URENA, Venezuela — Shelves lie empty in the few pharmacies left open in the Venezuelan border town of Urena. There are no medicines, just a few packets of cotton pads and boxes of Band-Aids.
A few kilometres away, on the eerily quiet bridge to Colombia, a fuel tanker and shipping containers, placed there by the military, sit across the empty lanes ready to block millions of dollars of U.S. aid.
In a sign of increasing desperation, residents in Urena say they are ready to turn on the security forces if the aid is not allowed in. “We are absolutely ready to resist if the government does not allow the aid to enter,” Unay Bayona, a chef and youth worker, said as the standoff continued to escalate.
Sixty tonnes of food and medicine began arriving from the U.S. Thursday and was placed within viewing distance of Venezuela in a high-stakes game designed to put pressure on Nicolas Maduro, the president — and stoke unrest among the local population.
Protests that have shaken the country since last month have failed so far to topple the socialist regime blamed for widespread shortages.
“The people will not hesitate to take to the streets and even take up arms if we have to,” Bayona said.
“There is no doubt they will deploy the army, but they are on our side. They won’t fire on their own people,” he said, underlining the stark choice security forces are likely to face if ordered to block the convoy.