humanitarian crisis in Venezuela despite widespread shortages of food and medicine and hyperinflation.
Maduro, who took power in 2013 and was re-elected in an election last year widely viewed as fraudulent, says opposition efforts to bring in aid are a U.S.-backed “cheap show” to undermine his government.
The socialist president has declared Venezuela’s southern border with Brazil closed and threatened to do the same with the Colombian border ahead of a Saturday deadline by the opposition to bring in humanitarian assistance.
A fundraising concert for Venezuela, backed by British billionaire Richard Branson and featuring major Latin pop stars like Luis Fonsi of “Despacito” fame, attracted tens of thousands in Cucuta on Friday.
Some political analysts say Saturday’s showdown is less about solving Venezuela’s needs and more about testing the military’s loyalty toward Maduro by daring it to turn the aid away.