Military planes head for Venezuela with aid

US military planes carrying aid arrive near Venezuelan border

Maduro has been using the military, which remains loyal, to help him block aid from entering Venezuela, describing it as "crumbs" from a United States government whose restrictions have stripped his administration of control over many of its most valuable assets.

Even while criticizing Donald Trump's confrontational stance toward his socialist government, Maduro said he holds out hope of meeting the USA president to resolve an impasse over his recognition of opponent Juan Guaido as Venezuela's rightful leader. Last year, the US government sent more than $100 million in aid to Cucuta to help Colombian authorities absorb some of the estimated 3 million of Venezuelans fleeing hyperinflation and food shortages.

The U.S. shipment Saturday was accompanied by a delegation led by Mark Green, head of the U.S. Agency for International Development.

On another front, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza confirmed having held two meetings with special USA envoy Elliott Abrams.

Maduro, who has overseen an economic collapse in the oil-rich country that has left millions struggling to buy food and medicine and fueled an unprecedented migration crisis in the region, has refused to allow supplies in.

He met with officials at the collection point and visited the Simon Bolivar global bridge linking Colombia and Venezuela.

"I'm taking the floor to put on the record my government's strong opposition to a representative of the former Maduro regime occupying the seat reserved for Venezuela", he said.

His vice-president has alleged, without evidence, that the aid packages are contaminated.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said Friday that a coup d'état sought by Washington had failed, calling for "dialogue, understanding and respect" to resolve the crisis.

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Venezuela's Maduro does not consider the aid donated by the United States, Canada and other countries as anything other than an attempt to create instability in his government, which has been deemed illegitimate by more than 50 countries, including the United States and most large Latin American nations.

The staying power and vested interests of the Venezuelan military, which is backing Maduro's government, remain a barrier to change, the official said. The hard times and a crackdown on dissent have driven nearly 3 million Venezuelans to flee the country.

Scores of Venezuelan officials also face personal financial sanctions in the US.

Foreign Minister Arreaza, who traveled to NY on February 13, said he had met twice with Abrams - at the request of the State Department.

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

Critics of Maduro say his re-election past year was fraudulent, making the president's second term illegitimate.

On Friday the US Treasury announced that it was imposing sanctions on five intelligence and security officials close to Maduro.

During the Munich Security Conference on Saturday, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence urged European nations to join the United States in recognizing Guaido as Venezuela's interim president.

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