Juan Gaido
Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Tons of humanitarian aid meant for Venezuelans has instead sat in warehouses in Colombia and Brazil, near their respective borders with Venezuela. On Friday, Colombia hosted a “Live Aid”-inspired concert event, sponsored by Richard Branson, and attended by the presidents of Colombia, Chile, and Paraguay, and the National Assembly leader and self-declared interim president Juan Guaido. Around fifty countries, including the United States, have recognized Guaido as the legitimate interim president of Venezuela. Guaido declared that the aid would enter Venezuela on Saturday.

In response, the Nicolas Maduro regime closed the country’s borders and grounded flights. Maduro has said that the aid is part of a U.S. coup ploy. On Saturday morning, Venezuelans confronted riot police blocking passage at various crossing points. Several at the Urena border bridge demanded passage to get to their jobs in Colombia. Trucks loaded with the aid are hoping to cross the Simon Bolivar Bridge and a large crowd of protestors confronted riot police demanding they allow aid to come through.

As soon as Guaido declared himself the legitimate president, a confrontation between the country’s armed services and Venezuelan citizens became inevitable. The military leadership has publicly sworn its allegiance to Maduro. Saturday was the first test of where the rank and file’s loyalties lie.

On Friday, Venezuela National Guardsmen fired on a group of indigenous Venezuelans trying to ferry aid across the border with Brazil. Two were killed and a couple dozen wounded. In retaliation, a protest group stormed the Guardsmen outpost and took the commander prisoner. Riot police at the Urena bridge fired tear gas at protestors this morning. But also this morning, footage circulated showing at least three soldiers who have abandoned their posts at the Tienditas bridge and defected to the opposition on the Colombian side of the border. Guaido was there to greet them. “Welcome to the right side of history,” he reportedly said. He then issued a statement that any defectors would be granted amnesty.

These are the confrontations that will decide Venezuela’s immediate future. Whether it will be civil war, the fall of the Maduro regime, or the crushing of the opposition is up to the men with guns and shields.

Joshua Alvarez

Joshua Alvarez is a contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal. He edits syndicated opinion columns at the Washington Post, and can be reached at joshuaalvarezmail@gmail.com.