Colombia landslide: At least 17 killed and five injured

At least 17 people have been killed by a landslide on Sunday in south-western Colombia, officials say.

Five others were injured and several houses destroyed in the town of Rosas in the Cauca region.

The landslide happened after days of torrential rains hit the region and authorities are continuing to search the rubble.

Landslides are common in the Latin American country, especially during the annual rainy season.

“Unfortunately this happens when you least expect it and, because of the rainy season that we have seen, this is what happens,” said the town’s mayor, Jesus Diaz.

As well as looking for survivors, authorities are clearing debris which is blocking a major local highway.

Colombian President Iván Duque visited the town on Sunday. He told reporters that medical assistance and alternative housing was being arranged for those caught up in the landslide.

“These are difficult times, but we are united as a country to help them,” said Mr Duque in a tweet.

A member of the Colombian Red Cross and his dog, Gretta, search for victims amid dolls
Members of the civil defence and firefighters search for victims
Residents search for survivors
A man shows a Christ found in the mud after a landslide
Firefighters and members of the army and Civil Defense look for survivors
Alan García served as president of Peru from 1985 to 1990 and again from 2006 to 2011

Alan García: Peru’s former president kills himself ahead of arrest

Former Peruvian President Alan García has died after shooting himself as police arrived at his home to arrest him over bribery allegations.

Mr García was rushed to hospital in the capital, Lima. His death was confirmed by current President Martín Vizcarra.

A crowd of supporters gathered outside the hospital and were held back by a line of police.

Mr García was accused of taking bribes from Brazilian construction company Odebrecht – claims he denied.

Mr García served as president from 1985 to 1990 and again from 2006 to 2011.

What happened at his home?

Officers had been sent to arrest him in connection with the allegations.

Interior Minister Carlos Morán told reporters that when police arrived, Mr García asked to make a phone call and went into a room and closed the door.

Minutes later, a shot rang out, Mr Morán said. Police forced the door open and found Mr García sitting on a chair with a bullet wound to his head.

Mr García underwent emergency surgery in the Casimiro Ulloa hospital in Lima.

Supporters of the Peruvian ex-president Alan Garcia gather outside the Casimiro Ulloa Emergency Hospital in Lima. 17 April 2019
Supporters of Mr García gathered outside the hospital in Lima

Health Minister Zulema Tomás said Mr García had to be resuscitated three times after suffering cardiac arrests before finally succumbing to his injuries.

In a post on Twitter, Mr Vizcarra said he was “shocked” by the former president’s death and sent his condolences to his family.

What was Mr García accused of?

Investigators say he took bribes from Odebrecht during his second term in office, linked to a metro line building project in the capital.

Odebrecht has admitted paying almost $30m (£23m) in bribes in Peru since 2004.

But Mr García maintained he was the victim of political persecution, writing in a tweet on Tuesday that there was “no clue or evidence” against him.

In November last year he unsuccessfully applied for political asylum in Uruguay.

Presentational grey line

Alan García – ‘Latin America’s Kennedy’

File image of former Peru president Alan García
  • Born on 23 May 1949 in Lima
  • Studied law and sociology
  • Elected to Peru’s Chamber of Deputies for the Aprista Party of Peru (APRA)
  • Became Peru’s youngest ever president in 1985 at the age of 36
  • A gifted orator, he was described by some as “Latin America’s Kennedy”
  • Served two terms as president, first from 1985-1990, then from 2006-2011

What is the Odebrecht scandal?

Odebrecht is a Brazilian construction giant behind major infrastructure projects around the world, including venues for the 2016 Olympics and 2014 World Cup in its home country.

But under the glare of anti-corruption investigators the company admitted paying bribes in more than half of the countries in Latin America, as well as in Angola and Mozambique in Africa.

Investigators say Odebrecht bribed officials or electoral candidates in exchange for lucrative building contracts.

BBC South America business correspondent Daniel Gallas says the scandal shows no sign of abating almost four years since it was uncovered.

No other company in Latin America has had such an ability to sustain so many high-level connections across so many different parties and countries for such a long period of time, he says.

How is Peru affected?

Four of Peru’s most recent presidents are all being investigated for alleged corruption, with a fifth – Alberto Fujimori – serving a prison sentence for corruption and human rights abuses.

Ex-leader Pedro Pablo Kuczynski was taken to hospital with high blood pressure on Wednesday just days after his own arrest in connection with Odebrecht charges. Reports said he was in intensive care.

The current leader of the opposition, Keiko Fujimori, is also in pre-trial detention on charges of taking $1.2m (£940,000) in bribes from Odebrecht.

In October, an opinion poll by Datum showed 94% of Peruvians believed the level of corruption in their country was either high or very high.

Presentational grey line

The scandal embroiling Peru’s presidents

Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, in office 2016-2018, resigned over a vote-buying scandal and detained last week.

Ollanta Humala, in office 2011-2016, accused of taking bribes from Odebrecht to bankroll his election campaign, in pre-trial detention in Peru.

Alan García, in office 2006-2011, suspected of taking kickbacks from Odebrecht, sought asylum in Uruguay’s Lima embassy but had his request denied.

Alejandro Toledo, in office 2001-2006, accused of taking millions of dollars in bribes from Odebrecht, currently a fugitive in the US.

Venezuela crisis: Maduro calls for million more militia members

Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro has said he wants a million more people to join his civilian militia by the end of the year.

The call to expand the militia – which answers directly to Mr Maduro – comes as opposition leader Juan Guaidó seeks to persuade the Venezuelan military to abandon the president.

So far the military has stayed loyal.

US-backed Mr Guaidó declared himself acting president on 23 January, saying Mr Maduro’s 2018 election was flawed.

According to the BBC’s Americas regional editor Candace Piette, Mr Maduro’s call to increase the militia numbers will be seen as an attempt to shield himself further both politically and physically.

The president praised the civilian militia for its readiness to “defend, with arms in hand, (the) peace, sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence and the life of our homeland”, during a rally in the capital, Caracas.

But he also called on the existing two million members to get involved in agriculture, as Venezuela continues to struggle with a spiralling economic crisis which has left people struggling to afford food.

“With your rifles on your shoulders, be ready to defend the fatherland and dig the furrow to plant the seeds to produce food for the community, for the people,” Mr Maduro told the crowd of militia members.

Mr Guaidó, meanwhile, called on people to take to the streets to “start the final phase of the end of the usurpation”.

He told an anti-government rally in the capital they needed to redouble efforts to oust Mr Maduro from office.

Mr Guaidó blames Mr Maduro for the skyrocketing hyperinflation, power cuts and shortages of food and medicine which have crippled the country in recent years.

Mr Maduro blames the US.

Why are Maduro and Guaidó in conflict?

They each claim to be the constitutional president of Venezuela.

Shortly after Mr Guaidó declared himself interim leader, his assets were frozen and the Supreme Court, dominated by government loyalists, placed a travel ban on him.

Venezuela crisis: Maduro calls for million more militia members
Juan Guaidó speaking to the BBC earlier this month: “We want genuinely free elections”

But the 35-year-old opposition leader defied that ban last month when he toured Latin American countries to garner support.

Mr Guaidó has continued to call for President Maduro to step aside and has urged the security forces, which have mainly been loyal to the government, to switch sides.

Interior Minister María Paula Romo said a person "close to Wikileaks" had been arrested

Julian Assange: Man ‘close’ to Wikileaks co-founder arrested in Ecuador

A man with close ties to Wikileaks co-founder Julian Assange has been arrested while trying to leave Ecuador, the country’s interior ministry says.

Interior Minister María Paula Romo did not name the man but said he had been arrested for “investigative purposes”.

An unnamed government official told the Associated Press that the man is Ola Bini, a Swedish software developer.

It comes just hours after Assange was himself arrested at the Ecuadorean embassy in London.

“A person close to Wikileaks, who has been residing in Ecuador, was arrested this afternoon when he was preparing to travel to Japan,” Ecuador’s interior ministry tweeted late on Thursday.

The man has lived in Ecuador for several years and has frequently travelled to the country’s London embassy where Assange had been staying, Ms Romo told CNN’s Spanish language service.

“He has been detained simply for investigation purposes,” she said.

An Ecuadorean official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told the Associated Press that Mr Bini had been arrested at Quito Airport.

As news of the arrest broke, friends and colleagues of Mr Bini expressed their concern on social media.

“I’m very concerned to hear that [he] has been arrested,” Martin Fowler, a US-based computer programmer, tweeted. “He is a strong advocate and developer supporting privacy and has not been able to speak to any lawyers.”

Earlier on Thursday, Ms Romo held a press conference and said a person with close links to Wikileaks was living in Ecuador.

In response, Mr Bini said on Twitter that her comments showed a “witch hunt” was under way.

What happened on Thursday?

footage shows Julian Assange being dragged from the Ecuadorian embassy in London

Ecuador withdrew Assange’s asylum on Thursday and the Metropolitan Police say they were then invited into the embassy to arrest him.

