(CNSNews.com) – The Maduro regime says the Trump administration is responsible for the torching of a truck carrying humanitarian aid on the border with Colombia, describing it as a “false flag” provocation to provide a pretext for military intervention.
Representatives of the socialist regime similarly sought to put a spin on the defection of Venezuelan soldiers who drove two tanks across another border bridge onto Colombian territory, in the process pushing aside barricades placed earlier by the army to prevent aid from entering Venezuela.
Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza blamed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, saying his U.S. counterpart, a former director of the CIA, was “a CIA specialist in false flag operations.”
Pompeo and his “assassins,” the AVN state news agency quoted him as saying, were desperate to have a pretext for war.
On the burning of the truck, Arreaza said this had been carried out by Pompeo’s “own agents.”
“If he wants to locate those who burned the truck carrying false humanitarian aid, look for them among his employees.”
The incidents occurred at two Venezuela-Colombia border crossing bridges near the Colombian city of Cucuta.
Elsewhere during Saturday’s standoff between the regime and supporters of the U.S.-recognized interim president, Juan Guaido, at least four people were killed and hundreds injured along the Venezuela-Brazil border when troops loyal to Nicolas Maduro opened fire.
U.S. national Security Advisor John Bolton in a tweet described the regime’s actions as “[m]asked thugs, civilians killed by live rounds, and the burning of trucks carrying badly-needed food and medicine.”
“This has been Maduro’s response to peaceful efforts to help Venezuelans,” he said. “Countries that still recognize Maduro should take note of what they are endorsing.”
But the regime’s communication and tourism minister, Jorge Rodríguez, claimed that “criminals,” acting with the complicity of Colombian President Ivan Duque, had set fire to the truck, with the aim of creating “fake news” so that Venezuelan troops would be held accountable for the violence.
“There was no intention of bringing humanitarian aid,” he said in televised statements. “What they were trying to do was an aggression against a country that defends its sovereignty and democracy.”
On the two tanks driven across the border bridge by defecting Venezuelan soldiers, Rodríguez claimed they had been commandeered by “infiltrators” whom he also accused of running down people as they crossed the bridge.
“If it was true that they wanted to allow humanitarian aid to enter, why was the first thing they did run over people with the tanks?” he said.
Another regime official, Vice President Delcy Rodríguez, joined the accusations, calling the attempts to bring in aid for the Venezuelan people “the scam of the century.”
Diosdado Cabello, vice president of Maduro’s United Socialist Party of Venezuela, accused Trump of ordering the burning of the trucks “to erase the evidence of the deception,” insinuating they did not contain humanitarian aid at all.
For his part, Maduro delivered defiant messages to supporters, promising “defeat to the Empire and its lackeys.”
“The people are united in the streets, mobilized and alert in every corner of the country,” he said. “I call on men and women of goodwill, not to lower their guard and to stay in the fight to preserve Venezuela’s peace. Long live the rebel homeland!”
‘Make the right choice’
On Monday, Vice President Mike Pence is scheduled to meet with Guaido in the Colombian capital, Bogota, on the sidelines of a meeting of the Lima Group, a grouping of Western Hemisphere nations concerned about the crisis in Venezuela.
It will be the highest-level meeting yet between the Trump administration and the National Assembly speaker who last month declared himself interim president under Venezuela’s constitution.
The U.S. and some 50 other countries, mostly in Latin America and Europe, have recognized Guaido as interim president pending new elections.
Saturday’s standoff, coming exactly one month after Guaido’s announcement, saw volunteers attempt to bring in U.S.-supplied aid that had been prepositioned on the Colombian and Brazilian side of the border. Most of the trucks were blocked from entry.
Maduro denies that there is a humanitarian crisis, characterizing the aid as a U.S.-led plot aimed at his overthrow.
Meanwhile the U.S. continues to urge Venezuelan armed forces to withdraw support from the regime.
“Yesterday, there were over 60 defections of Venezuelan military officials along the border, who accepted interim President Guaido’s amnesty, and will work on behalf of democracy in Venezuela,” Bolton tweeted on Sunday.
“To other officials that are living in fear of Maduro, make the right choice and side with your fellow citizens.”
“Tomorrow is a new day,” Pompeo said in a statement. “It is an opportunity for Venezuelan security forces to do the right thing by allowing humanitarian assistance into the country, by protecting civilians against Maduro’s armed gangs or ‘colectivos,’ and by supporting the Venezuelan constitution and the rule of law.”
Citing the weekend violence, Pompeo pledged that the U.S. would “take action and hold accountable those who oppose the peaceful restoration of democracy in Venezuela.”
In appearances on CNN's “State of the Union” and “Fox News Sunday,” Pompeo said he was hopeful that the Venezuelan people will ensure Maduro’s days are “numbered.”