Doc­tors de­mand hu­man­i­tar­ian aid be al­lowed into Venezuela

Chattanooga Times Free Press - - WORLD -

CU­CUTA, Colom­bia — Venezue­lan doc­tors protested Sun­day at the en­trance to a bridge blocked by their na­tion’s mil­i­tary to de­mand that hu­man­i­tar­ian aid be al­lowed to en­ter, as op­po­si­tion leader Juan Guaido ac­knowl­edged the con­flict over the food and med­i­cal sup­plies could lead to clashes.

Car­ry­ing a gi­ant Venezue­lan flag, about two dozen doc­tors in white coats called on the mil­i­tary to re­move a tanker and two cargo con­tain­ers block­ing the Tien­di­tas In­ter­na­tional Bridge where hu­man­i­tar­ian aid pro­vided by the United States is be­ing stored.

The doc­tors protested on the Colom­bia side of the bor­der, say­ing they would face reper­cus­sions for hold­ing a sim­i­lar demon­stra­tion on the Venezue­lan side.

Dr. Ka­tia Diaz, a psy­chi­a­trist, said that each day aid sits wait­ing for trans­port into Venezuela rep­re­sents one more day in which pa­tient lives are at risk.

“Those con­tain­ers rep­re­sent the ar­ro­gance of a dic­ta­tor,” she said. “It lays bare the lack of hu­man­ity, of com­pas­sion for the pain of our people.”

Guaido, the leader of the Na­tional As­sem­bly who four dozen na­tions are rec­og­niz­ing as Venezuela’s right­ful pres­i­dent, urged the mil­i­tary to think care­fully about how they will pro­ceed. At­tend­ing a church ser­vice Sun­day with his fam­ily, he rec­og­nized that the feud be­tween those who do and do not want the aid to be let in could lead to clashes.

“It de­pends on you,” he said to the mil­i­tary. “We’re not talk­ing be­tween the lines. We’re talk­ing clearly and de­ci­sively, giv­ing an or­der to the armed forces: To al­low the aid in.”

Pres­i­dent Ni­co­las Maduro has vowed not to let the sup­plies pass, say­ing Venezuela isn’t a na­tion of beg­gars. He con­tends the food, hy­giene kits and emer­gency med­i­cal gear are part of a larger ploy by the United States to re­move him from power.

The U.S. pro­vided the aid and the Colom­bian govern­ment helped en­sure its trans­port to the bor­der, but the op­po­si­tion is charged with han­dling the aid’s dis­tri­bu­tion within Venezuela. They have not yet an­nounced how they plan for the aid to en­ter if the mil­i­tary does not con­sent.

Guaido de­clared him­self Venezuela’s in­terim pres­i­dent be­fore masses of cheer­ing sup­port­ers in late Jan­uary, ar­gu­ing that un­der the con­sti­tu­tion he should be­come chief of state be­cause Maduro’s re-elec­tion was a sham.

AP PHOTO/FER­NANDO VER­GARA

Venezue­lan doc­tors shout slo­gans Sun­day against the govern­ment of Venezuela’s Pres­i­dent Ni­co­las Maduro at the In­ter­na­tional Bridge Tien­di­tas, which has been blocked by the Venezue­lan mil­i­tary, near Cu­cuta, Colom­bia.

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