He took refuge in the embassy in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden over a sexual assault case that has since been dropped.

Ecuadorean President Lenin Moreno said the country had “reached its limit on the behaviour of Mr Assange”.

There has been a long-running dispute between the Ecuadorian authorities and Assange about what he was and was not allowed to do in the embassy.

After his arrest, Assange was taken to a central London court and found guilty of failing to surrender to the court in 2012.

As well as that charge, he now faces US federal conspiracy charges related to one of the largest ever leaks of government secrets.

The UK will decide whether to extradite him to the US. His lawyer said they would fight the extradition request because it set a “dangerous precedent for journalists, whistleblowers, and other journalistic sources that the US may wish to pursue in the future.”


Timeline: Julian Assange saga

  • August 2010 – The Swedish Prosecutor’s Office first issues an arrest warrant for Assange. It says there are two separate allegations – one of rape and one of molestation. Assange says the claims are “without basis”
  • December 2010 – Assange is arrested in London and bailed at the second attempt
  • May 2012 – The UK’s Supreme Court rules he should be extradited to Sweden to face questioning over the allegations
  • June 2012 – Assange enters the Ecuadorean embassy in London
  • August 2012 – Ecuador grants asylum to Assange, saying there are fears his human rights might be violated if he is extradited
  • August 2015 – Swedish prosecutors drop their investigation into two allegations – one of sexual molestation and one of unlawful coercion because they have run out of time to question him. But he still faces the more serious accusation of rape.
  • October 2015 – Metropolitan Police announces that officers will no longer be stationed outside the Ecuadorean embassy
  • February 2016 – A UN panel rules that Assange has been “arbitrarily detained” by UK and Swedish authorities since 2010
  • May 2017 – Sweden’s director of public prosecutions announces that the rape investigation into Assange is being dropped
  • July 2018 – The UK and Ecuador confirm they are holding ongoing talks over the fate of Assange
  • October 2018 – Assange is given a set of house rules at the Ecuadorean embassy in London. He then launches legal action against the government of Ecuador
  • December 2018 – Assange’s lawyer rejects an agreement announced by Ecuador’s president to see him leave the Ecuadorean embassy
  • February 2019 – Australia grants Assange a new passport amid fears Ecuador may bring his asylum to an end
  • April 2019 – The Metropolitan Police arrests him for “failing to surrender to the court” over a warrant issued in 2012. He is found guilty and faces up to 12 months in prison, as well as extradition over US charges of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion.
Francesco Rocca of the Red Cross said some 650,000 people could be helped initially

Venezuela crisis: Red Cross set to begin crucial aid

The Red Cross (IFRC) says that it can begin distributing crucial aid supplies to crisis-hit Venezuela in two weeks.

IFRC head Francesco Rocca said the group could initially help 650,000 suffering a lack of food and medicine.

The government of President Nicolás Maduro and the opposition are both said to back the aid move.

Opposition leader Juan Guaidó said the government had “recognised its failure by accepting the existence of a complex humanitarian emergency”.

In February, Mr Maduro used the military to block an effort led by Mr Guaidó to bring in US-backed humanitarian aid convoys.

Mr Guaidó, the head of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, declared himself interim president in January, winning the support of more than 50 countries, including the US.

Mr Maduro regarded the aid convoys as a veiled US invasion.

What has the Red Cross said?

Speaking at a news conference in Caracas, Mr Rocca said: “We estimate that in a period of approximately 15 days we will be ready to offer help. We hope to help 650,000 people at first.”

Mr Rocca said Venezuela had met the conditions for humanitarian work to be carried out.

Mr Rocca said the IFRC would need to be able to act with “impartiality, neutrality and independence” and no interference.

Yangtze River Express Airlines Boeing 747 cargo plane after landing at Simon Bolivar International Airport
Mr Maduro hailed the arrival of aid from China on Friday as a victory over US sanctions

Mr Guaidó said on Twitter that the IFRC announcement was a “great victory in our struggle”.

The BBC’s Will Grant says the agreement on aid is an implicit acknowledgement from President Maduro that there is indeed a humanitarian crisis in Venezuela, despite his repeated denials over recent years.

Mr Maduro has yet to comment publicly on the move but, our correspondent says, is likely to paint it as the consequence of a Washington-backed economic war.

The US welcomed the announcement as a “real opportunity” and said it would be “happy to put some of our aid into this method of reaching the Venezuelan people”.

Hyperinflation and a lack of supplies has meant food and medicine are often unaffordable, leading to malnutrition.

How are Maduro and Guaidó in conflict?

They each claim to be the constitutional president of Venezuela.

Shortly after Mr Guaidó declared himself interim leader, his assets were frozen and the Supreme Court, dominated by government loyalists, placed a travel ban on him.

Venezuela crisis: Red Cross set to begin crucial aid
Juan Guaidó speaking to the BBC earlier this month: “We want genuinely free elections”

But the 35-year-old opposition leader defied that ban last month when he toured Latin American countries to garner support.

Mr Guaidó has continued to call for President Maduro to step aside and has urged the security forces, which have mainly been loyal to the government, to switch sides.

Norway’s Kon-Tiki museum to return Easter Island artefacts

Norway has agreed to return thousands of artefacts taken from Chile’s Easter Island by renowned Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl in 1956.

The agreement was signed by his son on behalf of Oslo’s Kon-Tiki museum and Chile’s culture ministry in Santiago.

The artefacts include carved pieces and human bones from the Pacific island.

In 1947, Heyerdahl became famous for skippering a tiny balsawood raft, the Kon-Tiki, on a 6,000km (3,728 miles) journey from Peru to Polynesia.

His expedition proved, he said, that ancient cultures could have sailed to, and populated, the South Pacific.

Later DNA tests suggested that the islands were settled by migrant populations from South East Asia.

King Harald V of Norway speaks with members of the Easter Island community
King Harald V of Norway attended a signing ceremony marking the agreement

Heyerdahl subsequently made a number of voyages around the world, including his expeditions to Easter Island (or Rapa Nui) in 1955-56 and again in 1986-88.

Heyerdahl conducted the first co-ordinated excavations on the abandoned island whose many carved heads stand guard over the Pacific.

The explorer and ethnographer died in 2002, aged 87.

What about the deal on the artefacts?

It was signed in Chile’s National Library in Santiago.

Heyerdahl’s son, Thor Heyerdahl Jr, says “the repatriation is a fulfilment of my father’s promise to the Rapa Nui authorities that the objects would be returned after they had been analysed and published”, he is quoted as saying by the AFP news agency.

Thor Heyerdahl's crew on the Kon-Tiki raft. Photo: 1947
The Kon-Tiki raft from the 1947 expedition was made from balsa tree trunks

Kon-Tiki museum director Martin Biehl said “our common interest is that the objects are returned and, above all, delivered to a well-equipped museum”.

The whole process “will take time”, he said, without giving any further details.

After the signing ceremony, Chilean Culture Minister Consuelo Valdes stressed that “as a ministry we have the mission to respond to the just demand of the Rapa Nui people to recover their cultural heritage”.

Chile is also demanding that London’s British Museum return the figure of Hoa Hakananai, an imposing basalt statue from Easter Island.

Such statues, known as moai, were carved by the island’s indigenous Rapa Nui people to embody the spirit of a prominent ancestor, with each considered to be the person’s living incarnation.

Juan Guaidó says preparations are under way for a mass mobilisation of opposition supporters

Venezuela crisis: Guaidó calls on supporters to take to streets over blackouts

Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaidó has called on his supporters to take to the streets in protest at nationwide power cuts.

He also told followers to prepare for a final push to try to overthrow President Nicolás Maduro.

The power cuts started on Monday and have hit hospitals, public transport, water and other services, worsening a national economic crisis.

Mr Maduro blamed the blackouts on sabotage by the opposition and the US.

But the opposition argues that two decades of underinvestment and corruption by Venezuela’s socialist government as the cause.

“The time has come to agitate in every state, in every community, to get water back, get electricity back, get gas back,” Mr Guaidó told a rally in the capital Caracas. “The light has gone out, we cannot remain as passive actors,” he said.

He told supporters the protests would take place on Saturday, but gave no further details.

President Nicolas Maduro delivers a speech during a pro-government demonstration in Caracas on March 23, 2019
President Maduro accuses the opposition of trying to stage a US-backed coup

Mr Guaidó said that preparations were being made for a mass mobilisation – dubbed Operation Freedom – to try to force Mr Maduro to step down. The event is intended to culminate in a huge march through Caracas.

No date has been set but Mr Guaidó said a rehearsal of the operation would be held on 6 April. He promised to travel across Venezuela to help preparations.

Mr Guaidó, the head of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, declared himself interim leader on 23 January, saying Mr Maduro’s re-election last May was illegitimate.

Blackouts worsen crisis

Caracas was first plunged into darkness on Monday. Power was restored four hours later, before a second blackout struck. The government told workers and students to stay at home as the power cuts continued.

