VENEZUELA ON BRINK CUBA, WARNS U.S. INTERVENTION

Venezuelan soldiers to guard border ahead of aid entry, minister says

CARACAS, Feb 19 (Reuters) – Venezuelan troops will remain stationed along the country’s borders to prevent territorial violations, the defense minister said on Tuesday, ahead of the opposition’s plan to bring in humanitarian aid to alleviate an economic crisis.

President Nicolas Maduro has rejected offers of foreign food and medicine, denying there are widespread shortages and accusing opposition leader Juan Guaido of using aid to undermine his government in a U.S.-orchestrated bid to oust him.

Guaido has said that aid will enter Venezuela from neighboring countries by land and sea on Saturday. The United States has sent tons of aid to Colombia’s border with Venezuela, but Maduro has refused to let it in.

In comments broadcast on state TV, Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino said the opposition would have to pass over “our dead bodies” to impose a new government. Guaido, who has invoked the constitution to assume an interim presidency, denounces Maduro as illegitimate and has received backing from some 50 countries.

U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday warned members of Venezuela’s military who remain loyal to Maduro that they would “find no safe harbor, no easy exit and no way out.”

“You’ll lose everything,” Trump told a crowd of Venezuelan and Cuban immigrants in Miami.

Cuba denies military in Venezuela, charges U.S. readies intervention

HAVANA, Feb 19 (Reuters) – Cuba denied on Tuesday it has security forces in Venezuela and charged the statements were part of an orchestrated campaign of lies paving the way for military intervention in the South American country.

U.S. President Donald Trump and members of the administration have charged that Cuba’s security forces and military control Venezuela’s and that troops are also on the ground there.

“Our government categorically and energetically rejects this slander,” Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez said at a Havana press conference, adding all of the some 20,000 Cubans in Venezuela were civilians, most health professionals.

Rodriguez called on the U.S. administration to produce proof.

“There is a big political and communications campaign underway which are usually the prelude to larger actions by this government,” Rodriguez said.

Communist-run Cuba has been a key backer of the Venezuelan government since the Bolivarian Revolution that began under former leader Hugo Chavez in 1998.

The Trump administration has been trying to pressure Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to step down and hand over power to Juan Guaido, the head of Venezuela’s National Assembly.

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