One month after declaring himself the “legitimate president of Venezuela”, Juan Guaidó attempted to provoke a crisis on February 23 by forcing United States' humanitarian aid across the Venezuela-Colombia border.
One of the aid trucks was burned and the Venezuelan government was condemned around the world.
On March 9, the New York Times published a story that questioned this claim. The headline read “Footage contradicts US claim that Maduro burned aid convoy”. The footage confirmed that the truck was lit by a Molotov cocktail thrown by an anti-government supporter.
What really did happen on the Venezuelan border on February 23?
Elisa Trunzo asked Jose Curiel about his experience of the day and his view on media claims that the Venezuelan people are starving and in desperate need of US aid.
Curiel is a militia officer (First Lieutenant) who commands a Popular Integral Defence Grouping (APDI) in the city of Guarenas. There are currently 2 million militia in Venezuela preparing to defend their homeland against a foreign invasion. Below is his testimony.
On Friday [February 22], my [Area] commander called me to a meeting of Militia Commanders of Guarenas and Guatire.
I confess it was the first time I saw my commander, Garcia, so worried. He gave us instructions that we should take as many militia members to Caracas as possible.
Until then everything had been “routine”. But at the end of the meeting he said, “Go prepared because we don’t know if after the [Chavista] march, we will have to take up arms to defend our homeland.”
He was with his little daughter and before leaving the Zamora Barracks, where we met in the town of Guatire, I could see him in a little square with his young girl, sharing what might have been his last moments with her. As commander of this Integral Defence Area, he had to stay with his command that night because no one knew what would happen next.
I realised that the situation was extremely delicate and that there was a possibility that an armed confrontation might begin.
I came home and hugged my seven year old son very hard! My wife was also very concerned because she is also a member of the militia. She is Third Senior Sergeant and commands a group of commandos.
The media were excited and were going around saying a lot of nonsense, especially by backing the idiot Juan Guaidó (a man no one here knows but who proclaimed himself the president).
On February 23, there were 2000 [militia mobilised]. The march, which was massive, went ahead with a lot of positive energy, optimism, music, dancing and jokes.
As the hours passed, we learned that a lieutenant and a sergeant aboard a Bolivarian National Guard anti-riot tank went over to the Colombian side on one of the three bridges we have on the Colombian border.
It is clear that they were paid to desert in US dollars since no officer is going to risk his career with such an act of idiocy! In reality the Colombian army should have been obliged to shoot him, but since that act was a fraud, they didn’t fire.
Maybe it would have been the perfect excuse to trigger the attack. But the idea they had was to use the passage of the “food” to get the US Army into the country.
For days it was said that the medicines they brought were expired and that much of the food had gone off.
We have news of people in Colombia who got sick from eating that contaminated food. I received news from a relative of a woman who wanted to take a capsule of medicine and because she didn’t like to swallow the capsule, she split it in half to empty the contents into an orange juice and take it.
The surprise was that the capsule was empty. What kind of humanitarian aid is that?
A disturbance broke out on the Las Tienditas border bridge and some trucks with humanitarian aid were burned on the Colombian side. [Surprisingly] they came with barbed wire and other materials that have nothing to do with humanitarian aid.
The Bolivarian government has sent 20,000 CLAP [Local Committees for Supply and Production] boxes of food to Colombia, thus showing that in Venezuela we are not dying of hunger.
The economic blockade imposed by the clown [United States President] Donald Trump certainly prevents us from purchasing food and medicines. The worst thing is that many bad, unpatriotic entrepreneurs hide the food to sell it more expensively and play with the black market dollar.
They control hyperinflation at will. Prices rise twice a week, unilaterally applying neoliberal doctrine. After the last price increase, products such as cereals, jams and canned goods reappeared.
I have first-hand evidence of sheds filled with food that the people have reported. I myself went out on the street to inspect business, and found this “phenomenon”.
We have to add to this, another social phenomenon called bachaqueo, where a person buys basic necessities and resells them at exaggerated prices on the street without paying taxes and without [complying with] health rules.
So far the government has not wanted to implement strong and exemplary punishments to stop this.
There are reports that these bachaqueros have swindled people, selling milk for babies mixed with quick lime that has led to people dying.
Many of them also work for legitimate business owners who put their employees on the street to resell products and quintuple the profits.
The excuse is always the same: they must sell more expensively than they bought because the black market dollar goes up, ruled by anti-government people like those on the website Dollar Today.
The owner of that supposed company, based in Cúcuta, Colombia, is one of the leaders of the coup attempt against Hugo Chavez in 2002 when the business people and traders closed their outfits to force an economic strike — a mistaken strategy that meant many of them went bankrupt.
This time, to overthrow Maduro, they have created a strategy where they put people to work to get food and blame the government, but at the same time exponentially multiplying their profits, counteracting the positive effects that the government intends with the salary increases.
When the government announces that there will be wage increases, the traders and industrialists increase the prices of the products. When the salary increase is fulfilled, the traders raise the prices again, and after that date, they raise them once again.
The so-called “prosecutors” of the SUNDEE (National Superintendence for the Defence of Socio-economic Rights) are corrupted and bribed. At best they impose fines that traders then transfer to users by raising prices again.
If the Bolivarian Militia were given the power to go out on the streets every day to inspect businesses, to impose fines and close businesses and put those who commit the crimes of speculation and hoarding in jail, we would deal them a hard blow. There are enough of us to be everywhere, every day, slowing down this heartless [practice].
So it is not like there is no food; there is.
The government is making great efforts to withstand the economic attacks that have become stronger than in Hugo Chavez’s time.