Power returned to about half the country’s 24 states late on Tuesday, only to fail again on Wednesday morning.

Earlier this month, a days-long nationwide power cut sparked lootingand desperation across the country. “I think this is going to be worse than the first blackout,” said Julio Barrios, an accountant in Caracas.

“A lot of people want to work but there’s no transportation and if there’s nobody working the country will be paralysed,” Mr Barrios added.

Workers deliver water bottles in Caracas on March 27, 2019 during a power outage in Venezuela
Bottled water is being distributed in Caracas as the blackout hits fresh supplies

Nestor Carreno said he had been forced to close his pizzeria in Caracas because of the cuts.

“Food stocks are starting to rot. There’s no water. The transport virtually doesn’t work. There’s no means of communication,” he said.

The government has said it is battling to restore supplies and blamed the cuts on opposition “sabotage” and “terrorism”, without presenting any evidence for those claims.

Trump doesn’t rule out military action

On Wednesday, US President Donald Trump called on Russia to withdraw military personnel from Venezuela, after two Russian air force planes landed outside Caracas on Saturday.

Mr Trump was speaking after a meeting in Washington with Fabiana Rosales, Mr Guaidó’s wife.

President Donald Trump meets Fabiana Rosales, wife of Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó, in the Oval Office of the White House March 27, 2019
Fabiana Rosales was given a high-profile reception at the White House

“Russia has to get out,” Mr Trump said, adding that “all options” were open to ensure it removed its soldiers.

The Kremlin has long been an ally of Venezuela, lending the South American nation billions of dollars and backing its oil industry and military. Russia has also strongly opposed US moves to impose sanctions on the Venezuelan government.

Meanwhile, the UN appealed to Mr Maduro and Mr Guaidó to end the political wrangling that is keeping humanitarian aid out of the country, the New York Times reported.

A confidential report sent to both sides apportioned no blame for Venezuela’s crisis but said the lack of aid in the country was significantly worsening the already dire crisis.

The government has prevented lorries containing supplies entering Venezuela from the US, Brazil and Colombia.

How did we get here?

Mr Guaidó and Mr Maduro each claim to be the constitutional president of Venezuela.

Shortly after Mr Guaidó declared himself interim leader, his assets were frozen and the nation’s Supreme Court, dominated by government loyalists, imposed a travel ban on him.

Venezuela crisis: Guaidó calls on supporters to take to streets over blackouts
Juan Guaidó speaking to the BBC last week: “We want genuinely free elections”

But the 35-year-old opposition leader defied that ban last month when he toured Latin American countries to garner support.

Mr Guaidó has continued to call for President Maduro to step aside and urge the security forces, which have mainly been loyal to the government, to switch sides.

Mr Guaidó has been recognised as leader by more than 50 countries, including most in Latin America and the US. Mr Maduro, who still has the support of China and Russia, accuses the opposition of being part of a US-orchestrated coup.

President Lopez Obrador welcomed the Spanish PM Pedro Sánchez to Mexico in January

Mexico demands apology from Spain and the Vatican over conquest

The Mexican president has sent a letter to Spain’s King Felipe VI and Pope Francis urging them to apologise for human rights abuses committed during the conquest of the region.

Andrés Manuel López Obrador said the indigenous peoples of Mexico had been the victims of massacres.

Speaking in the ruins of an ancient Mexican city, he called for a full account of the abuses.

Spain rejected the call and called for a “constructive perspective” instead.

‘Brother nations’

Mr López Obrador was unsparing in his criticism of both Spain and the Vatican, saying: “The time has come to reconcile. But let us ask forgiveness first.”

Cortés (centre left) and the Aztec emperor Montezuma II

“There were massacres and oppression. The so-called conquest was waged with the sword and the cross,” he said.

“They built their churches on top of the [indigenous] temples.”

Mexico has the world’s second biggest Roman Catholic population, after Brazil.

Pope Francis waves at the faithful upon his arrival at the Victor Manuel Reyna stadium in Tuxtla Gutierrez, Chiapas state (15 February 2016)
During a visit to Mexico in 2016, Pope Francis said the indigenous peoples had suffered centuries of discrimination

The government in Madrid responded quickly, firmly rejecting his request for an apology.

“The arrival, 500 years ago, of Spaniards to present Mexican territory cannot be judged in the light of contemporary considerations,” Spain said in a statement.

“Our two brother nations have always known how to read our shared past without anger and with a constructive perspective,” it added.

López Obrador’s pledge

The Spanish conquest of the Americas began with the arrival of an expedition led by Christopher Columbus in 1492.

Conquest of Mexico began when a small army led by Hernán Cortés, landed in modern-day Veracruz state in 1519.

The powerful Aztec Empire was eventually defeated, marking the beginning of 300 years of Spanish rule.

Mexico gained independence after a war that lasted from 1810 to 1821 and became a federal republic in 1824.

Mr López Obrador came to power in December, with a left-wing agenda.

He promised to tackle corruption, reduce inequality and lift millions of Mexicans out of poverty.

Relations with Spain’s centre-left government have been friendly so far.

A Russian aircraft was pictured at an airport near Caracas on Sunday

Venezuela crisis: Russian military planes land near Caracas

Two Russian military planes landed in Venezuela’s main airport on Saturday, reportedly carrying dozens of troops and large amounts of equipment.

The planes were sent to “fulfil technical military contracts”, Russia’s Sputnik news agency reported.

Javier Mayorca, a Venezuelan journalist, wrote on Twitter that he saw about 100 troops and 35 tonnes of equipment offloaded from the planes.

It comes three months after the two nations held joint military exercises.

Russia has long been an ally of Venezuela, lending the South American nation billions of dollars and backing its oil industry and military. Russia has also vocally opposed moves from the US to sanction the government of Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro.

Mr Mayorca said on Twitter that a Russian air force Antonov-124 cargo plane and a smaller jet landed near Caracas on Saturday.

He said that Russian General Vasily Tonkoshkurov led the troops off one of the planes.

A military plane with a Russian flag on its fuselage could be seen on the tarmac at an airport on Sunday. Images on social media also appeared to show Russian troops gathered at the airport.

Ties between Moscow and Venezuela have strengthened in recent months, amid worsening relations between the US and Venezuela. In December, Russia sent two air force jets there as part of a military exercise.

Russia has condemned other foreign powers for backing Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó, who declared himself interim president in January.

President Maduro has accused Mr Guaidó of trying to mount a coup against him with the help of “US imperialists”.

The Kremlin echoed that line, accusing Mr Guaidó of an “illegal attempt to seize power” backed by the United States and pledging to do “everything required” to support Mr Maduro.

What’s the background?

Russia's President Vladimir Putin (R) and his Venezuelan counterpart Nicolas Maduro shake hands during a signing ceremony at the Kremlin in Moscow, on July 2, 2013
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin (R) and his Venezuelan counterpart Nicolas Maduro are close allies

Mr Maduro narrowly won a presidential election in April 2013 after the death of his mentor, President Hugo Chávez. He was elected to a second term in May 2018 in an election which has been widely criticised by international observers.

Venezuela has experienced economic collapse, with severe food shortages and inflation reaching at least 800,000% last year.

Mr Guaidó has accused President Maduro of being unfit for office, and won the support of many in the country as well as US and EU leaders.

The Maduro government is becoming increasingly isolated as more and more countries blame it for the economic crisis, which has prompted more than three million people to leave Venezuela.

Meanwhile, Moscow has expanded co-operation with Caracas in recent years – increasing arms sales and extending credit.

Damage at Mr Marrero's residence in Caracas

Venezuela crisis: Juan Guaidó’s chief of staff detained

Venezuelan intelligence agents have detained a senior aide to opposition leader Juan Guaidó after a raid on his Caracas home, say legislators.

Mr Guaidó has demanded the immediate release of his chief of staff Roberto Marrero, whose whereabouts are unknown.

The nearby home of opposition legislator Sergio Vergara was also raided. He was briefly detained.

The operation could signal a crackdown on the opposition by embattled President Nicolás Maduro, analysts say.

Mr Guaidó, head of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, declared himself interim leader on 23 January, saying Mr Maduro’s re-election last May was illegitimate.

On Twitter, he said Mr Marrero had been “kidnapped” and that “two rifles and a grenade had been planted” at his aide’s home during the raid at about 02:00 local time (06:00 GMT).

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemned the raid and called for Mr Marrero’s immediate release. “We will hold accountable those involved,” he said on Twitter.

Personal belongings are seen on the floor at the residence of Roberto Marrero
Personal belongings are seen on the floor at Mr Marrero’s residence

Mr Vergara, who lives in the same building, said more than 40 heavily armed officers from intelligence agency Sebin took part in the raids on the two apartments. Mr Vergara added that his driver had also been detained.

Venezuela’s information ministry has not commented.

Mr Marrero is Mr Guaidó’s main political adviser and his detention is likely to raise tensions both within Venezuela and internationally, the BBC’s Will Grant in Caracas reports.

What’s the background?

