Nicolás Maduro Plans Socialist ‘Hands Off Venezuela’ Concert to Rival Richard Branson

Nicolás Maduro
Getty
FRANCES MARTEL

Venezuela’s socialist dictatorship announced Tuesday the organization of a concert on the Colombian border to celebrate the repressive regime.

It is planned to be a direct response to a coordinated effort led by British billionaire Richard Branson to organize a concert on the Colombian side to raise funds for humanitarian aid.

Dictator Nicolás Maduro’s minister of Communication and Information, Jorge Rodríguez, said in a public address that the “Hands Off Venezuela” concert will take place on the Simón Bolívar bridge that connects Venezuela to the Colombian town of Cúcuta, where the United States recently sent $20 million worth of food and medical aid intended for Venezuela but Maduro’s forces blocked their entry.

The pro-Maduro concert is allegedly so popular, according to Rodríguez, that the government had to schedule it to last two days to accommodate all the artists participating.

Rodríguez did not name a single artist confirmed to appear at the event.

One possibility is a performance from Maduro himself, who regularly appears on Venezuelan state television dancing salsa or playing drums with pro-regime salsa bands. Maduro appeared on television last week playing conga drums

“There are so many Venezuelan artists and brothers and sisters from all over the world who want to participate in this message of love, message of solidarity, message of denunciation against the brutal aggression that they are intending to submit the Venezuelan people,” Rodríguez asserted, “that we are going to have to dedicate two days to the immense concert.”

The event will take place on February 22 and 23.

Branson’s “Venezuela Aid Live” concert is scheduled to take place on February 22 in Cúcuta, on the other side of the border, and is intended to raise funding for humanitarian aid for Venezuelans. Unlike the Maduro effort, Branson’s concert has already confirmed around fifteen acts performing, including some of the biggest names in the Latin American music industry like Dominican songwriter Juan Luis Guerra, Colombian stars Carlos Vives and Maluma, and Venezuelan artist Ricardo Montaner. The only English-language act confirmed so far is British rock legend Peter Gabriel.

In a video announcing the concert, Branson stated that the goal is to raise $100 million in six days to buy food and medicine for Venezuelans. Venezuela’s health professionals have endured the total lack of access to nearly every drug on the World Health Organization’s (WHO) list of necessary medications to run a functional healthcare system for at least three years. Food scarcities are equally dramatic, leading a significant percentage of the Venezuelan population to rely on eating garbage, stray animals, and zoo creatures to survive.

Maduro’s regime has repeatedly denied the existence of any humanitarian crisis in Venezuela. Maduro ordered troops to block the entry of food and medicine paid for by Washington from Cúcuta last week. His vice president, Delcy Rodríguez, claimed that America had sent “carcinogenic” and “poisoned” food, according to “several scientific studies.”

“The United States is looking to poison our people with chemicals. We could call them biological weapons,” Rodríguez claimed.

Despite the shocking lack of access to basic goods in the country – a product of two decades of socialist rule – Rodríguez claimed on Tuesday that the “Hands Off Venezuela” concert would serve as a humanitarian effort to aid Cúcuta, a city that for years has offered its amply stocked markets to Venezuelans living on the border. Rodríguez claimed, citing statistics from a government-sponsored “journalist,” that Cúcuta suffers severe wealth inequality and “pregnant women in Cúcuta have to come to Venezuela to have their children.”

Maduro’s regime will send over 20,000 food aid boxes from the socialist Local Committees for Supply and Production (CLAP) to Colombia during the concert, according to Rodríguez. Maduro typically uses the boxes – which often come with putrid or insect-infested food supplies – to buy votes from starving Venezuelans who have no other access to food.

Venezuela will also allegedly send dozens of doctors to the other side of the border for free checkups.

Venezuela’s legitimate president, Juan Guaidó, reacted with disgust to the news that Maduro would spend millions on a concert in an attempt to outdo Branson.

“You have to be really disconnected from the Venezuelan reality to mock the needs of the Venezuelan people like this,” Guaidó said. “You have to be really cynical.”

Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), who visited Cúcuta this weekend to demand Maduro let aid in, mocked the non-existent talent list for “Hands Off Venezuela.”

“I don’t know what musicians are going to be at that concert,” he told reporters.

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