President Nicolas Maduro said Venezuela would shut its border with Brazil on Thursday 'until further notice' amid a tense standoff with opposition leader Juan Guaido over allowing in humanitarian aid.
Juan Guaido himself has vowed to head to the country's border today to personally bring in US-supplied food and medicine.
The 35-year-old, recognised by more than 50 countries as Venezuela's acting president, planned to travel in a caravan of buses with other members of the opposition-controlled National Assembly.
Guaido's actions, in defiance of the military-backed government, raise fears of possible weekend confrontations after he set a Saturday deadline for bringing in the aid.
President Nicolas Maduro, meanwhile, has ordered his military to beef up border security and barricade a major border bridge to prevent the supplies from entering the country from Cucuta, Colombia, where tons of supplies are stockpiled.
In addition, he said Maduro said the land border with Brazil would be "completely and absolutely" closed from 8:00 pm (0000 GMT) "until further notice," following a meeting with the military high command.
Although it is unclear exactly what Guaido intends to do, he says he has enlisted hundreds of thousands of volunteers in recent days to help bring in and distribute the aid.
On Wednesday, he rallied bus drivers to go to the borders to collect aid for Venezuelans suffering shortages.
'Even though they point guns at us - and all of us have received threats, rubber bullets and even live ones - we are not afraid,' Guaido said, standing on the back of a truck in a throng of supporters.
'We will stay out in the street with our chests bared, demanding freedom for all of Venezuela.'
Shipments of food and medicine for the crisis-stricken population have become a key focus of the power struggle between Maduro and Guaido.
The 35-year-old leader of the Venezuelan legislature proclaimed himself acting president on January 23, and has since won the backing of more than 50 countries.
Starting Thursday evening, Venezuela is closing its border with Brazil, President Nicolas Maduro has announced. He added the same measure may apply to the border with Colombia, though he does not want to order it.
The Venezuelan military was ordered to enforce the travel ban in airspace and on the sea until further notice, Maduro said during a televised address from a military headquarters.
Speaking about possible cut of border travel with Colombia, Maduro said he didn’t want to take such a decision but was considering it.
The restrictions come amid a tense stand-off over US attempts to deliver what Washington describes as humanitarian aid into Venezuela in defiance of the wishes of its government. The US considers Maduro usurper and recognizes as the head of state the self-proclaimed acting president Juan Guaido, whose opposition group is the designated receiver of the ‘aid’.
Earlier on Thursday Guaido said he will personally go to the border with Colombia to get the shipment from the US, urging drivers to go with him and defy the border guards ordered to prevent the delivery.
Maduro’s government is suspicious of the US stated plan to provide humanitarian assistance to Venezuelan opposition. US envoy for Venezuela Elliott Abrams has a record of using humanitarian convoys to smuggle arms to Latin American countries targeted for regime change by Washington, and Caracas says he is now trying to follow the same script in Venezuela.
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