Venezuela-Events Leading Up To the 23rd February 2019
Saturday, 23rd February was one of the most important and controversial events in Venezuela’s presidential crisis. But what happened in the weeks before that led to the border standoff?
I will be producing a series of articles covering in depth all the events of the 23rd of February and the attempted Humanitarian Aid delivery. This will hopefully include the most in depth look at the events using OSINT. These articles should be used for people to draw their own conclusions from; the articles will be as follows
- Events leading up to the 23rd February
-Events on the 23rd February at the Colombia border
- Events on the 23rd February at the Brazilian border
- Events on the 23rd February at sea
- Aftermath and Analysis
3 weeks before the attempted Aid delivery in early February, Juan Guaido announced that an international coalition would be sending Humanitarian aid to Venezuela and he ordered that the Venezuelan military should let the it enter.
Preparations were already being made in Cúcuta for the delivery, in early February, multiple Colombian Air Force cargo aircraft arrived at Cúcuta’s Camilo Daza airport carrying Colombian Soldiers and supplies.
Maduros government was aware of the plans to deliver humanitarian aid and knew that the Tienditas bridge would be used as a Humanitarian Command Centre.
When residetns in Cúcuta woke up on the 5th February they found that the Tienditas bridge had been blocked by the GNB. The metal fence that had blocked the bridge since it was built (the bridge had never been officially opened) was now reinforced by 2 shipping containers and an oil tanker trailer.
The first aid shipment from the United States landed in Bogotá onboard a USAF C-17 on the 6th February. This aid was transported to a temporary aid command centre established at the Tienditas bridge on the 7th February.
An interesting vehicle was seen in Cúcuta on the 8th February being escorted by Colombian Police but the vehicle was never seen again after it was spotted in Cúcuta.
This piece of heavy machinery that could have been used to move the containers on the bridge was geolocated to be around 2 miles from the Tienditas bridge. The most interesting thing at the time was that the Vehicle was under heavy police protection so close to the bridge. It is certainly a possibility that this could have been a plan by the Colombian government to clear the bridge but due to a lack of any information about this means we will never know.
Below is a link to my twitter thread on this subject including the full video showing the vehicle and police in Cúcuta
On the 9th February, 2 photos were taken showing the Venezuelan National Guard (GNB) practicing anti-riot techniques at the Tienditas bridge, this was in preparation for potential unrest amongst Venezuelans at the border.
Juan Guaido announces on the 12th February that the 23rd of February was the date set for the delivery of humanitarian aid.
Richard Branson announced that to help support the Humanitarian Aid effort to Venezuela, he was organising a concert in Cúcuta with some famous South American artists to help raise money and support for the Venezuelan Humanitarian Aid effort. This concert would be called ‘Venezuela Aid Live’ and was to be held on the 22nd February at the Tienditas Bridge.
The 14th of February is also the day that Humanitarian Aid from international organisations actually reached some Venezuelans. It is little known but on the 14th of February Humanitarian Aid from the EU and Red Cross was delivered to indigenous people in Amazonas state. The aid was delivered by Colombian NGOs to Indigenous people who transported it along the Orinoco river on boats into Venezuela and the first international Humanitarian Aid was delivered.
Another little known incident that occurred on the 14th February was the Venezuelan National Guard (GNB) participating in exercises to prevent Humanitarian Aid from entering Venezuela.
Some GNB soldiers simulated being the U.N by wearing blue helmets and attempting to run across the border holding boxes with the Red Cross label on.
In the video it’s clearly shown how the Police and National Guard are preparing to block Humanitarian Aid.
I geolocated the photos and video to the José Antonio Paez international bridge in Apure state
The bridge was an identical match, as was the border crossing. This crossing point was never used on the 23rd February and thus the GNB never had to put their tactics into practice.
This marked the beginning of the air lift of Humanitarian Aid by the USAF into Cúcuta.
On the Morning of the 16th February, 3 USAF C-17 cargo planes departed Homestead AFB in Miami filled with Humanitarian Aid on their way to Cúcuta, Colombia.