Mr Guaidó and Mr Maduro each claim to be the constitutional president of Venezuela.

Shortly after Mr Guaidó declared himself interim leader, his assets were frozen and the Supreme Court, dominated by government loyalists, placed a travel ban on him.

Venezuela crisis: Juan Guaidó's chief of staff detained
Juan Guaidó speaking to the BBC last week: “We want genuinely free elections”

But the 35-year-old opposition leader defied that ban last month when he toured Latin American countries to garner support and had been widely expected to be arrested upon his return.

Mr Guaidó has continued to call for President Maduro to step aside and urged the security forces, which have mainly been loyal to the government, to switch sides.

Last week, the chief prosecutor said it had asked the Supreme Court to investigate Mr Guaidó for allegedly sabotaging the country’s electrical system in the wake of this month’s power cuts.

Mr Guaidó has been recognised as leader by more than 50 countries, including most in Latin America and the US. Mr Maduro, who still has the support of China and Russia, accuses the opposition of being part of a US-orchestrated coup.

Violence in Angra dos Reis, site of the nuclear power plant, has increased recently

Brazil gunmen shoot at convoy carrying nuclear fuel in Angra dos Reis

Gunmen have attacked a convoy of trucks carrying uranium fuel to a nuclear power plant near the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro, police say.

The convoy came under attack as it drove past a community controlled by drug traffickers in Angra dos Reis, a tourist city 145km (90 miles) from Rio.

Police escorting the convoy responded and a shootout followed. No-one was injured or detained.

The convoy reached the Angra 2 plant safely 20 minutes after the attack.

The attack in the Rio-Santos highway is the latest in a series of violent incidents in an area popular with visitors.

In 2017, a British woman was shot and wounded after her family’s car drove by mistake into a community run by gangs.

The convoy was carrying uranium fuel fabricated in Resende, in Rio de Janeiro state, to supply Angra 2, one of the two nuclear power plants in Angra dos Reis, which began operations in 2001.

The gunmen targeted the police officers that were part of the convoy as it passed the Frade community at around 12:00 local time on Tuesday (15:00 GMT), Brazil’s federal highway police said in a statement.

“Sadly, attacks by criminals have become frequent in that area… Such a beautiful region, with great tourist demand has become a dangerous place,” spokesman José Hélio Macedo was quoted by O Globo newspaper as saying.

Map in Angra

The uranium was being transported in armoured containers in a “natural state” and would not have offered any risk as it had the same level of radioactivity as when it is found in nature, Brazil’s nuclear agency Eletronuclear said.

The agency, however, said the convoy “had not been attacked by bandits” directly – it was passing in the area at the moment a shootout was happening.

Some bandits scared by the heavy police presence shot at a police vehicle in the convoy, it added in a statement.

Violence has increased in Angra dos Reis in recent years and heavily armed criminals are now present in once-peaceful communities, correspondents say.

Reports say the shootout in Frade was a result of fighting between rival gangs.

Angra dos Reis Mayor Fernando Jordão urged the state’s government to improve security in the region. “We have nuclear plants here. It’s a sensitive area.”

Rio state takes over running of Brazil’s iconic Maracanã stadium

Rio de Janeiro state says it is taking over the running of Brazil’s Maracanã stadium, cancelling the contract of a private consortium.

Governor Wilson Witzel said the decision would take effect on 17 April but would not disrupt football matches.

Rio’s state assembly earlier said it would investigate the contract of the Consorcio Maracanã, saying there were signs of mismanagement and corruption.

The consortium said it was “surprised” by the state authorities’ decision.

Last year, former Rio Governor Sergio Cabral was sentenced to 12 years in prison, accused of manipulating bids and overinflating contracts for the Maracanã.

The management of the Maracanã went into private hands in 2013 after a long and expensive refurbishment ahead of the 2014 Fifa World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games.

The stadium has sat empty for months at a time after the Olympics. In 2017, looters broke into the stadium, smashing windows and stealing some items.

The Maracanã – which also hosted the 1950 World Cup final – has been used by all of Rio’s big four teams, Botafogo, Flamengo, Fluminense and Vasco da Gama.

Supporters of President Nicolás Maduro also made themselves heard in Caracas

Venezuela braces for rival protests amid power cuts

Rival demonstrations are taking place in Venezuela in response to calls by opposition leader Juan Guaidó and President Nicolás Maduro.

In the capital Caracas, some supporters of Mr Guaidó clashed with police who responded with pepper spray.

Mr Guaidó declared himself interim president on 23 January and has been at loggerheads with Mr Maduro ever since.

Saturday’s protests follow widespread power cuts that have affected much of Venezuela since Thursday.

Mr Guaidó, who leads the opposition-controlled National Assembly, has been recognised as interim president by more than 50 countries. However, Mr Maduro retains the support of the military and close allies including Russia and China.

What is the latest?

On Saturday, police were out in force on the road where the opposition march was taking place.

Some protesters pushed against police in riot gear shouting “murderers” and the officers responded by firing pepper spray at them.

In a defiant tweet early on Saturday, President Maduro vowed to battle the “brutal aggression against our people”, adding: “We will never surrender.”

What’s the background?

President Maduro has accused Mr Guaidó of trying to mount a coup against him with the help of “US imperialists”.

Mr Maduro took over the presidency when his late mentor Hugo Chavez died in 2013. In recent years Venezuela has experienced economic collapse, with severe food shortages and inflation reaching at least 800,000% last year.

The Maduro government is becoming increasingly isolated as more and more countries blame it for the economic crisis, which has prompted more than three million people to leave Venezuela.

Protesters tried to push back lines of riot

What happened with the power cuts?

The widespread power cuts have reportedly been caused by problems at the Guri hydroelectric plant in Bolivar state – one of the largest such facilities in Latin America.

A fresh blackout struck on Saturday, El Nacional newspaper reported, cutting power to many areas where it had previously been restored.

In Caracas, traffic lights in some areas were back in action but the city’s metro remained closed, reports said.

Venezuela depends on its vast hydroelectric infrastructure, rather than its oil reserves, for its domestic electricity supply. But decades of underinvestment have damaged the major dams, and sporadic blackouts are commonplace.

Much of the country, including Caracas, was plunged into darkness

Mr Maduro accused the opposition of sabotage while his deputy, Delcy Rodriguez, condemned what she called an “imperial electrical war”.

Mr Guaidó hit back, urging Venezuelans to demonstrate on Saturday “against the usurping, corrupt and incompetent regime that has put our country in the dark”.

He said the blackout was the result of years of under-investment and told a gathering marking International Women’s Day that it could not be normal that “50% of hospitals in the country don’t have an electric plant”.

On Friday, some hospitals saw chaotic scenes as relatives tried to move patients in the dark to other medical facilities with emergency power generators.

In Caracas’s University Hospital, 25-year-old patient Marielsi Aray died after her respirator stopped working.

“The doctors tried to help her by pumping manually, they did everything they could, but with no electricity, what were they to do?” said her uncle Jose Lugo.

Generators at a Caracas children’s hospital failed, with staff reportedly working overnight using their mobile phones for light.

A supporter of self-proclaimed acting president Juan Guaidó, demonstrates behind a line of police officers in Caracas on March 9, 2019
The opposition is keen to keep up the pressure on President Maduro

Critics say power cuts have been getting worse since the nationalisation of the national grid in 2007. In 2016, the problem reached such a critical level that the government declared a 60-day nationwide state of emergency.

In an attempt to stem the country’s chronic power shortages, the government has periodically enforced controlled blackouts, where they would switch the power off for up to six hours at a time.

Some say that far from helping, this has caused perishable food to go bad and crime to run rampant. And when unplanned blackouts – such as the latest one – have happened, officials have blamed a number of different outside forces, including animals such as iguanas entering hydroelectric substations.

Venezuela braces for rival protests amid power cuts
Juan Guaidó was greeted by thousands of supporters on his return on Monday
Mr Davidovich's attackers stole money and reportedly told him "We know that you are the Amia Rabbi"

Argentina’s Chief Rabbi Gabriel Davidovich attacked during break-in

Argentina’s Chief Rabbi has been taken to hospital after being beaten in a night-time attack at his home in the capital Buenos Aires.

Rabbi Gabriel Davidovich said his wife was restrained during the break-in while he was attacked.

In a statement, Amia – a Jewish cultural centre – said the attackers stole money and told Mr Davidovich: “We know that you are the Amia Rabbi.”

The organisation said comments made by his attackers were “a cause for alarm”.

The Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the attack. “Anti-Semitism must not be allowed to to rear its head,” he said in a statement.

Mr Davidovich, who has been Argentina’s chief rabbi since 2013, was being treated for several fractured ribs and a punctured lung, according to local press reports. Police said they were investigating the incident as a robbery.

The attack came just a day after seven Jewish graves were defaced with Nazi symbols in San Luis in western Argentina. The country is home to nearly 200,000 Jews – one of the world’s largest Jewish populations outside Israel.

