Cynics may guess that Richard Branson saw the movie Bohemian Rhapsody and, reminded of the success of the first Live Aid concert in 1985, decided narcissistically to revive the idea. Idealists will say, whatever the motivation, the world must ease the economic crisis in Venezuela.
Virgin Atlantic founder Sir Richard Branson is planning a concert on the Venezuelan border in a bid to pressure the government of President Nicolas Maduro to let in humanitarian aid supplies.
The billionaire said in a video clip on venezuelaaidlive.com that he’s organizing “a wonderful line-up of international and regional artists” in the Colombian border city of Cucuta on Feb. 22, in response to a request by opposition leaders Juan Guaido and Leopoldo Lopez. Guaido is recognized as president by more than than 30 countries, while his mentor Lopez is under house arrest in Caracas.
“We must break this impasse, or soon many Venezuelans will be on the verge of starvation or death,” Branson said. “Our goal is to raise $100 million in 60 days and re-open Venezuela’s borders to that humanitarian aid can finally reach those millions who need it the most.”
Colombian singer-songwriters Juanes and Carlos Vives, Venezuelan reggaeton star Nacho are among the performers invited to attend, according to the event’s website. Luis Fonsi, who is known for his hit “Despacito” and Brazilian pop singer Anitta are also on the list.
The U.S. is stockpiling food and medical supplies in Cucuta, in a bid to put pressure on Maduro’s government and alleviate shortages. Maduro has ordered his security forces not to let the supplies through, saying they are part of a scheme cooked up by the government of Donald Trump to provide a pretext for intervention.
More than two million Venezuelans have fled the nation’s economic collapse over the past two years, the largest migration in modern Latin American history, with Cucuta the first port of call for many. Many leave Cucuta on foot to trek south in the hope of reaching Ecuador, Peru and Chile.
©2019 Bloomberg L.P.
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Photo credit: A volunteer sorts U.S. humanitarian aid packages at a warehouse near the Tienditas International Bridge in Cucuta, Colombia, on Friday, Feb. 8, 2019. Ivan Valencia / Bloomberg