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Venezuelan soldiers set fire to aid convoys as troops fire tear gas at protesters on Colombia border -

Venezuelan soldiers set fire to aid convoys as troops fire tear gas at protesters on Colombia borderHumanitarian aid destined for Venezuela was set on fire last Saturday night, seemingly by troops loyal to President Nicolas Maduro, as scores of people were injured in violent clashes on a bridge into the country. Volunteers working for Juan Guaido, the self-declared interim president, frantically tried to salvage the medical supplies and emergency rations before they went up in flames. The blaze, which sent acrid smoke up into the sky and filled the air with sickly smells mingled with tear gas, was said by women on the front line to have been ignited by tear gas canisters, fired from the Venezuelan side - although their accounts could not be independently confirmed. Dr Andres Calle, coordinating the emergency medical response on the Francisco de Paula Santander Bridge, a short distance from the burning trucks, said that 55 people were injured by 5pm local time. The Telegraph witnessed streams of young men being stretchered in; one had lost an eye, another was shot in the chest with lead pellets. Soldiers unleash tear gas during trouble at Venezuela border, in pictures Gaby Arellano, the opposition deputy chosen by Mr Guaidó to lead the convoy across the Francisco de Paula Santander bridge – one of four bridges linking the Colombian town of Cúcuta with Venezuelan communities on the other side – told The Telegraph that they tried to get five lorries across. Two were burnt to a cinder and two were stolen by Mr Maduro’s forces. One returned, she said – and as she spoke shots rang out across the valley, as volleys of tear gas were fired, sending the crowds running. Gunfire could also be heard in the distance. Similar scenes played out on another of Cúcuta’s main crossing into Venezuela – the Simon Bolivar bridge. Venezuelan forces fired tear gas into the crowd, sending the thousands of volunteers running. Mr Guaido said on Saturday night that Mr Maduro had violated the Geneva Convention by blocking the aid. Self-declared acting president Juan Guaido has vowed humanitarian aid would enter Venezuela despite a blockade Credit: AFP Elsewhere in Venezuela, the country was in turmoil. Military officers defected and thousands were in the streets of Caracas both for and against Mr Maduro, who danced on stage at a “Hands off Venezuela” rally. Barracks across the country were surrounded by Mr Guaidó’s supporters, entreating the soldiers to defect.  “Put yourself on the right side of history,” said Mr Guaido. Gonzalez Pons, a Spanish MEP who was expelled from Venezuela last week, told The Telegraph he was there to be “the eyes of Europe”. He added: “Maduro needs to know the world is watching.” Mr Guaidó’s supporters were overjoyed by his declaration that an aid convoy had got through in Brazil, although reporters on the border later countered the claim, saying the aid was stuck in no-man’s land. At least one member of the feared FAES squadron and seven members of the national guard, based on the Colombian border, switched sides to pledge allegiance to Mr Guaidó – three of them, on the Simon Bolivar bridge, driving their armoured vehicles across to shove blockades out of the way.   Vídeo of the moment the fourth member of the Venezuelan national guard - a sergeant - defected this morning. Three defected on the Simon Bolivar bridge; this man was on the Francisco de Paula Santander bridge. Listen to the applause...— Harriet Alexander (@h_alexander) February 23, 2019 How we got here President Nicolas Maduro has ordered the Venezuelan military to close the border with Colombia to bar humanitarian aid, which is being supported by the opposition, from entering the country. Juan Guaido, recognised by most Western nations as the country's legitimate head of state, invoked articles of the constitution in January to assume interim presidency and denounced Mr Maduro as a usurper, arguing his 2018 re-election was illegitimate. The opposition leader is attempting to cross into Venezuela from the Colombian border with thousands of volunteers carrying emergency supplies. While the need for basic food and medicines is real, the effort is also meant to embarrass military officers who continue to support Mr Maduro's increasingly isolated government. Venezuela | Read more What happens next? Venezuela's military has served as the traditional arbiter of political disputes in the South American country and in recent weeks top leaders have pledged their unwavering loyalty to Mr Maduro. However, Mr Guaido’s supporters have been buoyed by news of aid convoys getting through in Brazil, and by multiple defections by Mr Maduro’s forces. Mr Maduro, who has support from China and Russia, accuses the United States of plotting a military intervention and using aid as a "convenient pretext for conducting military action." Mr Maduro also broke off diplomatic relations with Colombia on Saturday and said he would expel the ambassador. 