In 1994, the Amia building was targeted in a bomb attack that killed 85 people and remains the country’s deadliest terrorist incident. Much of the evidence was subsequently lost or contaminated and no-one has been convicted in connection with the bombing.

Venezuela crisis: Who is buying its oil now?

Venezuela crisis: Who is buying its oil now?

The United States has imposed tough sanctions on Venezuela’s oil industry to put pressure on President Nicolás Maduro to step down.

Oil dominates Venezuela’s economy, accounting for almost all of its export earnings.

Its biggest customers have been the US, followed by India and China.

But over the past decade, oil production has collapsed and the country is in a deep economic crisis.

So what effect are the sanctions having and who is buying its oil now?

Chart shows exports of Venezuelan oil to India, China and United States

What are the sanctions?

The sanctions block US companies doing business with Venezuela’s state oil company, the PDVSA, and freeze the company’s assets in the United States.

These measures do not cut off imports entirely, but they do require payments to be made into accounts that Venezuela’s state oil company cannot access.

Sanctions have also had an impact on access to the chemicals required to process the oil.

A technician takes an oil sample from a Venezuelan oil well

Venezuela’s heavy crude is almost solid when it comes out of the ground, so it cannot flow through pipelines.

It needs chemicals, diluting agents such as naphtha, to turn into a lighter substance that can eventually be exported. Sanctions include a ban on US firms exporting these agents.

Venezuela must import these, and in recent years they have come from the US, said Shannon O’Neil, senior fellow for Latin America Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

The Russian firm Rosneft is reportedly helping to fill this particular gap.

Chart shows how the number of active oil rigs in Venezuela has declined since January 2016

Where is Venezuela’s oil now going?

Currently sitting off the Venezuelan coast are tankers holding in the region of 10 million barrels of oil, according to Kpler, which tracks commodities.

They were originally destined for the United States, but are stranded as a result of the sanctions.

Venezuela’s government has been looking for new buyers for its oil and says it wants to double shipments to India.

But although there has been a recent increase in exports to India, it is not a substantial one, says Samah Ahmed, a crude oil analyst at Kpler.

Exports to China are also not encouraging and have in fact been dropping in line with a general decline in Venezuela’s total production.

Chart showing how Venezuelan oil production is falling

Selling more oil to markets in Asia would increase transport costs, because ports in Venezuela are not well-equipped to load tankers for travelling long distances.

Exports to India may be heavily discounted “because of quality issues and to compete with Middle Eastern grades”, says Paola Rodriguez-Masiu, an analyst at Rystad Energy.

But there is certainly a demand for heavy crude oil such as that found in Venezuela.

There is a global shortage because of sanctions on Iranian oil, while lower levels of production in Canada, Mexico and Opec member countries has also had an impact.

US importers will need to find new suppliers of heavy crude, which it uses to produce diesel and jet fuel.

“The Venezuelan crisis has made heavy crude more expensive for the US,” says Ms Rodriguez-Masiu.

But this will not help Venezuela, desperate to find new markets for its oil at a time of deepening economic and political crisis.

The sanctions will continue to hit the country hard.

Deadly border clashes have taken place after President Nicolás Maduro blocked humanitarian aid from crossing from Colombia and Brazil

After the fight for humanitarian aid, what next for Venezuela’s opposition?

After a weekend of violence, it is time for reflection. And Plan B.

Opposition leader Juan Guaidó will be meeting regional members of the Lima Group in Colombia’s capital, Bogotá, on Monday.

US Vice-President Mike Pence is also taking part to discuss the crisis in Venezuela. The Trump administration has been a big backer of Mr Guaidó since he declared himself interim president last month.

Juan Guaidó has said that after Saturday’s events, he has decided to formally ask the international community to keep all options on the table.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted over the weekend that America would “take action against those who oppose the peaceful restoration of democracy in Venezuela”.

Read between the lines, and military intervention, something that US President Donald Trump said he would not rule out, is clearly being left as a form of “action”.

Families divided

Keddy Moreno lives in Venezuela’s biggest slum, Petare, a neighbourhood of the capital, Caracas. She is prepared for military intervention – anything to end the hardships she faces on a daily basis.

I meet her just before she heads to Sunday evening Mass. The priest’s sermon touches upon the need for forgiveness in Venezuela – and the need to end the political fight so families are no longer divided.

Keddy Moreno
Keddy Moreno says efforts at the weekend to block the aid coming in were “a great injustice”

That is a story Keddy knows all too well. Her daughter left Venezuela to look for work in Peru two years ago, just four months after giving birth. Keddy’s now bringing up her little granddaughter alone.

“This weekend was a great injustice,” she says of the government’s efforts to block the aid coming in. “But it could have been worse. It gives us more encouragement that things can change.”

The neighbourhood of Petare
Petare, where Keddy lives, is Venezuela’s largest slum

Keddy thinks Juan Guaidó is the best man to take Venezuela forward.

“If only he had appeared before, things could have changed sooner.”

Intervention – more harm than good?

Not far from Petare, in one of Caracas’ wealthier suburbs, families are making the most of the sunny weekend on the Cota Mil ringroad which snakes along the north of the capital, under the iconic Avila mountain that overlooks the metropolis.

Petroleum engineer Renni Pavolini is out walking his seven-month-old spaniel Eva. He thinks the US needs to get involved in bringing the presidency of President Maduro to an end, despite fears from many that it could do more harm than good.

Renni Pavolini
Renni Pavolini says he supports foreign intervention if it will “make a big change for this country”

“They are always being interventionist,” he says, giving the past examples of Vietnam, Iraq and Cuba. “But if that intervention will make a big change for this country, I think it’s a good thing.”

Good or bad, there are not many options left, according to Margarita Lopez Maya, a professor at the Central University of Caracas.

Margarita Lopez Maya
Margarita Lopez Maya, a professor at the Central University of Caracas, says a peaceful solution to current hostilities is “very difficult”

“Venezuelans keep on betting on the possibility of a peaceful way out of this, but the nature of the Maduro government makes it very difficult for a peaceful way out,” she says.

“We have seen that they don’t care about the Venezuelan people. They don’t care about the cruelty or repression. They don’t have scruples. If they have to kill people, they will kill them. If they have to starve them, they will starve them.”

Fears of intervention

But people on both sides of the political argument fear military intervention.

“I think it would devastate an already dilapidated infrastructure, it would create divisions within the international community, it would raise questions about the legitimacy of the new Venezuelan authorities, it would set an awful precedent for the region,” says Benjamin Gedan of the Wilson Centre in Washington and former South America director on the National Security Council.

“It carries great risks and it’s not necessary.”

Maduro: US “warmongering” in order to take over Venezuela

Mr Gedan instead urges patience. The most recent sanctions placed on the state-oil company PDVSA will take effect in the coming weeks and that, he says, will pile more pressure on the government.

“Does he still have the rents to distribute to the elites?” he asks. “It’s not ideological loyalty any more, it’s shared impunity and it’s bribery.”

Once that money disappears, so too will the loyalty.

Concerts for peace

Mr Maduro is not giving up yet. In the centre of Caracas this weekend, the government put on a concert in the name of peace, hiring artists to belt out the political message that it does not need other countries to get involved and fix Venezuela.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro speaks during a pro-government march in Caracas
President Maduro spoke at a pro-government concert this weekend in light of another, anti-Maduro concert organised by opposition groups and British billionaire Richard Branson

“What we want is for the whole world to call on Donald Trump, to call on the US, to call on the countries that want Venezuela choked, and remind them that we are a free country,” says Ezequiel Suarez who is in the crowd. “We can decide ourselves what kind of future we deserve and we want to construct.”

On a nearby building, there is a giant poster with the face of Nicolás Maduro overlooking the concert. The future belongs to us, it reads – but for how long?

A number of defectors have spoken to the BBC

Venezuela crisis: Defectors fear for families under Maduro

Venezuelan soldiers who defected into Colombia on Saturday say they fear for the safety of their families under President Nicolás Maduro’s government.

Speaking exclusively to the BBC’s Orla Guerin, one defector aged 23 says he is worried forces loyal to the president may “lash out against my family”.

“But I think it was the best decision I could have made,” he adds.

More than 100 soldiers are said to have defected, most during deadly clashes over aid deliveries on Saturday.

Tensions were high after President Maduro sent troops to block roads and bridges at the borders of neighbouring Brazil and Colombia, where food and medicine deliveries, organised by the US, were set to enter the country.

At various crossing points, Venezuelan security forces fired tear gas at volunteers and protesters burning outposts and throwing stones at soldiers and riot police.

Presentational grey line

Battered and bruised

By Anne Nakashima , BBC Newslight, in Colombia near the Venezuelan border

We met the deserters – male and female – one day after they laid down their weapons and left their posts. They have found sanctuary in a Catholic church, with a discreet security presence outside.

Some seemed to be in shock over the violent scenes this weekend when Venezuelan troops fired on their own people with teargas and rubber bullets.

