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MIAMI (CBSMiami/CNN) — Florida US Senator Marco Rubio held a news conference from Miami International Airport on Monday afternoon.
Sen. Rubio, who just returned from a trip to the Colombia-Venezuela border, was joined by Ambassador to the Organization of American States Carlos Trujillo and Congressman Mario Díaz-Balart.
The two Republican lawmakers returned late this morning. They were on the Colombian side — where food and medicine sits, much from the U-S — waiting to get across a blocked bridge.
“The human suffering, to see it up close and first hand. These are some of the most vulnerable people in Venezuela who are there,” Rubio said.
“The aid is there, ready to go yet the Maduro regime has barricaded this multi-lane bridge because they don’t want the assistance, the aid food, medical supplies to reach the Venezuelan people,” said US Representative Mario Diaz-Balart.
The US and about 50 other countries recognize Juan Guaidó as the interim president. He vows to get the aid across the border on Saturday, Feb. 23. Rubio and Diaz-Balart say they’ll be watching closely, along with the rest of the world. They have a message to Maduro and the military he controls.
“They will be committing a crime if they deny it. We will know who they are, the world will know who they are and they’ll have to spend the rest of their lives in a prison somewhere or be fugitives of justice unable to enjoy all the money they stole from the people of Venezuela,” said Rubio.
And Rubio said he’s concerned Maduro forces will cause trouble this weekend when it’s time to move the aid.
“We fully expect that they will try to put within the crowd of real Venezuelans agent provocateurs, instigators who will be there to provoke violence so they can justify a violent response on the part of the regime,” said Rubio.
Rubio was in Cucuta on Sunday meeting with US officials and members of Venezuela’s National Assembly. On Sunday, the Senator said humanitarian aid “is going to get through” to Venezuela with or without the cooperation of Nicolas Maduro.
“The aid is going to get through,” Rubio said. “I think ultimately the question is whether it gets through in a way that he’s cooperative with or in a way that he’s not.”
On Saturday, a wave of US aid arrived at the border, which included locally purchased food kits, hygiene kits, medical supplies, ready-to-use supplementary foods, and high-energy biscuits, according to USAID.
Maduro has resisted international aid coming into the country, saying, “We are not beggars.” At the same time, he said to supporters has received aid from Russia, China, and Cuba.
Maduro’s forces had blocked a bridge between Colombia and Venezuela where aid was set to arrive.
Since Maduro was sworn in for a second term in January, several neighboring countries, European nations, and the United States have all said they will not recognize his presidency.
The US has upped sanctions on Venezuela and announced the US government would recognize head of the National Assembly Juan Guaidó as the country’s leader.
“There’s no way you’re going to stand, ultimately, in the way of a people whose children are starving to death, whose families are dying in hospitals because of preventable diseases,” Rubio said. He said the top priority is to get food and medicine to people who are dying “because the regime and the dictator does not allow humanitarian aid to reach them.”
“It is a crime against humanity to deny food and medicine to unarmed and innocent civilians,” Rubio said. Earlier in the day he described the situation in Venezuela as “a man-made crisis of epic proportions.”
“American, Colombian and Venezuelan officials stand ready to provide much needed humanitarian assistance to the people of Venezuela,” Rubio said earlier Sunday in a statement. “The people of Venezuela remain resilient in their continued fight for democracy and freedom, and the United States will continue to stand with them.”
Within Venezuela, several protests have broken out in the streets calling for Maduro to accept the shipments of humanitarian aid to the country.
Rubio said “no matter how long this takes,” the US and the international community are standing with the people of Venezuela, “until freedom is restored in Venezuela.”
(©2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company, contributed to this report.)