9:59PM Maduro: "Yankee go home' Mr Maduro denies his oil-rich nation has any need of aid and accuses opposition leader Juan Guaido of being a coup-mongering puppet for Donald Trump. Supporters of President Maduro take part in a march in Caracas Credit: AFP "What do the Venezuelan people think of Donald Trump's threats? Get your hands off Venezuela Donald Trump. Yankee go home," Mr Maduro told a rally of red-shirted, flag-waving supporters in the capital, Caracas.  Along the Colombian border, Venezuelan security forces halted the convoys with a barrage of teargas. At the crossing by Urena, two trucks caught fire, sending plumes of dark smoke into the air, while crowds started removing boxes of supplies, a witness said. 9:50PM At least two killed in aid standoff At least two people were killed and trucks loaded with foreign aid were set ablaze after Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro deployed troops and armored vehicles to turn back humanitarian assistance at border crossings with Colombia and Brazil. At least two people were killed, including a 14-year-old boy, and 31 wounded during clashes at the border between Venezuela and Brazil, where the Venezuelan military blocked the entry of humanitarian aid, a human rights group said. "The two deaths are the product of the military's repression during clashes in [the southern town of ]Santa Elena de Uairen. Both of them died from bullet wounds, one of them in the head," said Olnar Ortiz, an activist with the Foro Penal rights group critical of President Nicolas Maduro's government. They’re tear gassing people on the Francisco de Paula Santander bridge. Colombian immigration officers telling people not to run, to avoid a stampede. Everyone remarkably calm. “Maduro, you murderer!” yells one.— Harriet Alexander (@h_alexander) February 23, 2019 On Friday, a married couple in a nearby indigenous community were shot dead by security forces. 8:23PM Aid trucks set alight Venezuelans are rushing to rescue boxes of emergency food and medicine from burning trucks stalled on a bridge to Colombia. A large black cloud hung over the Francisco de Paula Santander bridge as protesters passed the boxes by hand and removed them from the blazing vehicles. Opposition supporters unload humanitarian aid from a truck that was sent on fire after clashes with Venezuela's security forces at Francisco de Paula Santander bridge Fernando Flores, an eyewitness who described himself as a lawmaker from Ecuador, said national guardsmen acting under orders from Nicolas Maduro had torched the trucks once they crossed into Venezuelan territory. Mr Maduro has vowed to block any aid shipments, considering them a "Trojan horse" intended to pave the way for foreign military intervention. 7:25PM Maduro: Venezuela breaking diplomatic relations with Colombia over aid President Nicolas Maduro said on Saturday his government had broken relations with Colombia and would expel some Colombian diplomatic staff after Colombia assisted the opposition's efforts to bring humanitarian aid into the country. "Patience is exhausted, I can't bare it anymore, we can't keep putting up with Colombian territory being used for attacks against Venezuela. For that reason, I have decided to break all political and diplomatic relations with Colombia's fascist government," Mr Maduro said in a speech. He said the ambassador and consular staff would have to leave Venezuela within 24 hours. 7:10PM Another significant defection The first member of the feared FAES shock troops announced that he too was defecting, Harriet Alexander reports. William Cancico said he was "tired of seeing my people suffer." He added: "I won't turn against them." Colombian police escorting a Venezuelan soldier who surrendered at the Simon Bolivar international bridge Credit: AP 5:20PM Aid for Venezuela to be passed by human chain from Colombia  A convoy of trucks carrying humanitarian assistance for Venezuela will be unloaded at the Simon Bolivar bridge on Colombia's side of the border and the aid will be transported by a human chain across the frontier, Colombia's migration agency said. 5:14PM Venezuelan troops unleash tear gas on