The parish priest who took them in told us many arrived battered and bruised. The deserters said they had fled because their homeland needed change, and their children needed food. After speaking on the phone to a loved one, one young officer wept openly.

Most of those we met were foot soldiers. They said the top brass was still bound – by corruption – to President Nicolás Maduro, and that he would fight to stay in power.

But they said he had lost the rank and file who were putting their faith in the opposition leader, Juan Guaidó.

Presentational grey line

What do the defectors say?

After agreeing to speak with the BBC on condition of anonymity, a group of Venezuelan deserters based in a church in Cúcuta described what pushed them to leave President Maduro’s armed forces.

The moment Venezuelan troops crashed through border into Colombia

“There are many professional troops who want to do this. This will be a domino effect. This will have significant influence on the armed forces,” one 29-year-old man said.

“The armed forces have broken down because of so many corrupt officers.

“The professional military is tired. We cannot remain slaves, we are freeing ourselves,” he added.

Another defector, a woman, described the mood on Saturday as “tense”, adding: “I was thinking I could not harm my own people.

“My daughter is still in Venezuela and that is what hurts the most. But I did this for her. It’s difficult because I don’t know what they might do to her.”

A third said he felt pain at seeing the Venezuelan people on the streets fighting for humanitarian aid.

Venezuelan demonstrators clash with the Bolivarian National Guard on border with Brazil
Demonstrators clashed with Venezuelan security forces at the borders of Colombia and Brazil

“I felt impotent and useless. I felt pain for everything happening,” he said.

What is the latest?

On Sunday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said President Maduro’s “days are numbered” following the deadly events at the weekend.

“Picking exact days is difficult. I’m confident that the Venezuelan people will ensure that Maduro’s days are numbered,” Mr Pompeo told CNN.

At least two people died in Saturday’s clashes between civilians and troops loyal to Mr Maduro.

Self-declared interim President Juan Guaidó, who has been recognised by more than 50 countries, has called on other nations to consider “all measures” to oust Mr Maduro after opposition-led efforts to bring in aid descended into clashes.

Opposition protesters face Venezuelan police at the Simón Bolívar International Bridge in Cucuta, Colombia. Photo: 23 February 2019
Venezuelan police prevented aid crossing the Simon Bolivar International Bridge

He also said he would attend a meeting of mostly Latin American countries in Colombia on Monday, despite being under a travel ban imposed by Mr Maduro. US Vice-President Mike Pence will represent Washington at the talks in Bogota.

A senior White House official said on Sunday that Mr Pence was planning to announce “concrete steps” and “actions” in addressing the crisis at the talks on Monday, Reuters news agency reported.

Meanwhile, Colombia and Brazil said they would intensify pressure on Mr Maduro to relinquish power. US President Donald Trump has not ruled out an armed response to the Venezuela crisis.

Separately on Sunday, a boat carrying US aid from Puerto Rico to Venezuela was forced to dock on the small Dutch island of Curaçao after it was intercepted by the Venezuelan navy off the northern coast, AFP news agency reports.

The vessel was reportedly loaded with nine cargo containers filled with food and medicine.

The Midnight Stone supply ship arrives from Puerto Rico with aid to Venezuela, at the port of Willemstad, Curaçao, Netherlands Antilles, on February 24, 2019
The supply ship that was forced to dock on the island of Curaçao

Mr Maduro, who says he is the legitimate president and is backed by key economic allies including Russia, Cuba and China, has warned that deliveries of foreign aid would open the way for US military intervention.

Mr Guaidó, who declared himself interim president last month, argues that alleged irregularities with the nation’s 2018 election render Mr Maduro’s leadership illegitimate.

What happened at the border on Saturday?

Venezuela’s opposition had intended to peacefully bring aid trucks over the borders with Brazil and Colombia.

Mr Guaidó had pledged that the aid would come into the country on Saturday. In response, Mr Maduro partly closed the country’s borders.

Venezuelan civilians attempted to cross in order to get to the stores of food and medicine, but the attempt quickly descended into bloody violence.

Soldiers opened fire on civilians, using a mixture of live ammunition and rubber bullets.

Venezuela-Colombia border turns violent

Video footage showed Venezuelan soldiers crashing their armoured vehicles into the border with Colombia in order to defect.

Another video posted on social media appeared to show four soldiers publicly denouncing the president and announcing their support for Guaidó.

Mr Guaidó promised the defectors amnesty if they joined the “right side of history”.

How did we get to this point?

The humanitarian aid stockpiled in Colombia and Brazil is at the centre of a stand-off between Mr Maduro and Mr Guaidó that goes back to Mr Maduro’s disputed re-election in 2018.

For several years Venezuela has been in the grip of a political and economic crisis.

An out-of-control inflation rate has seen prices soar, leaving many Venezuelans struggling to afford basic items.

More than three million people have fled Venezuela in recent years, according to the UN refugee agency UNHCR.

How the story unfolded

14 April 2013
Nicolás Maduro is narrowly elected president of Venezuela after the death of long-serving socialist leader Hugo Chavez. The vote is marred by claims of fraud by the opposition.

18 February 2014
A wave of protests against Mr Maduro leads to the arrest of opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, who remains under house arrest.

29 March 2017
Venezuela’s Supreme Court says it is taking control of the National Assembly, prompting months of anti-government protests that leave 100 dead. The Supreme Court reverses its decision.

17 July 2017
More than seven million Venezuelans vote in an opposition-organised referendum against Mr Maduro’s plans to create a new body with the power to control the National Assembly.

20 May 2018
Mr Maduro wins snap election. The two leading opposition candidates reject the results, saying the election was marred by vote-rigging.

8 November 2018
The UN announces that the number of refugees and migrants who have left Venezuela has passed three million. Venezuela’s economy is tanking, creating widespread food and medicine shortages.

10 January 2019
Mr Maduro is inaugurated as president. The little-known new leader of the National Assembly, Juan Guaidó, calls the president a “usurper”.

21 January 2019
As Venezuela’s economy continues to fail, a Caracas based charity says it has recorded at least 107 episodes of looting and several deaths across the country.

23 January 2019
Citing emergency powers, Mr Guaidó declares Mr Maduro’s leadership illegitimate and claims the presidency. He is recognised by the US and several Latin American countries, creating two rival claims to the office.

7 February 2019
Humanitarian aid arrives at the Colombian border with Venezuela, ready to enter the country, but Mr Maduro instructs the army to block the roads with oil tankers.
Saturday saw deadly confrontations at border crossings as volunteers attempted to collect aid

Venezuela crisis: Guaidó calls for support amid deadly border clashes”:

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó has called on other nations to consider “all measures” to oust President Nicolas Maduro.

International pressure is building on Mr Maduro after opposition-led efforts to bring aid into Venezuela descended into deadly violence on Saturday.

At least two people died in clashes between civilians and troops loyal to Mr Maduro, including a 14-year-old boy.

The president has blocked aid deliveries from entering Venezuela.

Mr Guaidó marshalled volunteers to collect and transport the aid from Brazil and Colombia but the efforts set off fierce border clashes with soldiers, who opened fire using a mixture of live ammunition and rubber bullets.

The US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, condemned the violence by “Maduro’s thugs” and said the US was prepared to “take action”. President Donald Trump said that Washington had not ruled out an armed response.

Opposition protesters face the Venezuelan Police at the Simon Bolivar International Bridge in Cucuta, Colombia, 23 February 2019.EPA

Venezuelan police prevented aid crossing the Simon Bolivar International Bridge
Demonstrators clash with members of the Bolivarian National Police on the Francisco de Paula Santander bridge on the border between Cucuta, Colombia, and VenezuelaEPA
Protesters at the Francisco de Paula Santander bridge on the border between Cucuta, Colombia, and Venezuela

Mr Guaidó, 35, last month declared himself interim president and has since been recognised as interim leader by more than 50 countries.

He has cited a constitutional provision that passes power to the leader of Venezuela’s parliament if the president is “absent”. Mr Guaidó argues that alleged irregularities with the nation’s 2018 election render Mr Maduro’s leadership illegitimate.

Mr Guaidó has announced his attention to participate in a meeting of mostly Latin American countries in Bogota, Colombia on Monday, despite being under a travel ban imposed by Mr Maduro. US Vice President Mike Pence will represent Washington at the meeting.

Deadly violence at the border

Led by Mr Guaidó, Venezuela’s opposition had intended to peacefully bring aid trucks over the borders with Brazil and Colombia. Soaring inflation has left many Venezuelans unable to afford basic items such as food, toiletries, and medicine.

Mr Guaidó had pledged that the aid would come in to the country on Saturday. In response, Mr Maduro partly closed the country’s borders, citing threats to security and sovereignty.

On Saturday, Venezuelans civilians attempted to cross in order to get to the stores of food and medicine, but the attempt quickly descended into bloody violence. Protesters clashed with security forces loyal to the president along Venezuela’s southern border with Brazil and western border with Colombia.

