The political crisis in Venezuela skyrocketed on Saturday as a series of swift developments saw the situation turn ugly on the ground. A 26-year-old person has reportedly died and several others have been injured in clashes between armed forces and civilians at the Venezuela-Columbia, local media reports. Venezuela has been subjected to weeks of wrangling between socialist dictator Nicolas Maduro and challenger, Juan Guaido, over who is the country’s president. Mr Guaido declared himself interim president in January and has since received the backing of the United States and numerous European nations – but Mr Maduro is refusing to budge.
The South American nation is in crisis following years of hyperinflation.
Mass food and medicines shortages have already led three million people to flee abroad.
In the latest developments, Mr Guaido promised his supporters humanitarian aid would be delivered on Saturday, which Mr Maduro said would be refused.
What is the latest news in Venezuela?
The situation has deteriorated rapidly in the last few hours as Venezuelan troops fired tear gas at protestors trying to cross into Columbia.
The border was closed by Mr Maduro to stop US humanitarian aid trucks coming in.
Local television reports showed a truck from Colombia going up in flames sending large smoke plumes skywards, as reported by Reuters.
The footage followed an earlier security video showing Venezuelan military using tear gas against volunteers unloading aid on the Francisco de Paula bridge near the border.
The video was sent by a Colombian government source near the town of Urena who said rubber bullets had also been fired.
The Venezuelan military has remained loyal to Mr Maduo but had not deployed violence against people at crowd gatherings until now.
Many of the civilians said they had just been waiting for food and medicines to finally reach them when the situation turned nasty.
Sobeida Monsalve, 42, said: “I’m a homemaker, and I’m here fighting for my family, for my children and parents, resisting the military’s tear gas and soldiers on motorbikes.”
Saturday’s escalating crisis also saw Mr Maduro formally cut ties with Colombia as he expelled diplomatic staff from the Colombian embassy.
Mr Maduro said: “Patience is exhausted. I can’t bear it anymore, we can’t keep putting up with Colombian territory being used for attacks against Venezuela.
“For that reason, I have decided to break all political and diplomatic relations with Colombia’s fascist government.”
Earlier on in the day in the Colombian border city of Cúcuta, Juan Guaidó called for the Venezuelan military to abandon their support of Mr Maduro.
He said: “I’ve made a clear call to the armed forces.
“Welcome to the right side of history. Welcome to those soldiers that today have moved to the right side of the constitution. Welcome.
“There is a clear sign today that the amnesty and guarantees are there for all those soldiers who are willing to take in and help the Venezuelan people and, above all, to respect our constitution.”