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Venezuela's Guaido defies Maduro ban on aid
Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido was expected to announce a date for the arrival of humanitarian aid to the crisis-wracked country on Sunday, despite the refusal of President Nicolas Maduro, who believes this will lead to a US-led military intervention.
Colombian President Ivan Duque confirmed on Sunday that a facility for collecting humanitarian aid for Venezuela would be created in the northeastern Colombian city of Cucuta at the Venezuelan border.
Cucuta, along with the island of Boa Vista in Cape Verde and the ABC islands in the Caribbean Sea are to be the main collection centers for medicine and food into Caracas.
Guaido made the announcement at a protest rally on Saturday.
At the opposition leader's request, Washington was already readying "and transporting humanitarian aid" for Venezuela, US National Security Advisory John Bolton said on Twitter.
Pursuant to the request of Interim President Juan Guaido, and in consultation with his officials the US will mobilize and transport humanitarian aid—medicine, surgical supplies, and nutritional supplements for the people of Venezuela. It’s time for Maduro to get out of the way. https://t.co/LXZsBf8vq6John Bolton (@AmbJohnBolton) 2 février 2019
The US recognized Guaido as Venezuela's interim president on 23 January while seven European nations, including Britain, France, Germany and Spain, have said they will do likewise unless Maduro calls presidential elections by midnight on Sunday.
Currently, only the army can allow humanitarian aid into the country from abroad.
Guaido has urged officers to listen to reason.
Time running out
“You, soldier... have the decision in your hands” to allow it in or not, he said.
Under Maduro’s stewardship, oil-dependent Venezuela has lurched into an economic crisis that has left the country suffering from hyperinflation and shortages of food and medicine.
But he refuses to let aid into Venezuela, claiming it would precede a US-led military intervention.
On Sunday, France warned Maduro that an ultimatum for him to call snap presidential elections was fast approaching and that it was preparing to recognize Guaido, if he failed to do so.
"The ultimatum ends tonight," France's European affairs minister Natalie Loiseau told French media.