Venezuela opposition warns military against preventing entry of aid

Caracas (AFP) –


Venezuela's armed forces would be crossing a "red line" if they were to block humanitarian aid from entering the country, the opposition dominated National Assembly said on Tuesday.

"You know there's a red line, you know well there's a limit, you know that medicines, food and medical supplies are that limit," said lawmaker Miguel Pizarro.

National Assembly speaker Juan Guaido has made bringing in humanitarian aid a priority in his challenge to President Nicolas Maduro's authority.

He says 300,000 people could die of undernourishment and illness if the aid isn't brought in fast.

Venezuela, he says, is suffering "the largest hemispheric humanitarian crisis in modern history" marked by hyperinflation, recession and shortages of basic necessities such as food and medicine.

Opposition leader Guaido declared himself acting president two weeks ago and has garnered widescale international support, including from the United States and 20 European Union countries.

The United States has pledged $20 million in aid that is to be gathered in Colombia, Brazil and an unnamed Caribbean island, but Guaido won't be able to bring it into Venezuela without the military's agreement.

Maduro is hell bent on stopping the aid from coming in -- describing such a move as a precursor to a US-led invasion -- and he currently retains the backing of the powerful armed forces.

Guaido claimed on Monday that the armed forces were planning on diverting the stockpiled aid meant for those most in need to regime supporters through the government's subsidized food program.

"We would not respond like we usually do to an attempt to steal what is needed to save people's lives," Pizarro warned in a press conference.

He told the military that either they were "on the side of the problem" creating this emergency, or on the side of the people who need supplies.

The National Assembly discussed on Tuesday its strategy to bring in that aid.

Canada has pledged $40 million while Germany and a number of Latin American countries -- Colombia, Argentina, Chile and Puerto Rico -- have also promised to help.

The European Commission announced on Tuesday five million euros ($5.7mn) in aid.