One dead, 12 injured amid aid standoff in Venezuela

Heightened tensions in Venezuela left one woman dead and a dozen injured near the border with Brazil today, marking the first deadly clash related to the opposition's plan to deliver humanitarian aid that President Nicolas Maduro has vowed not to accept.

Emilio Gonzalez, mayor of the Venezuela border town of Gran Sabana, identified the woman killed by a gunshot as Zoraida Rodriguez, a member of an indigenous community.

He said members of the Pemon ethnic group clashed with the Venezuela National Guard and army, who were moving tanks to the border with Brazil a day after Maduro ordered the crossing closed.

The violence came just hours before dueling concerts were expected to begin on the country's western border with Colombia, where tons of donated food and medicine are stored.

British billionaire Richard Branson is sponsoring a Live Aid-style concert featuring dozens of musicians including Latin rock star Juanes on one side of a crossing that Colombian officials have renamed the "Unity Bridge," while Maduro's socialist government is promising a three-day festival deemed "Hands Off Venezuela" on the other.

Several thousand people — many wearing white and carrying Venezuelan flags — were already gathered in a large field, as several uniformed officers on horses and foot stood guard near the border.

As Venezuela's political turmoil drags on, allies of Juan Guaido, who is being recognized by over 50 nations as the country's rightful president, are hoping the massive concert and aid push mark a turning point from which a transitional government is consolidated. But Maduro has shown no signs of backing down, and analysts warn that whatever happens over the next two days may not yield a conclusive victory for either side.

"I think one of the government's aims is to confuse the whole thing, possibly to create some kind of chaos that makes the opposition look bad," Phil Gunson, a senior analyst with the Crisis Group based in Caracas, said of Maduro's rival concert.

"It's a propaganda war."

There was no immediate information on the condition of those injured in the clash along the Brazil and Venezuelan border, but Gonzalez said they were taken for medical treatment after soldiers fired rubber bullets and tear gas.

The plan to bring in aid is one of the most ambitious — and potentially dangerous — that the opposition has attempted to undertake since Guaido declared himself interim president in January.

The standoff also prompted Branson to back the concert, who Colombian entrepreneur Bruno Ocampo said is so committed to getting humanitarian aid into Venezuela that he will personally stay until tomorrow to help ensure that food and medical supplies make it across the border.

Similar to the original 1985 Live Aid concert, which raised funds to relieve the Ethiopian famine, Branson has set a goal to raise $100 million within 60 days.

"We didn't know what we were getting into at the time," Ocampo said Thursday. "But in less than 24 hours we are going to witness something historic."

Soldiers watch as a car is stooped at a checkpoint at the entrance of the Tienditas International bridge that connects Venezuela with Colombia, in Urena, Venezuela, Feb. 21, 2019. As a showdown looms over U.S.-supplied humanitarian aid destined for Venezuela, much of it warehoused near the Tienditas International bridge, President Nicolas Maduro closed off his country's border with Brazil, vowing on Thursday to block the emergency food and medicine that has rallied his opponents and which he claims is part of a U.S.-led coup plot. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
Soldiers watch as a car is stooped at a checkpoint at the entrance of the Tienditas International bridge that connects Venezuela with Colombia. Source: Associated Press