Venezuela's Maduro vows to block 'fake' aid 'spectacle'

Caracas (AFP) - Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro vowed on Friday not to let in "fake" aid from the United States requested by opposition leader Juan Guaido, which is being stockpiled at the border with Colombia.

"Venezuela won't allow the spectacle of fake humanitarian aid because we're no-one's beggars," Maduro said at a press conference in Caracas.

He also hit out at European and Latin American ministers who called on Thursday for a new presidential ballot.

Meeting in Uruguay's capital Montevideo, the International Contact Group had urged "free, transparent and credible presidential elections" in crisis-wracked Venezuela "as soon as possible" to find a peaceful solution to the power struggle between Maduro and Guaido.

Under Maduro's guidance, Venezuela has descended into economic crisis marked by hyperinflation, recession and shortages of basic necessities including food and medicine.

Guaido has claimed 300,000 people could die if Maduro doesn't allow the humanitarian aid to enter.

Over the border, Venezuelan troops are blocking the road that trucks carrying the aid would have to travel on.

Bringing in aid is central to National Assembly President Guaido's challenge to Maduro's authority.

Guaido caused shock waves in Venezuelan politics on January 23 when he declared himself acting president, a move quickly backed by the US and subsequently around 40 countries.

Speaking on Friday, Maduro said Venezuela's humanitarian crisis has been "fabricated by Washington" to justify "intervention" in the South American country.

He blamed shortages of food and medicine on US sanctions, which mostly target regime individuals as well as state oil company PDVSA.

"Liberate the money that has been blocked and sequestered," said Maduro.

"This is a macabre game: we squeeze them by the neck and make them ask for crumbs."

He said the aid offer was "a message of humiliation for the people."

Earlier on Wednesday morning, a Venezuelan military boat carrying 100 tons (tonnes) of aid landed in Havana. Cuba was recently hit by a tornado.

Turning his ire on the Contact Group, Maduro aimed a message at the European Union.

"You don't listen to the truth in Venezuela. You're deaf... They've taken extremist positions," he said.

The Contact Group had urged Maduro to allow in aid and said it would send a mission to Venezuela to discuss how to "establish the necessary guarantees for a credible electoral process, as soon as possible."

The group, which says it includes countries with a "neutral" perspective on the Venezuela crisis, chided Maduro over the deaths of 40 opposition protesters last month.

It also told the socialist leader to "restore full democracy, the rule of law, the separation of powers and respect for the constitutional mandate of the country's institutions, particularly the democratically elected National Assembly."

The opposition-controlled legislature has been powerless since 2016 after it was stripped of its powers by the Supreme Court, made up of regime loyalists.


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