CARACAS: Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido defiantly set out Thursday to personally collect US-supplied food and medicine stockpiled in Colombia, as President Nicolas Maduro announced he would close the Brazilian border to prevent the entry of aid.
Guaido, who has set a Saturday deadline for bringing in the aid, left the capital Caracas for the Colombian border in a convoy of several vehicles for the 900-kilometer (560-mile) trip, according to a spokesman.
"Confirmed - it´s rolling," the spokesman said of the collection operation announced Wednesday by Guaido, who has been recognized as interim president by more than 50 countries.
Embattled Maduro has dismissed Guaido´s humanitarian caravan as a "cheap show" and insisted aid is a precursor for a US military intervention in the oil-rich but economically crippled Latin American country. Maduro announced Thursday that the border with Brazil -- which along with Colombia is one of the main potential avenues for aid delivery -- would be "completely and absolutely" closed from 8:00 pm (0000 GMT) until further notice.
The military has also beefed up security at the Colombian border, with security forces barricading a major border bridge to prevent aid from entering from Cucuta, where tons of supplies are stockpiled. And the military said in a decree that it was banning vessels from sailing out of Venezuela´s ports until Sunday to avoid actions by "criminal" groups. A separate caravan of several buses containing opposition lawmakers had earlier left eastern Caracas bound for the border, after a delay of several hours. The convoy was briefly blocked before being allowed to proceed.