The Latest: 1 woman killed, a dozen injured in Venezuela

February 22, 2019 - 9:56 am

CUCUTA, Colombia (AP) — The Latest on the political crisis in Venezuela (all times local):

9:50 a.m.

Officials in Venezuela say a woman has been killed and a dozen more injured in a clash with security forces on the border with Brazil.

Gran Sabana Mayor Emilio Gonzalez identified the woman shot dead Friday as Zoraida Rodriguez, a member of an indigenous community.

A day earlier, President Nicolas Maduro ordered the border closed as the opposition made plans to bring in humanitarian aid from Brazil and two other neighboring countries on Saturday.

Gonzalez says members of the Pemon ethnic group clashed with the Venezuela National Guard and army, who were moving tanks to the border with Brazil.

He says the soldiers fired rubber bullets and tear gas and the injured people were taken for medical treatment.

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9:25 a.m.

British billionaire Richard Branson said he hopes a fundraising concert he is organizing on behalf of Venezuela will convince soldiers to disobey President Nicolas Maduro and allow shipments of humanitarian aid sitting on the border to pass.

Branson said he postponed in California a planned test flight into space by his Virgin Galactic company to join dozens of pop artists from Latin America in the Colombian city of Cucuta for Friday's concert.

He said he and a Colombian entrepreneur friend got the idea for a concert after speaking by phone with opposition leader Juan Guaido and his political mentor Leopoldo Lopez.

The U.S. and dozens of other countries recognize Guaido as Venezuela's rightful president.

"For those people who think Venezuela is a utopia and Venezuela isn't suffering they should really come here into the crowd today and ask them why they are leaving," Branson said at a press conference early Friday.

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9:20 a.m.

Venezuela's deputy foreign minister who is visiting Moscow says the embattled Venezuelan president is in persistent contact with Russia's leader.

Venezuelan Deputy Foreign Minister Ivan Gil said at a meeting in the upper chamber of the Russian parliament on Friday that President Nicolas Maduro is "constantly in touch" with President Vladimir Putin on the phone. He thanked Russia for a recent shipment of medicine but reiterated the government stance that there is no humanitarian crisis in the South American country.

Russia and China have been staunch backers of Maduro.

Venezuela's government and the opposition are set for a showdown on Saturday as the opposition pledges to draw crowds to the country's western border to try to usher in aid that Maduro has vowed not to accept.

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9:10 a.m.

The U.N. refugee and migration agencies say some 3.4 million people have now fled Venezuela, up from a November estimate of 3 million people.

The joint envoy for refugee agency UNCHR and the International Organization for Migration, Eduardo Stein, praised the "tremendous solidarity" shown by Venezuela's neighbors to people leaving the country.

The agencies said Colombia hosts the highest number of Venezuela emigrants — more than 1.1 million — followed by Peru with 506,000 and Chile with 288,000. Brazil has taken in 96,000 Venezuelans.

UNHCR responded to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's vow to shut the border with Brazil and not let aid through by highlighting the "utmost importance that the people in need of international protection can seek the protection they require."

UNHCR said its Venezuela operation helped 80,000 people with issues like documentation, education, nutrition and sanitation.

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9 a.m.

An opposition lawmaker travelling across Venezuela to collect humanitarian aid at the Colombian border says somebody threw two large rocks at a bus in her caravan.

Deputy lawmaker Mariela Magallanes of the opposition-controlled National Assembly said Friday's pre-dawn incident was a direct attack that left a backup driver injured.

The caravan of buses was travelling overnight from Caracas to the Venezuelan border town of Urena, where opposition supporters are planning to collect international aid despite President Nicolas Maduro's refusal to let it enter.

Magallanes says the rocks went through the windshield on the passenger side.

She says it's unclear who was responsible and the driver was being treated for injuries.

Photos on social media show a broken windshield and a pool of blood on the floor of the bus.

Magallanes says the attack won't stop the humanitarian aid from coming into Venezuela.

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1:10 a.m.

Venezuela's power struggle is set to become a battle of the bands on Friday.

Dueling concerts near the border between Venezuela and Colombia will literally set the stage for a showdown between the beleaguered government of President Nicolas Maduro and opposition leaders who are trying to usher in aid.

British billionaire Richard Branson is sponsoring a Live Aid-style concert featuring dozens of musicians including Latin rock star Juanes on one side of the border, while Maduro's socialist government is promising a three-day festival deemed "Hands Off Venezuela" on the other.

"The eyes of the world will be on Venezuela," opposition leader David Smolansky said in advance of the concert.

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