protesters Venezuela's National Guard have fired tear gas on residents clearing a barricaded border bridge to Colombia. The opposition is calling on masses of Venezuelans to form a "humanitarian avalanche" to escort trucks carrying the aid across several border bridges. But clashes started at dawn in the Venezuelan border town of Urena, when residents began removing yellow metal barricades and barbed wire blocking the Francisco de Paula Santander bridge. Venezuela's National Guard responded forcefully, firing tear gas and buckshot on the protesters, some of them masked youth throwing rocks, who demanded that the aid pass through. Venezuelans hold a protest in the border city of Urena Credit: AFP Later, the youth commandeered a city bus and set it afire. At least two dozen people were injured in the disturbances, according to local health officials in Urena. "We're tired. There's no work, nothing," Andreina Montanez, 31, said as she sat on a curb crying from the tear gas that was used to disperse the crowd. A single mom, she said she lost her job as a seamstress in December and had to console her 10-year-old daughter's fears that she would be left orphaned when she decided to join Saturday's protest. "I told her I had to go out on the streets because there's no bread," she said. "But still, these soldiers are scary. It's like they're hunting us." Venezuela's opposition lawmaker Jose Manuel Olivares and supporters march toward the Simon Bolivars bridge on the outskirts of Cucuta Credit: Reuters At the Simon Bolivar bridge, a group of aid volunteers in blue vests calmly walked up to a police line and shook officers' hands, appealing for them to join their fight. Four National Guardsmen deserted the force early in the day and took refuge inside Colombia. A video provided by Colombian authorities shows three of the men wading through a crowd with their assault rifles and pistols held above their heads in a sign of surrender. The young soldiers were then ordered to lay face down on the ground as migration officials urged angry onlookers to keep a safe distance. "I've spent days thinking about this," said one of the soldiers. He called on his comrades to join him: "There is a lot of discontent inside the forces, but also lots of fear." God Bless the people of Venezuela!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 23, 2019 Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza said the military would "never have orders to fire on the civilian population" and likened the aid push to a media spectacle. "We can only hope that sanity and good sense prevail in Cucuta, in Colombia, and that it will remain as a big show, a big party, and that they don't try to open the doors to a military intervention," he said at UN headquarters in New York Friday. 4:54PM Venezuelan army major recognises Juan Guaido as leader In another blow for Mr Maduro, a  major in the Venezuelan army, Hugo Enrique Parra Martínez, has publicly recognised Juan Guaidó as Commander-in-Chief of the National Armed Forces, according to reports.  Venezuela: Mayor del Ejército, Hugo Enrique Parra Martínez, reconoce públicamente a Juan Guaidó, cómo Comandante en Jefe de la Fuerza Armada Nacional— Rocío San Miguel (@rociosanmiguel) February 23, 2019 BREAKING: A major from the Venezuelan national guard has just entered the building at Tienditas bridge where Guaido is. He entered Colombia not by one of the bridges, but downing arms and scampering across the river, the Colombian police say. They name him as Major Hugo Parra.— Harriet Alexander (@h_alexander) February 23, 2019   4:48PM 'Usurper Maduro will be responsible for any violence'​ Ivan Duque, the Colombian president, has called for warned against Venezuelan troops blocking the supplies leaving from his country, saying it would be a breach of human rights laws. En vivo @CNNEE declaración del presidente— Mariana Reyes (@Marianitareyes) February 23, 2019 “We demand that it be permitted to pass in a peaceful manner into Venezuelan territory for the benefit of those who need it,” he said in a video posted by a journalist. If the aid is denied entry, he added, “the usurper Nicolas Maduro will be responsible for any act of violence.” 4:26PM How long will Venezuelan troops stay with Maduro? The deployment of aid by the US and the Venezuelan opposition on the border with Colombia is a high stakes game to test the loyalty of Venezuela's armed forces - effectively asking them to chose between alleviating suffering or staying faithful to the regime.  