CUCUTA, Colombia – Nearly three weeks after the Trump administration backed an all-out effort to overtake Nicolas Maduro, there is little sign the Venezuelan president is losing his grip on power.
Dozens of nations have recognized opposition leader Juan Guaido's claim to the presidency and the US has tightened sanctions aimed at cutting off billions of dollars in oil revenue. But anti-Maduro street protests have come and gone, and large-scale military defects have failed to materialize.
virtually certain to launch military action, Guaido is trying to regain momentum with an effort this week to move U.S. emergency food and medicine into Venezuela despite Maduro's pledge to block it
Such an operation could provoke a dangerous confrontation at the border ̵
With so much at stake, Guaido is under increasing
"He is running against the clock," said Daniel Lansberg-Rodriguez, a Venezuela expert at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management. "Expectations are running very high – not just among Venezuelans but international allies – this is a crisis that can be resolved quickly."
Despite having the world's largest oil reserves, Venezuela is suffering from malnutrition, disease and violence after 20 years of socialist rule launched by the late President Hugo Chavez. Critics accuse Maduro, a former bus driver and Chavez's hand-picked successor, or an unfairly winning election last year for a second six-year term by tapping his popular rivals from running and jailing others.  was a virtually unknown lawmaker until last month, when he took the helm of the opposition-controlled National Assembly. He has rallied masses of Venezuelans into street demonstrations that have left at least 40 dead since he declared himself interim president on Jan. 23.
Guaido has so far arrested, but the general comptroller announced Monday it was opening an investigation into Guaido's assets in a new confrontation between the government and the National Assembly.
Guaido has won backing from nearly 50 countries worldwide, including the United States, which has pledged an initial $ 20 million in support and has already shipped emergency food and medicine to the Venezuela-Colombia border, where it sits in a warehouse.
Maduro has refused all economic assistance, denying there is an economic crisis in Venezuela – and contending the aid is part of a coup being orchestrated by the White House to top him.
Maduro has made a show of overseeing military operations played on state TV almost daily. He's jogged with troops in formation, mounted and amphibious tank and railed against what he says is and impending U.S. On Monday, Venezuela socialist party chief, Diosdado Cabello, spoke at a rally in Venezuela's border city of Urena, crowding the streets with Maduro loyalists wearing the red shirts of the socialist party. and waving flags
Addressing the crowd, Cabello asserted Venezuelans say he does not want to give in to pressure from the United States, saying they are willing to end whatever they have to maintain freedom from imperialist rule. He said the U.S.
"There is no help and it's not humanitarian," he said to cheers from roughly 1,000 Maduro supporters, including civilians and soldiers.
The U.S. humanitarian aid is stored in a warehouse across the river from the socialist rally, a situation that also puts Maduro in a tight situation, said Eric Farnsworth of the Council of the Americas and Americas Society, a Washington-based think tank.
"If you're in it, you're bowling to Guaido and the international community," he said. "If you don't look like a tyrant."
military deployment highly unlikely as responsible for supplying food for long term and rebuilding the gutted country.
U.S. sanctions imposed on the state oil company PDVSA in late January and meant to pressure Maduro from office have yet to bite. In the capital, Caracas, resettling up to gas stations can still fill up their cars, despite fears that sanctions would create shortages
Opposition leaders have been vague about how they plan to get the aid in.
Last week , Lester Toledo, Guaido's representative in the aid mission, suggested it could be moved by masses of people converging on the border to carry the food and medical supplies across.
On Monday, Guaido posted a video on Twitter showing himself and his wife making phone calls urging people to join a volunteer force by registering on a website and calling to return to the streets in protest Tuesday.
"We're working hard," he said in one call. "Not only to bring in the aid, but also to the tyranny" of Maduro.
Gaby Arellano, an opposition leader who is among those leading the aid mission, said the strategy was to conduct "defiance" politics, which she said there is a setting on Maduro's agenda, though she provided some details. "" We are politically defining the steps and they are responding to what we put forth, "Arellano said. "We want to be as peaceful, least traumatizing and as quick as possible."
Amaliexiz Mendoza, who lives in Cucuta with her 3-year-old daughter among the city's large Venezuelan exile community, she said would walk a thousand times to carry humanitarian aid to this countrymen. Her grandmother, aunt and young cousins still live in Venezuela and often go hungry, and her grandmother can never get the blood pressure medication she needs.
"It's not right for a child to go to bed hungry," Mendoza said , tearing up as she spoke of Maduro's denial that a crisis exists. "He doesn't like anything but our families do." Associated Press writers Fabiola Sanchez and Jorge Rueda contributed from Caracas.