Caracas – Venezuela's opposition leader Juan Guaido announced on Tuesday that desperately-needed humanitarian aid would be brought into the country on February 23, despite opposition from President Nicolas Maduro.
US aid has been piling up in Colombia at the border with Venezuela but until now the bridge border crossing has been barricaded by the military, under Maduro's orders.
Guaido, who declared himself acting president last month, announced the date at a rally by tens of thousands of opposition supporters to pressure the military to allow in the aid.
He asked the 250 000 people who signed up as volunteers to organise themselves over the weekend, "because we're going to have to go in caravans."
"We have almost 300 000 Venezuelans who will die if the aid doesn't enter. There are almost two million at health risk," said Guaido, recognised as Venezuela's interim leader by 50 countries.
Maduro denies there is a humanitarian crisis and has branded the whole affair a "political show" and pretext for a US-led invasion.
"It's sure that the humanitarian aid will enter Venezuela because the usurper will have no choice but to leave Venezuela," said Guaido, referring to Maduro, whom he deems illegitimate over his reelection last year in a poll widely viewed as fraudulent.
"It's not the first time Venezuela is going to be liberated from a tyrant — it's not the first time but we hope it will be the last," added the National Assembly president.
Venezuelans have faced shortages of basic necessities such as food and medicines as the economy went into meltdown under Maduro's leadership.
Some 2.3 million Venezuelans have fled the country since 2015, according to the United Nations.
Those left behind have faced failing public services while hyperinflation has left salaries and savings worthless.
"Here is a direct order to the armed forces: allow in the humanitarian aid once and for all (and) end the repression," said Guaido, 35, who stunned the world on January 23 when he launched his challenge to Maduro's authority by declaring himself acting president.