By Agence France-Presse
A music concert called by Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro will take place just 300-meters from a rival gig organized by billionaire Richard Branson in support of opposition leader Juan Guaido, an official said on Wednesday.
Maduro’s concert was initially expected to take place some 15-kilometers away on the pedestrian Simon Bolivar international border bridge linking Venezuela to Colombia.
But instead, it will be held on the Tienditas bridge blocked by Venezuela’s military, on Maduro’s orders, to prevent Guaido from bringing in desperately needed humanitarian aid.
The two concerts will take place on Friday on either side of the border, although Maduro’s will last until Sunday.
“What they do on the other side of the border is their problem,” government official Dario Vivas told journalists at the bridge in Urena that connects to Cucuta in Colombia, where tons of mostly US aid is being stockpiled.
Branson’s “Venezuela Live Aid” concert has announced an international list of stars including Spanish Grammy Award winner Alejandro Sanz and Puerto Rican Luis Fonsi, one half of the act that produced the song Despacito, which reached number one in the charts in 47 countries.
The line-up also includes Venezuelan stars Jose Luis Rodriguez and Nacho.
Organizers of Maduro’s “Hands Off Venezuela” concert have yet to divulge its artist line-up.
Vivas said Branson’s concert, which the British businessman hopes will raise $100 million of aid for Venezuela in 60 days, was a “provocation.”
He said there would be free food distribution and medical assistance for Colombian citizens at border posts alongside the government’s concert.
Venezuela’s Communications Minister Jorge Rodriguez claimed on Monday that 40 percent of Cucuta’s population lives in poverty.
Guaido says 300,000 Venezuelans risk death if humanitarian aid isn’t brought in and has vowed to break Maduro’s blockade on Saturday.
Maduro has dismissed the aid issue as a “political show” and pretext to a US invasion.
Guaido has pleaded with the military, whose high command remains firmly behind Maduro, to defy the socialist leader and allow in the supplies.
Venezuela is wracked by a humanitarian crisis the opposition blames on Maduro’s mismanagement.
After four years of recession, poverty is increasing while people face shortages of basic necessities.
The country is suffering from hyperinflation that has left salaries and savings practically worthless.
An estimated 2.3 million people have fled Venezuela since 2015.