Richard Branson's plan to overthrow the Venezuelan government

  • 23/02/2019
Sir Richard Branson.
Sir Richard Branson. Photo credit: Getty

British billionaire Sir Richard Branson says he aims to raise US$100 million within 60 days on behalf of Venezuela through a fundraising concert in the Colombian border town of Cucuta.

Speaking hours before the fundraiser on Friday, the Virgin group boss said he and a Colombian entrepreneur friend got the idea after speaking by phone with opposition leader Juan Guaido and his political mentor Leopoldo Lopez.

The US and dozens of other countries recognise Mr Guaido as Venezuela's rightful President.

Mr Branson said he hopes the concert will convince soldiers to disobey President Nicolas Maduro and allow shipments of humanitarian aid sitting on the border to pass.

Organisers say 32 artists will perform at the event, including Swedish DJ Alesso and 'Despacito' singer Luis Fonsi.

The concert, which will also be live streamed online, will take place close to a border bridge that was closed off by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro in a move to block humanitarian aid from coming into the country.

Hundreds of Venezuelan youths were on Friday seen flocking to cross the border from Venezuela to Colombia, to attend the free concert.

On the other side of the border, Mr Maduro's socialist government is promising a three-day festival deemed 'Hands Off Venezuela'.

Carrying Venezuelan flags and waving to members of the press who were documenting their journey, the young people laughed and smiled as they passed a rickety metal fence and made their way across the Tachira River that serves as a border between the two countries.

Mr Branson hopes the concert, streamed online, will encourage donations.

"Let the music inspire and mobilise you," he said. "United through music, we can make a huge difference and help bring an end to the needless suffering of millions."

His involvement has garnered scorn from ex-Pink Floyd bassist and left-wing activist Roger Waters, who believes it's a plot to overthrow the elected government of Venezuela.

He says friends in Caracas have told there is "no civil war, no mayhem, no murder, no apparent dictatorship, no suppression of the press".

"The Red Cross and the UN, unequivocally agree, don't politicize aid," he wrote. "Leave the Venezuelan people alone to exercise their legal right to self determination."

Six hundred tonnes of aid, largely donated by the US, has been sitting in a storage facility at what is widely known as the Tienditas International Bridge for two weeks. High-ranking government officials have claimed it is poisoned.

Even as several million Venezuelans flee and those who remain struggle to find basic goods like food and antibiotics, Mr Maduro denies that a crisis exists. He contends the aid is a ploy by the Trump administration to overthrow his government.

The military has placed a large tanker and two containers in the middle of the bridge to block it.

APTN / Newshub.

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