Venezuela crisis: Border clashes as aid row intensifies”:

President Nicolás Maduro has closed Venezuela’s border with Brazil

At least two people have died and several others have been injured in clashes at Venezuela’s border with Brazil, local media report.

Venezuelan security forces opened fire on a group of civilians who tried to prevent them from blocking the border.

President Nicolás Maduro has closed the country’s border with Brazil amid a row over the delivery of humanitarian aid.

It comes as two rival concerts get under way on either side of a bridge linking Venezuela and Colombia.

The clashes occurred when members of the community confronted Venezuelan troops on Friday morning in the southern Venezuelan town of Kumarakapay, AFP news agency reports.

Troops then opened fire on individuals who tried to block a road with the aim of preventing military vehicles from passing, witnesses said.

A local woman and her husband were killed, according to the human rights group Kapé Kapé.

An ambulance at the scene where several people were injured during clashes in the southern Venezuelan town of Kumarakapay, 22 February 2019
An ambulance at the scene where deadly clashes erupted in southern Venezuela

Why are there clashes at the border?

Venezuela is in the grip of a political and economic crisis. The country’s inflation rate has seen prices soar, leaving many Venezuelans struggling to afford basic items such as food, toiletries and medicine.

Around 2.7 million people have fled the country since 2015.

Opposition leader Juan Guaidó, who declared himself interim leader last month, says a lack of basic items has left thousands of others at risk of dying.

Humanitarian aid for Venezuela has been arriving at the borders of neighbouring Colombia and Brazil.

Venezuelan lawmakers also clashed with soldiers on Thursday

Mr Guaidó and his allies hope to collect the relief gathered there on Saturday, in defiance of President Maduro, who denies any crisis and calls the aid plans a US-orchestrated show.

President Maduro has said he could also shut the border with Colombia to stop the opposition bringing in aid.

Why are the concerts taking place?

The concerts, being held just 300m (980ft) apart, represent two opposing sides of a power struggle between President Maduro and Mr Guaidó, who is recognised as the country’s interim leader by dozens of countries, including the US and most Latin American nations

Venezuela Aid Live crowd
Thousands gathered for the Venezuela Aid Live concert near the Colombian city of Cúcuta

One of the concerts, Venezuela Aid Live, was organised by British entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson, who said Mr Guaidó had asked him to set it up.

It is being held near the Tienditas bridge crossing on the Colombian side of the border at Cúcuta. Organisers invited 32 artists including Latin stars Rudy Mancuso, Juanes and Despacito singer Luis Fonsi, and Swedish DJ Alesso.

A few celebrities – including Venezuelan-American singer and actress Lele Pons and Venezuelan singer Danny Ocean – and politicians have also confirmed they were taking part.

“This concert is a humanitarian concert; every country, all people in the world want freedom,” Mr Branson said.

“Anybody that does anything for the right reasons is always going to get criticism. The positive thing is that 99% of people around the world are embracing what is going on here today.”

Rival Venezuela concerts

Following news of the event, President Maduro promised to hold a rival concert on the Venezuelan side of the bridge – a three-day festival which has been dubbed Hands Off Venezuela.

The government still has not announced an official line-up for Hands Off Venezuela, but unconfirmed reports claim that about 150 artists are taking part.

Venezuela Aid Live stage erection
Richard Branson’s concert is happening on the Colombian side of the border
Maduro's concert stage
While Mr Maduro’s is happening not far away on the Venezuelan side

What’s going on at Venezuela’s borders?

Brazil, which recognizes Mr Guaidó as Venezuela’s legitimate leader, had previously vowed to make humanitarian aid available in the Brazilian city of Pacaraima, to be collected by opposition supporters.

How the story unfolded

14 April 2013
Nicolás Maduro is narrowly elected president of Venezuela after the death of long-serving socialist leader Hugo Chavez. The vote is marred by claims of fraud by the opposition.

18 February 2014
A wave of protests against Mr Maduro leads to the arrest of opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, who remains under house arrest.

29 March 2017
Venezuela’s Supreme Court says it is taking control of the National Assembly, prompting months of anti-government protests that leave 100 dead. The Supreme Court reverses its decision.

17 July 2017
More than seven million Venezuelans vote in an opposition-organised referendum against Mr Maduro’s plans to create a new body with the power to control the National Assembly.

20 May 2018
Mr Maduro wins snap election. The two leading opposition candidates reject the results, saying the election was marred by vote-rigging.

8 November 2018
The UN announces that the number of refugees and migrants who have left Venezuela has passed three million. Venezuela’s economy is tanking, creating widespread food and medicine shortages.

10 January 2019
Mr Maduro is inaugurated as president. The little-known new leader of the National Assembly, Juan Guaidó, calls the president a “usurper”.

21 January 2019
As Venezuela’s economy continues to fail, a Caracas based charity says it has recorded at least 107 episodes of looting and several deaths across the country.

23 January 2019
Citing emergency powers, Mr Guaidó declares Mr Maduro’s leadership illegitimate and claims the presidency. He is recognised by the US and several Latin American countries, creating two rival claims to the office.

7 February 2019
Humanitarian aid arrives at the Colombian border with Venezuela, ready to enter the country, but Mr Maduro instructs the army to block the roads with oil tankers.

There are already planes and lorries carrying tonnes of US aid parked on the Colombian side of the Tienditas bridge, and President Maduro has refused to allow it into Venezuela, saying it is part of a ploy by the US to invade the country.

Despite denying that there is a humanitarian crisis at all, President Maduro reportedly received a shipment of aid from Russia earlier this week, according to Russian state media.

Moscow has accused Washington of using aid as a “convenient pretext for conducting military action.”

According to RIA Novosti, Russia’s foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova told reporters that “in preparation for the provocation”, America was deploying “special forces and equipment near Venezuelan territory.”

So how will the aid get in?

It is not yet clear. Mr Guaidó has said he plans to get aid into the country on Saturday by urging Venezuelans to mobilise en masse and form “caravans” and a “humanitarian avalanche” at the borders.

But even with this effort, it is uncertain whether or not aid will be allowed in.

A spokesman for Mr Branson told the BBC that he was working with the Colombian entrepreneur Bruno Ocampo to organise the concert and sort out the logistics while Mr Ocampo said the details “remain confidential”.

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