MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Now back to the Colombia-Venezuela border, where there were bloody clashes yesterday between forces loyal to the Venezuelan president, Nicolas Maduro, and opponents trying to get aid into the country. For some Venezuelans who've spent years peacefully opposing Maduro, the violent confrontation at the border may have been the last straw. Reporter John Otis has this report.
JOHN OTIS, BYLINE: Scores of Venezuelans were injured during the failed aid delivery operation. What's more, two trucks carrying food and medicine were burned on a border bridge. Today, the remains of the trucks were still smoldering.
UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Speaking Spanish).
OTIS: Meanwhile, about two dozen Venezuelans prepared Molotov cocktails. It was a tiny group compared to yesterday's crowd, but the men vowed to once again take on the Venezuelan military.
UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Speaking Spanish)
OTIS: Colombian police on horseback urged them to turn around. The men pressed forward towards the border but were eventually stopped by heavily armed Venezuelan troops. It was an all-too-common scenario that frustrates many Venezuelans. They claim that Maduro clings to power with the backing of the military. Indeed, yesterday's drive to push aid across the border was also an effort to convince the armed forces to break with Maduro. At first, it seemed to work.
OTIS: About 60 Venezuelan troops defected on Saturday, including these two policewomen who dashed across a bridge to the Colombian side. But the bulk of the Venezuelan armed forces remained loyal to Maduro. And now some opposition activists insist that outside help is needed.
PATRICIA: (Speaking Spanish).
OTIS: "We have a lot of willpower but no weapons," says Patricia (ph), a protester who only gives her first name because she fears reprisals from Venezuelan officials. "We need international help," she says. Juan Guaido, who is recognized by the U.S. and about 50 other nations as Venezuela's legitimate leader, has also turned his focus away from the border and towards the international community.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
JUAN GUAIDO: (Speaking Spanish).
OTIS: He told reporters that he will meet Monday in Colombia with Latin American leaders and Vice President Mike Pence. He later tweeted that all options must be open to free Venezuela, a phrase seen by some as suggesting military intervention. President Trump has made similar comments. But while many governments have turned their backs on Maduro, there is far less enthusiasm for sending in troops.
For NPR News, I'm John Otis on the Colombia-Venezuela border.
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