A demonstrator hits a barbed wire while clashing with security forces in Urena, VenezuelaREUTERS
A demonstrator runs into barbed wire strung across a street in Ureña

At least two people including a 14-year-old boy were killed, rights groups said, and many were injured as Venezuelan troops fired a mixture of tear gas, rubber bullets and live ammunition.

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There were also reports that some aid stockpiled on the border had been burned. Mr Pompeo described the reports as “sickening”.

“Our deepest sympathies to the families of those who have died due to these criminal acts,” he wrote on Twitter. “We join their demand for justice.”

Venezuela-Colombia border turns violent

Some Venezuelan soldiers on Saturday attempted to defect at the border with Colombia. Mr Guaidó visited the Tienditas bridge on the Colombian side of the border and promised the defectors amnesty if they joined the “right side of history”.

At least 60 soldiers had defected by late Saturday, according to Colombia’s migration service, but most of the military appeared to still be loyal to Mr Maduro.

Video footage showed Venezuelan soldiers crashing their armoured vehicles into the border with Colombia in order to defect.

Another video posted on social media appeared to show four soldiers publicly denouncing the president and announcing their support for Guaidó. “We are fathers and sons, we have had enough of so much uncertainty and injustice,” the soldiers said.

The moment Venezuelan troops crashed through border into Colombia

At about 19:00 local time (23:00 GMT) on Saturday, Colombia’s government estimated the number of injured at border crossings to be about 300. Journalists at the scene reported severe injuries among protesters, including several who appeared to have lost their eyes.

Amnesty International described the use of live ammunition against protesters as a serious human rights violation and a crime under international law.

How has Maduro reacted?

President Maduro continues to oppose Mr Guaidó’s claim to the presidency and has ignored international calls to hold new elections. He has accused Mr Guaidó of being a “puppet”, an “American pawn”, a “clown” and an “imperialist beggar”.

As protests got under way at Venezuela’s borders, Mr Maduro staged a rally in Caracas. “Take your hands off Venezuela, Donald Trump,” he told a cheering crowd, accusing the US president of using the aid as a means to invade the country.

Despite dozens of countries backing the opposition leader, Mr Maduro maintains the support of key economic allies including Cuba, Russia and China. The US is leading the international effort to pressure him, and has implemented a raft of financial sanctions against his government.

How did we get to this point?

The humanitarian aid stockpiled in Colombia and Brazil is at the centre of a standoff between Mr Maduro and Mr Guaidó that goes back to Mr Maduro’s 2018 re-election – a vote Mr Guaidó declared illegitimate.

For several years Venezuela has been in the grip of a political and economic crisis. An out-of-control inflation rate has seen prices soar, leaving many Venezuelans struggling to afford basic items.

Mr Guaidó insists that citizens badly need help, while Mr Maduro argues that aid is a ploy by the US to invade the country. At least 2.7 million people have fled Venezuela since 2015.

How the story unfolded

14 April 2013
Nicolás Maduro is narrowly elected president of Venezuela after the death of long-serving socialist leader Hugo Chavez. The vote is marred by claims of fraud by the opposition.

18 February 2014
A wave of protests against Mr Maduro leads to the arrest of opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, who remains under house arrest.

29 March 2017
Venezuela’s Supreme Court says it is taking control of the National Assembly, prompting months of anti-government protests that leave 100 dead. The Supreme Court reverses its decision.

17 July 2017
More than seven million Venezuelans vote in an opposition-organised referendum against Mr Maduro’s plans to create a new body with the power to control the National Assembly.

20 May 2018
Mr Maduro wins snap election. The two leading opposition candidates reject the results, saying the election was marred by vote-rigging.

8 November 2018
The UN announces that the number of refugees and migrants who have left Venezuela has passed three million. Venezuela’s economy is tanking, creating widespread food and medicine shortages.

10 January 2019
Mr Maduro is inaugurated as president. The little-known new leader of the National Assembly, Juan Guaidó, calls the president a “usurper”.

21 January 2019
As Venezuela’s economy continues to fail, a Caracas based charity says it has recorded at least 107 episodes of looting and several deaths across the country.

23 January 2019
Citing emergency powers, Mr Guaidó declares Mr Maduro’s leadership illegitimate and claims the presidency. He is recognised by the US and several Latin American countries, creating two rival claims to the office.

7 February 2019
Humanitarian aid arrives at the Colombian border with Venezuela, ready to enter the country, but Mr Maduro instructs the army to block the roads with oil tankers.
The moment Venezuelan troops crashed through border into Colombia

Venezuela crisis: Clashes break out at border towns

Deadly clashes have erupted in border towns across Venezuela as opposition activists try to bring aid into the country across government blockades.

Troops fired tear gas at people looking to cross into Colombia and at least thirteen members of the security forces have abandoned their posts.

President Nicolás Maduro said the border with Colombia is partly closed to stop aid being delivered.

His government has broken off diplomatic relations with the country.

On Friday, two people were killed by Venezuelan forces near the border with Brazil. Another two were reported dead nearby on Saturday.

Self-declared interim president Juan Guaidó had vowed that aid deliveries, which include food and medicine, would enter Venezuela on Saturday.

The first aid shipment has already arrived through Brazil and a second, en route from Colombia, is now in Venezuelan territory, he tweeted.

The delivery of aid to the stricken country has proven to be a key area of contention between the two men who see themselves as Venezuela’s leader.

What’s the latest?

A demonstrator hits a barbed wire while clashing with security forces in Urena, Venezuela
A demonstrator runs into barbed wire strung across a street in Ureña

Pictures at various crossing points show security forces firing tear gas at volunteers and protesters burning outposts and throwing rocks at soldiers and riot police.

On the Venezuela-Colombia border, at least thirteen members of the security forces defected on Saturday, Colombia’s migration authority said.

A video posted on social media appears to show four soldiers publicly denouncing Mr Maduro and announcing their support for Guaidó.

“We are fathers and sons, we have had enough of so much uncertainty and injustice,” they say.

Local media report people jumping the barricades to cross the border, while opposition MPs have posted defiant messages on social media denouncing the use of force.

Further reports show images of an aid truck being burned.

The BBC’s Orla Guerin, at the Simon Bolívar International Bridge to Colombia, said Venezuelans were begging soldiers to be allowed to cross.

Mr Guaidó visited the Tienditas bridge on the Colombian side of the border, where he was accompanied by the country’s president, Iván Duque.

“Welcome to the right side of history”, he told soldiers who had abandoned their posts, adding that soldiers who joined them would be guaranteed “amnesty.”

Venezuela-Colombia border turns violent

“We want to work!” people chanted as they faced riot police at theborder town of Ureña in south-west Venezuela.

Activists there were joined by 300 members of the “Women in White” opposition group who marched in defiance of Mr Maduro’s attempts to close the border.

Meanwhile, a top ally of President Maduro has suggested the government would allow Venezuelans to accept aid “at their own risk”, but that no foreign soldiers would “set foot” inside Venezuela.

The president himself tweeted that “there will not be a war”, posting pictures of cheering crowds in Caracas.

“Take your hands off Venezuela, Donald Trump”, he told crowds, accusing the US president of using aid as a means to invading the country.

He accused Mr Guaidó of being a “puppet”, an “American pawn”, a “clown” and an “imperialist beggar.”

A military outpost near the Venezuela-Brazilborder has been taken over by a militia loyal to President Maduro, according to VPI TV.

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“Why are you serving a dictator?”

Guillermo Olmo, BBC Mundo, Ureña, Venezuela

A demonstrator kneels down in front of security forces in Urena, Venezuela
A demonstrator kneels before security forces in Ureña

It’s been a difficult day here on the Venezuelan side.

We found locals getting angry because they found the border was closed – these people normally make a living across the border. Then it turned ugly in Ureña.

We witnessed protesters lunging to break one of the barriers but the National Guard started firing tear gas and pellets.

People were shouting at the National Guard asking them why, in their words, they were serving a dictator and not serving their own people.

We had to run away to avoid being hurt but there is still a lot of tension in the air, with a heavy military presence everywhere.

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How did we get to this point?

Humanitarian aid has become the latest flashpoint in the ongoing standoff between Mr Maduro and Mr Guaidó.

Mr Guaidó, who is the leader of the country’s opposition-dominated National Assembly, last month declared himself the country’s interim leader.

He has since won the backing of dozens of nations, including the US. He has called the rule of President Nicolás Maduro constitutionally illegitimate, claiming that Mr Maduro’s re-election in 2018 was marred by voting irregularities.

How the story unfolded

14 April 2013
Nicolás Maduro is narrowly elected president of Venezuela after the death of long-serving socialist leader Hugo Chavez. The vote is marred by claims of fraud by the opposition.

18 February 2014
A wave of protests against Mr Maduro leads to the arrest of opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, who remains under house arrest.

29 March 2017
Venezuela’s Supreme Court says it is taking control of the National Assembly, prompting months of anti-government protests that leave 100 dead. The Supreme Court reverses its decision.