President Nicolas Maduro has ordered the troops to bar the entry of the aid convoys. But the majority of Venezuelan security forces ready to turn on President Maduro, Coddy Weddle reported from Caracas recently. Read the full story here. 4:22PM Protesters plead with soldiers Meanwhile in the Venezuelan capital, protesters are heading to a military airport to beg soldiers to defy President Maduro and allow aid into the economically-stricken country. VENEZUELA In Caracas, while no one is looking, protesters start to take the streets planning to get to La Carlota, a military airport in the capital, to ask soldiers to switch sides and let the humanitarian aid in. The Green Cross is already around the area.— Ana Vanessa Herrero (@AnaVHerrero) February 23, 2019 4:18PM More aid trucks head to Venezuela The Telegraph's  Harriet Alexander is following the progress of aid trucks leaving from Cucuta, Colombia which are attempting to cross into Venezuela. Breaking: Caravan arrives at Simon Bolívar Bridge. National Guard launches tear gas.— Cody Weddle (@coweddle) February 23, 2019  Juan Guaido, self-declared interim president, appears to be riding the truck to the border. Momento de la entrega de la ayuda humanitaria al presidente— Marito Abdo (@MaritoAbdo) February 23, 2019 4:11PM First aid shipment arrives in Venezuela  A truck carrying humanitarian aid crossed into Venezuela from Brazil at midday on Saturday, opposition lawmaker Miguel Pizarro told reporters in Caracas. "This is a great accomplishment, Venezuela!", opposition leader Juan Guaido says in a tweet. ¡Atención Venezuela! Anunciamos oficialmente que YA ENTRÓ el primer cargamento de ayuda humanitaria por nuestra frontera con Brasil. ¡Esto es un gran logro, Venezuela! ¡Seguimos! 23FAvalanchaHumanitaria— Juan Guaidó (@jguaido) February 23, 2019   A Reuters witness said, however, that while the truck was on Venezuelan soil, it had not yet passed through the customs checkpoint.  4:02PM Tensions flare in Urena, Venezuela A bus that was torched during clashes with the Bolivarian National Guard burns in Urena, Venezuela Credit: AP Clashes have intensified in Urena, the Venezuelan side of the border with Colombia. Venezuela’s national guard fired tear gas on residents clearing a barricaded border bridge between Venezuela and Colombia. Protesters responded by stealing a red city bus and setting it on fire, according to reports on the ground. The bus has now set light to a nearby building. Flames from the bus also caused nearby power lines to spark.  Demonstrators destroying a city bus in Urena Credit: AP   3:31PM Brazil's humanitarian aid has arrived on the border The first truck with humanitarian aid from the Brazilian government has arrived in the city of Pacaraima on the border with Venezuela. The crossing has been closed on orders from Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and the truck loaded with food and medicine will now wait in Brazilian territory. Brazil's Foreign Minister Ernesto Araujo said he expects Mr Maduro's government to allow the aid to pass. "It is very exciting to see people anxious to recover their freedom and have a decent life," Mr Araujo said. 3:06PM Venezuelan opposition leader arrives at the border The Venezuelan opposition leader has arrived at the border with the leaders of Colombia, Chile and Paraguay. Guaido has arrived at Tienditas bridge, accompanied by the presidents of Colombia, Chile & Paraguay, and the Sec Gen of the Organisation of American States. They’re walking up towards the Venezuelan side, to recce the scene before returning to give speeches and begin the delivery— Harriet Alexander (@h_alexander) February 23, 2019 3:03PM Defected soldiers named We now have the names of three of the four national guard members who defected earlier this morning, Harriet Alexander reports from the border. Three drove two tanks across the Simon Bolivar bridge, shunting the barricades out of the way to hand themselves in. The fourth walked across the Francisco de Paula Santander bridge, to huge applause. El momento en el que tres miembros de la Guardia Nacional Bolivariana desertan en el Puente Internacional Simón Bolívar y han solicitado ayuda a Migración Colombia. "¡Libertad!", gritan quienes los ven entrar:— CNN en Español (@CNNEE) February 23, 2019 Two tanks push through the barriers on the Simon Bolivar bridge, making their way to the Colombian side and the three national guard members then defecting— Harriet Alexander (@h_alexander) February 23, 2019 The three have been named as  Lt Richard Sánchez Zambrano, Sgt Major Edgar Torres Valera and Sgt Major Oscar Suárez Torres. Breaking: Caravan arrives at Simon Bolívar Bridge. National Guard launches tear gas.— Cody Weddle (@coweddle) February 23, 2019

