Dictator Nicolás Maduro claimed Thursday that musicians performing at “Venezuela Aid Live,” a concert on the Colombian border with the country to raise funds for humanitarian aid, were “international criminals.”
He did not specify whether he would attempt to prosecute them.
The “Venezuela Aid Live” concert, sponsored by British billionaire Richard Branson, will feature a known 32 artists and has established as its goal the generation of $100 million in charity donations in the next 60 days to be used to purchase food and medicine for Venezuelans. After two decades of socialist government, 90 percent of Venezuelans live in poverty, most do not have access to three meals’ worth of food a day, and lost an average of 24 pounds in weight in 2017. The nation’s Pharmaceutical Federation has warned for years of a near-complete lack of every basic medication necessary to run a functional healthcare system.
Maduro denies the existence of a humanitarian crisis and has ordered the military – which he still controls despite not legally being president of Venezuela – to block the entry of humanitarian aid into the country. The United States sent a $20 million aid package to Colombia this month in response to a request from interim President Juan Guaidó, which remains on the border as Maduro’s soldiers placed large trunk tankers across the bridge connecting the two countries to prevent its entry.
Branson’s concert will take place in front of the tankers on the Tienditas bridge.
In an extended rant on Thursday, Maduro claimed that the American aid was “rotten” and dangerous to eat and that the concert itself was an “international crime.”
“What humanitarian aid?” he asked. “Four containers of rotten food that the U.S. military didn’t eat. Carcinogenic food that has already hurt, intoxicated people, and they tell me people have already died in Cúcuta.”
Cúcuta is the Colombian city on the border with Venezuela. Maduro did not provide any evidence that anyone had died consuming American food there; on the contrary, Venezuelans blocked from entering Colombia to access the food have reported the deaths of individuals seeking vital medications only available on the other side of the border, but blocked by Maduro’s troops from accessing it.
Prior to Maduro’s claim, his vice president, Delcy Rodríguez, also alleged that the United States was sending “poisoned food” to Venezuelans with the intent of harming the population, according to unspecified alleged “scientific studies.”
Maduro went on to call the concert a “military assault on Venezuela” and condemn the artists involved. “All those artists that are going to sing in Colombia should know that they are committing an international crime because they are aiding a military invasion of Venezuela.”
“Why don’t they put together a concert for Colombia?” Maduro asked. “Let them sing to make money to construct housing for the people of Colombia.”
— NTN24 Venezuela (@NTN24ve) February 21, 2019
Maduro is no longer the head of state of Venezuela and is no longer recognized as such by most of Europe. He, therefore, does not have the authority to access institutions like the International Criminal Court representing Venezuela against those artists, the court that tries international war crimes and crimes against humanity. While Venezuela is a member of Interpol, Maduro does not have the authority to represent Venezuela at that organization, suggesting Interpol would not accept Red Alert demands against the artists from the socialist regime.
The Venezuela Aid Live concert is at press time underway on the Tienditas bridge, featuring several speeches demanding the entry of humanitarian aid, giving thanks to Colombia and the United States for their support, and condemning Maduro. Branson himself spoke, asking the audience, “why can we send someone to space, but not end poverty here?”
Among those on the official list of performers are several internationally popular musical acts of the past three decades, including the Mexican band Maná, Colombian reggaeton artist Maluma, and Venezuelan singer-songwriter Ricardo Montaner. British rocker Peter Gabriel is so far the only English-language act on the list.
Those in charge of the event told international media they expect 250,000 people to attend the event, about half of what they estimate the bridge can sustain.
— Richard Branson (@richardbranson) February 21, 2019