17 July 2017
More than seven million Venezuelans vote in an opposition-organised referendum against Mr Maduro’s plans to create a new body with the power to control the National Assembly.

20 May 2018
Mr Maduro wins snap election. The two leading opposition candidates reject the results, saying the election was marred by vote-rigging.

8 November 2018
The UN announces that the number of refugees and migrants who have left Venezuela has passed three million. Venezuela’s economy is tanking, creating widespread food and medicine shortages.

10 January 2019
Mr Maduro is inaugurated as president. The little-known new leader of the National Assembly, Juan Guaidó, calls the president a “usurper”.

21 January 2019
As Venezuela’s economy continues to fail, a Caracas based charity says it has recorded at least 107 episodes of looting and several deaths across the country.

23 January 2019
Citing emergency powers, Mr Guaidó declares Mr Maduro’s leadership illegitimate and claims the presidency. He is recognised by the US and several Latin American countries, creating two rival claims to the office.

7 February 2019
Humanitarian aid arrives at the Colombian border with Venezuela, ready to enter the country, but Mr Maduro instructs the army to block the roads with oil tankers.

Read more

Venezuela is in the grip of a political and economic crisis. The country’s inflation rate has seen prices soar, leaving many Venezuelans struggling to afford basic items such as food, toiletries and medicine.

Mr Guaidó insists that citizens badly need help, while Mr Maduro says allowing aid to enter is part of a ploy by the US to invade the country.

About 2.7 million people have fled the country since 2015.

Battle of the concerts held on either side of the Venezuela-Colombia border
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‘More medicine, fewer bullets’

Katy Watson, BBC NewsCaracas, Venezuela

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro (C) waves the national flag during a pro-government march in Caracas, on February 23, 2019
The capital Caracas, remained calm while protests erupted at border towns

While tensions flared on Venezuela’s borders, there was relative calm in the capital. Thousands of people turned up for an opposition march, many dressed in white, a symbol of peace.

‘More medicine, fewer bullets,’ read one of the signs carried by the demonstrators. Another read ‘Maduro, you’re the cancer of Venezuela.’

The crowd marched to the military barracks – all part of a strategy to pressure the armed forces to side with Juan Guaidó and let the humanitarian aid in.

One woman described Saturday as ‘breaking point’ for Maduro. It is certainly a test for the president but apart from a handful of defections at the border, so far his senior officers have remained loyal.

And there are still those who back Maduro over what they say is a trojan horse in the form of humanitarian aid.

Not far away from the opposition march, Chavistas and government workers gathered, many dressed in red, the colours of the president’s socialist party. “Hands Off Venezuela” was the message from here.

“If they want to help, lift all the sanctions against our country,” state worker Frank Marchan told me. “We don’t need their mercy.”

Venezuela crisis: Border clashes as aid row intensifies":

Venezuela crisis: Border clashes as aid row intensifies”:

President Nicolás Maduro has closed Venezuela’s border with Brazil

At least two people have died and several others have been injured in clashes at Venezuela’s border with Brazil, local media report.

Venezuelan security forces opened fire on a group of civilians who tried to prevent them from blocking the border.

President Nicolás Maduro has closed the country’s border with Brazil amid a row over the delivery of humanitarian aid.

It comes as two rival concerts get under way on either side of a bridge linking Venezuela and Colombia.

The clashes occurred when members of the community confronted Venezuelan troops on Friday morning in the southern Venezuelan town of Kumarakapay, AFP news agency reports.

Troops then opened fire on individuals who tried to block a road with the aim of preventing military vehicles from passing, witnesses said.

A local woman and her husband were killed, according to the human rights group Kapé Kapé.

An ambulance at the scene where several people were injured during clashes in the southern Venezuelan town of Kumarakapay, 22 February 2019
An ambulance at the scene where deadly clashes erupted in southern Venezuela

Why are there clashes at the border?

Venezuela is in the grip of a political and economic crisis. The country’s inflation rate has seen prices soar, leaving many Venezuelans struggling to afford basic items such as food, toiletries and medicine.

Around 2.7 million people have fled the country since 2015.

Opposition leader Juan Guaidó, who declared himself interim leader last month, says a lack of basic items has left thousands of others at risk of dying.

Humanitarian aid for Venezuela has been arriving at the borders of neighbouring Colombia and Brazil.

Venezuelan lawmakers also clashed with soldiers on Thursday

Mr Guaidó and his allies hope to collect the relief gathered there on Saturday, in defiance of President Maduro, who denies any crisis and calls the aid plans a US-orchestrated show.

President Maduro has said he could also shut the border with Colombia to stop the opposition bringing in aid.

Why are the concerts taking place?

The concerts, being held just 300m (980ft) apart, represent two opposing sides of a power struggle between President Maduro and Mr Guaidó, who is recognised as the country’s interim leader by dozens of countries, including the US and most Latin American nations

Venezuela Aid Live crowd
Thousands gathered for the Venezuela Aid Live concert near the Colombian city of Cúcuta

One of the concerts, Venezuela Aid Live, was organised by British entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson, who said Mr Guaidó had asked him to set it up.

It is being held near the Tienditas bridge crossing on the Colombian side of the border at Cúcuta. Organisers invited 32 artists including Latin stars Rudy Mancuso, Juanes and Despacito singer Luis Fonsi, and Swedish DJ Alesso.

A few celebrities – including Venezuelan-American singer and actress Lele Pons and Venezuelan singer Danny Ocean – and politicians have also confirmed they were taking part.

“This concert is a humanitarian concert; every country, all people in the world want freedom,” Mr Branson said.

“Anybody that does anything for the right reasons is always going to get criticism. The positive thing is that 99% of people around the world are embracing what is going on here today.”

Rival Venezuela concerts

Following news of the event, President Maduro promised to hold a rival concert on the Venezuelan side of the bridge – a three-day festival which has been dubbed Hands Off Venezuela.

The government still has not announced an official line-up for Hands Off Venezuela, but unconfirmed reports claim that about 150 artists are taking part.

Venezuela Aid Live stage erection
Richard Branson’s concert is happening on the Colombian side of the border
Maduro's concert stage
While Mr Maduro’s is happening not far away on the Venezuelan side

What’s going on at Venezuela’s borders?

Brazil, which recognizes Mr Guaidó as Venezuela’s legitimate leader, had previously vowed to make humanitarian aid available in the Brazilian city of Pacaraima, to be collected by opposition supporters.

How the story unfolded

14 April 2013
Nicolás Maduro is narrowly elected president of Venezuela after the death of long-serving socialist leader Hugo Chavez. The vote is marred by claims of fraud by the opposition.

18 February 2014
A wave of protests against Mr Maduro leads to the arrest of opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, who remains under house arrest.

29 March 2017
Venezuela’s Supreme Court says it is taking control of the National Assembly, prompting months of anti-government protests that leave 100 dead. The Supreme Court reverses its decision.

17 July 2017
More than seven million Venezuelans vote in an opposition-organised referendum against Mr Maduro’s plans to create a new body with the power to control the National Assembly.

20 May 2018
Mr Maduro wins snap election. The two leading opposition candidates reject the results, saying the election was marred by vote-rigging.

8 November 2018
The UN announces that the number of refugees and migrants who have left Venezuela has passed three million. Venezuela’s economy is tanking, creating widespread food and medicine shortages.

10 January 2019
Mr Maduro is inaugurated as president. The little-known new leader of the National Assembly, Juan Guaidó, calls the president a “usurper”.

21 January 2019
As Venezuela’s economy continues to fail, a Caracas based charity says it has recorded at least 107 episodes of looting and several deaths across the country.

23 January 2019
Citing emergency powers, Mr Guaidó declares Mr Maduro’s leadership illegitimate and claims the presidency. He is recognised by the US and several Latin American countries, creating two rival claims to the office.

7 February 2019
Humanitarian aid arrives at the Colombian border with Venezuela, ready to enter the country, but Mr Maduro instructs the army to block the roads with oil tankers.

There are already planes and lorries carrying tonnes of US aid parked on the Colombian side of the Tienditas bridge, and President Maduro has refused to allow it into Venezuela, saying it is part of a ploy by the US to invade the country.

Despite denying that there is a humanitarian crisis at all, President Maduro reportedly received a shipment of aid from Russia earlier this week, according to Russian state media.

Moscow has accused Washington of using aid as a “convenient pretext for conducting military action.”

According to RIA Novosti, Russia’s foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova told reporters that “in preparation for the provocation”, America was deploying “special forces and equipment near Venezuelan territory.”

So how will the aid get in?

It is not yet clear. Mr Guaidó has said he plans to get aid into the country on Saturday by urging Venezuelans to mobilise en masse and form “caravans” and a “humanitarian avalanche” at the borders.

But even with this effort, it is uncertain whether or not aid will be allowed in.

A spokesman for Mr Branson told the BBC that he was working with the Colombian entrepreneur Bruno Ocampo to organise the concert and sort out the logistics while Mr Ocampo said the details “remain confidential”.