US tells European Union to recognize Guaido as Venezuela president

"It is a farce that Maduro uses Hezbollah-related media to deny that the Iranian-backed terrorist movement is using Venezuela as a hub for activity across Latin America", Shimon Samuels, director for International Relations at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, said in a statement.

"I believe that President Guaidó has done everything possible to make Maduro accept the humanitarian aid".

The US-delivered aid is expected to reach the Colombian border on Saturday, an unnamed US official told Reuters. "In the White House, Donald Trump and Ivan Duque announced plans for war against Venezuela", he said, referring to a meeting on Wednesday in which President Donald Trump reiterated that "all options" were on the table with regard to Venezuela.

"We have to do something to save so many people who are suffering and dying for lack of medicine", she said.

Maduro, however, said the aid will not be brought into his nation, and he blames US economic sanctions for Venezuela's problems.

A grave economic crisis has left millions in the once-wealthy country living in poverty, facing shortages of basic necessities such as food and medicine.

About 2.3 million Venezuelans have fled the country since 2015 as the crisis intensified, according to the United Nations.

US Vice President Mike Pence on Saturday called for the European Union to recognize Guaido's claim to the presidency.

Maduro meanwhile blames Venezuela's woes on U.S. sanctions.

Three Air Force C-17 cargo planes from Homestead Air Reserve Base in Florida carried food and other aid to Cucuta.

Guaido accuses Maduro of being a "usurper" over his controversial reelection past year in polls widely branded as fraudulent.

The embattled leader said he bought 933 tons of medicines and supplies from China, Cuba and Russian Federation, three nations that now back his regime.

"We paid for it with our own money because we're beggars to no one", he said.

Maduro meanwhile says the 35-year-old National Assembly speaker is a puppet to the USA, which he claims is trying to secure access to Venezuela's gold and vast oil reserves - the largest in the world.

On Friday, Washington added to the political pressure on Maduro by sanctioning the head of Venezuela's oil company as well as top intelligence officials. The C-17 planes arrived in Cúcuta in afternoon, where they were met by USAID Administrator Mark Green and representatives appointed Venezuelan leader Juan Guaidó, the president of the National Assembly who is now recognized as interim president by the US and almost to 60 other countries.

Some 30 European countries have already recognized the former industrial engineer as Venezuela's leader, but holdouts include Italy and Greece.

  • Joey Payne