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Venezuela crisis: Billionaire Richard Branson to organise aid concert on Colombia border

Opposition leaders Juan Guaidó and Leopoldo López asked tycoon to organise concert

Sarah Harvard
New York
Tuesday 19 February 2019 00:46 GMT
Venezuela: Maduro blockades bridge to stop humanitarian aid entering country

Billionaire Richard Branson is organising an aid concert in hopes of drawing more attention and offering relief to the current humanitarian crisis in Venezuela.

The british-born entrepreneur confirmed the plans on Monday, saying that the aid concert on Friday was in the works and would focus on raising funds for “much-needed medical help” to the country.

Mr Branson told the Associated Press about 300,000 people were expected to attend the concert, which is taking place in Cúcuta, Colombia, a stone’s throw away from the Venezuelan-Colombian border.

Cúcuta is home to thousands of migrants fleeing the crisis in Venezuela. It is also the staging point for humanitarian aid—primarily from the US government—to Venezuela that has suffered a blockade by Nicolas Maduro. Mr Maduro has claimed the shipments are part of an attempted “coup”.

The concert lineup will include Spanish-French singer Manu Chao, Mexican band Mana, Spanish singer-songwriter Alejandro Sanz and Dominican artist Juan Luis Guerra.

The aid concert will not be funded by any government entity, Mr Branson said. He is hoping to rake in donations from online viewers watching the concert via livestream. All artists will also be performing on stage for free.

The fundraising goal for the concert is $100m. Mr Branson also hopes the concert will open “Venezuela’s borders so that humanitarian aid can finally reach those millions who need it”.

Mr Branson posted a short video on YouTube explaining that Venezuela’s oppostion leader, Juan Guaidó, who has declared himself president, and his ally, political prisoner Leopoldo López, requested he help organise the concert.

“We must break this impasse,” Mr Branson said in the video, “or many Venezuelans will be on the verge of starvation or death.”

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