Sat, 23 Feb 2019 18:06:54 -0500

Two killed as Venezuela aid distribution operation turns violent -

Two killed as Venezuela aid distribution operation turns violentUreña (Venezuela) (AFP) - A high-risk opposition campaign to deliver humanitarian aid into Venezuela descended into deadly chaos Saturday after President Nicolas Maduro's security forces fired on demonstrators and aid trucks were set ablaze as his blockade held firm. Two people, including a 14-year-old boy, were killed in clashes with security forces on the Brazil-Venezuela border amid efforts to bring in aid there, a human rights group said. Opposition leader Juan Guaido had set a Saturday deadline for the delivery of food and medical aid stockpiled in Colombia and Brazil.

Sat, 23 Feb 2019 17:28:58 -0500

Fiery Skirmishes Erupt as Guaido Tries to Bring Venezuela Aid -

Fiery Skirmishes Erupt as Guaido Tries to Bring Venezuela AidOn the border with Colombia, National Guard soldiers fired volleys of tear gas and plastic pellets at supporters of opposition leader Juan Guaido, who were trying to persuade them to defect and permit tons of food and medicine into the country. Masked paramilitary gangs supporting the autocrat Maduro tore through the area there on motorcycles, firing guns in the air. Maduro said on state television that his forces had managed to repel an invasion and said he was breaking off diplomatic relations with Colombia.

Sat, 23 Feb 2019 15:28:44 -0500

Airlines admit having cameras installed on back of passengers’ seats -

Airlines admit having cameras installed on back of passengers’ seatsThree of the world’s biggest airlines have admitted some of their planes have cameras installed on the backs of passenger seats. American Airlines, United Airlines and Singapore Airlines have new seat-back entertainment systems that include cameras. Companies that make the entertainment systems are fitting them with cameras to offer passengers options such as seat-to-seat video conferencing, according to an American Airlines spokesman.

Sat, 23 Feb 2019 12:28:00 -0500

It's not just the Florida spa investigation allegedly tied to Robert Kraft. Sex trafficking is rampant across US -

It's not just the Florida spa investigation allegedly tied to Robert Kraft. Sex trafficking is rampant across USSex trafficking accounted for 6,081 of over 8,500 reported cases of human trafficking in 2017, according to the National Human Trafficking Hotline.

Sat, 23 Feb 2019 11:37:09 -0500

How did police catch 'Empire' actor Jussie Smollett? Lots and lots of cameras -

How did police catch 'Empire' actor Jussie Smollett? Lots and lots of camerasDozens of security cameras played a key role in helping police unravel “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett’s alleged hoax attack, authorities say.

Sat, 23 Feb 2019 10:48:15 -0500

Warren Buffett's Message to Washington: Bipartisanship Works -

Warren Buffett's Message to Washington: Bipartisanship Works“Our country’s almost unbelievable prosperity has been gained in a bipartisan manner,” he wrote in his annual letter to shareholders as he traced the growth of U.S. economy over the last 230 years. The billionaire investor’s annual letter, which ran 13 pages this year and quoted Abraham Lincoln and Christopher Wren, typically goes beyond Berkshire Hathaway Inc.’s results to discuss investing principles and his and business partner Charlie Munger’s thoughts on a wide range of topics. Buffett has taken a careful approach to the political conversation since the 2016 election.

Sat, 23 Feb 2019 09:39:42 -0500

North Korea's Kim begins long train trip to Vietnam for summit with Trump: report -

North Korea's Kim begins long train trip to Vietnam for summit with Trump: reportThe reports of Kim's departure from North Korea came after Vietnam announced that Kim would make an official visit in "coming days", as the Southeast Asian country prepares to host the summit with Trump on Wednesday and Thursday. Trump and Kim will meet in the Vietnamese capital, Hanoi, eight months after their historic summit in Singapore in June - the first between a sitting U.S. president and a North Korean leader - at which they pledged to work towards the complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. The Trump administration has pressed North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons program, which threatens the United States, before it can expect any concessions.

Sat, 23 Feb 2019 09:16:07 -0500

Another 2020 presidential hopeful wants to tear down some of the border wall that already exists -

Another 2020 presidential hopeful wants to tear down some of the border wall that already existsJulian Castro says it would 'make sense' to take down some of the border wall.

Sat, 23 Feb 2019 08:54:14 -0500

Police say they have identified a potential suspect in the assault on a conservative activist on Berkeley campus -

Police say they have identified a potential suspect in the assault on a conservative activist on Berkeley campusReaction from founder and president of Turning Point USA Charlie Kirk.

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