The Aid was offloaded and taken to the Tienditas bridge command centre for storage, over the next week multiple USAF flights continued to deliver Humanitarian Aid cargo to Cúcuta.
The first aid shipment set sail for Venezuela from Puerto Rico onboard the RoRo ship the ‘Midnight Stone’
This aid shipment and the mystery surrounding what happened with the boats will be covered in a future article but the aid was loaded on trucks that were planned to drive off in Venezuela to deliver aid. The aid had been flown in from the United States in the days prior to the ship setting sail.
The 20th April saw the first shipment of Humanitarian Aid carrying medicines arrived from Russia onboard an IL-76 into Caracas.
There was also a USAF delivery in Cúcuta onboard a C-130, the exact cargo was not known but it was likely another Humanitarian Aid Shipment
The stage was also starting to be set up in preparation for the Venezuela Aid Live concert in Cúcuta.
The GNB also places additional shipping containers and filled them with sand on the Tienditas bridge, this made the bridge completely imoassable. The containers were painted with the words “Paz” (Peace)
The 21st February started off with a NOTAM being issued by the Venezuelan Government. It prohibited the flights of any general aviation or private flights in Venezuela. This was to prevent any possible air lift of Humanitarian Aid using private planes to fly aid into Venezuela.
The main event that happened on the 21st February however, was the Humanitarian Aid convoy that set out from Caracas carrying volunteers and opposition politicians to the Venezuelan border at Táchira to attempt to help deliver Humanitarian Aid into Venezuela.
After just 1 hour the convoy was stopped by the GNB blocking the Cabrera tunnel.
This resulted in a clash between the GNB and the truck drivers in the convoy. The GNB were forced to withdraw after being surrounded by members of the convoy and they were forced to let them continue their journey west.
30 minutes later at the Guacara tollbooth in Carabobo, the GNB again blocked the route for the Caravan
On the evening of the 21st February, GNB soldiers started arriving in San Cristobal de Táchira ahead of the border standoff on the Saturday. A large contingent of soldiers were spotted at the Regional Commnand centre of the GNB.
Overnight in San Antonio de Táchira a large convoy of vehicles transporting GNB soldiers to the border was spotted including a bus which would end up being set on fire by opposition protestors in the following days events.
In the late hours of the 21st February and into the early morning of the 22nd February, the Humanitarian volunteers convoy reached Barinas state. One bus was attacked by locals and the GNB dispersed protestors by firing into the air
This was not the only bus in the convoy to be attacked, while driving near Guanare another bus was attacked and 2 large rocks were thrown through the front windscreen
The driver of this bus was seriously injured in the attack, the bus was carrying deputies from the National Assembly to the border.
The day before the Humanitarian Aid delivery was a busy one at Cúcuta airport. A USAF C-17 landed to deliver more Aid
There was also a Chilean Air Force C-130 delivering Humanitarian aid
The 22nd February was the date of the Venezuela Aid Live concert. What many people were unaware of was that Juan Guaido has been planning to appear at the concert, this meant crossing the border which he was banned from doing by the Maduro government who imposed a travel ban on Guaido after he declared himself President. Guaido traveled separately in a small convoy and took a different route to the main convoy that was frequently stopped by the GNB. (I will write about what Guaido actually did between setting off from Caracas and arriving at the concert in Cúcuta in the future, I am unable to write what exactly happened as it may endanger people that remain in Venezuela that helped Guaido along the way).
Guaidos convoy set off from Caracas on the 21st and headed South while the large convoy headed East on the main route to Táchira.
Guaido was picked up by the Colombian Air Force once he crossed the border and was flown to Cúcuta. There he appeared at the Venezuela Aid Live concert. Guaido remained in Cúcuta to see off the Humanitarian Aid the next day.
The next article in this series will focus on the 23rd of February at the Colombian border.
(The events of the 22nd February in Santa Elena de Uairén have been excluded from this article and will be included in the article focusing on the events at the Brazilian Border)