Venezuelan soldiers have blocked a key border crossing to prevent the delivery of humanitarian aid from the United States and other foreign nations.
A giant orange tanker and two large blue shipping containers were moved into the middle of a bridge connecting Venezuela to Colombia Wednesday, with armed guards patrolling the area to turn back any attempt to cross the border.
The U.S. has pledged $20 million in aid to Venezuela, including desperately needed food and medicine, but President Nicolas Maduro has rejected the aid, arguing that Venezuela is not a nation of "beggars" and would pave the way towards a U.S. military invasion.
Venezuela's oil-backed economy is in tatters due to a collapse of world energy prices, corruption and failed socialist policies. Food, fuel, and many basic goods are in severely short supply and inflation is out of control, forcing millions of Venezuelans to flee to neighboring Colombia.
The United States has sent food and medicine to Colombia's border with Venezuela, U.S. officials said on Tuesday, although it is still unclear how the aid will get past the objections of President Nicolas Maduro, who has blocked shipments in the past.
Two officials who spoke on condition of anonymity said the aid will be staged at the main Colombian-Venezuelan border crossing at Cucuta. One official said more supplies would be staged in Brazil and in the Caribbean.
"I anticipate having perhaps a dozen locations all around Venezuela where such aid will be staged," the official said.
The blocked humanitarian aid marks another chapter in the standoff between Maduro and Juan Guaido, the president of the opposition-controlled National Assembly who has declared himself the country's interim president. More than 40 nations, including the U.S., Canada and many members of the European Union, have backed Guaido's claim that he is the rightful president because Maduro's re-election was a sham.
The International Contact Group on Venezuela, made up of diplomats from Europe and Latin America, are meeting in the Uruguayan capital of Montevideo Thursday to formulate a peaceful solution to the political crisis in Venezuela.