US Special Representative Elliott Abrams speaks with the media before the departure of a C-17 cargo plane loaded with food, water and medicine for a humanitarian mission to Venezuela, at Homestead Air Force Base in Florida, on February 22, 2019 (RHONA WISE)

Miami (AFP) – US special representative Elliott Abrams departed the US on Friday for the Colombian city of Cucuta on a plane carrying American humanitarian aid for crisis-hit Venezuela.

The US Air Force C-17 cargo plane left Homestead, south of Miami, and was to arrive in Cucuta later on Friday, a day before the deadline set by Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido for the entry of humanitarian assistance that President Nicolas Maduro is seeking to prohibit.

Abrams told reporters at the military base the United States was sending medical supplies and enough food to feed 2,000 people for a month.

“The humanitarian and the social-economic situation in Venezuela is very bad, there’s a terrible need for food, for supplies, and the international community is responding,” Abrams said.

He reiterated the call for the Venezuelan military “not to block this desperately needed aid, aid that is needed by their own families in Venezuela.”

In Cucuta, Abrams will meet Colombian President Ivan Duque and his Chilean and Paraguayan counterparts, Sebastian Pinera and Mario Abdo.

Since February 4, the US Agency for International Development has sent five aircraft carrying 191 metric tons of supplies, including medicine for 40,000 people for 90 days, medical equipment such as wheelchairs and crutches, and food.

Maduro says the aid is a precursor for an American military intervention, while Guaido — who has been recognized as acting president by more than 50 countries — set a Saturday deadline for the aid to enter the country.

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