Venezuela’s government said on Wednesday that it was closing its border to air and sea traffic from three Caribbean islands in an effort to block aid shipments to the country organized by the Venezuelan opposition.
The move came ahead of a Saturday deadline by the opposition and the Trump administration for President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela to end a blockade and allow the delivery of humanitarian aid that has been piling up at the country’s borders for more than a week. The aid showdown is seen as a pivotal moment in the opposition’s effort to force out Mr. Maduro.
Vice President Delcy Rodríguez said that in addition to the border closure, the government would review its relations with the three islands, Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao, where the Venezuelan opposition wants to stage supplies.
“It’s a sovereign decision,” said Ms. Rodríguez, calling moves to bring the aid in through the islands an attempt by Venezuela’s neighbors to “ignore the legitimate authority of this country.”
Ms. Rodríguez singled out Curaçao, an island of 160,000 people that long depended on Venezuela’s oil industry but has in recent years been overrun by Venezuelan refugees fleeing shortages of food.
“Curaçao, an island that we’ve maintained historic relations as friends, neighbors, cooperative partners and brothers, has decided to lend itself to this show — whose only goal is to end in an intervention in Venezuela,” she said.
In Curaçao, opposition officials had been buoyed by the willingness of the country’s foreign minister to stage aid for Venezuela, but in recent days some politicians there had raised objections to using the aid as a political weapon.
Venezuela’s move against the three islands signaled a further tightening of borders before the opposition’s attempt on Saturday to break through the blockade. Mr. Maduro’s government has used shipping containers to block a bridge between Colombia and Venezuela where American aid arrived earlier this month.
The opposition says it will try to force aid on Saturday both through the western border with Colombia and the eastern border with Brazil.
Maduro has said that Venezuelans are not “beggars” and will not accept the aid, despite an economic collapse that has led to widespread hunger in the country.
On Wednesday, the United States Agency for International Development said its administrator had met with Curaçao’s prime minister to stage supplies in private warehouses on the island.
The two are “committed to working together to help the suffering people who are facing shortages of food and medicine,” a statement said.
On Monday, President Trump warned of consequences if the aid was not allowed through on Saturday, saying military leaders in Venezuela would “lose everything” if they remained loyal to Mr. Maduro. But Mr. Trump’s national security adviser said the US military would not cross into Venezuela.