White House warns Maduro as Venezuela orders partial closure of border with Colombia

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Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro is shown in a November 2018 file photo.

The White House warned Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro on Friday that any “egregious” human rights violations by troops under his government’s command would not “go unpunished” as Maduro’s forces seek to keep foreign aid out of the country.

The Trump administration issued the statement following media reports that two indigenous people died and others have been injured following clashes with Venezuela’s military as the U.S. pushes to deliver aid to the country.

Around the same time Friday night, The Associated Press reported that Maduro’s vice president, Delcy Rodriguez, had announced the closure of several border crossings with Colombia, citing a perceived threat to Venezuela’s sovereignty.{mosads}

The White House urged Maduro to allow aid to “peacefully” enter the country.

“Egregious violation of human rights by Maduro and those who are following his orders will not go unpunished. The United States strongly urges the Venezuelan military to uphold its constitutional duty to protect the citizens of Venezuela. The Venezuelan military must allow humanitarian aid to peacefully enter the country. The world is watching,” press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in the statement.

Local officials told CNN that government troops opened fire on civilians protesting the border closures, though the news network could not independently verify the deaths.

“Instead of mediating, the military started shooting,” the mayor of Gran Sabana, a town near the country’s border with Brazil, told CNN.

Maduro’s government has argued that trucks of aid contain supplies meant to support coup attempts against the Venezuelan government, which is facing a rival interim government declared by Juan Guaidó, leader of the National Assembly.

Guaidó is supported by the Trump administration and other NATO countries, while Maduro’s government is supported by Turkey and Russia, among other nations.

President Trump spoke with Guaidó last month and offered the Venezuelan politician his support, while not announcing any military support for Guaidó’s bid.

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