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'There’s no food and nothing to buy' - the desperate plight of the millions fleeing Maduro's Venezuela

  • ITV News Correspondent John Ray speaks to several Venezuelan refugees among the millions crossing over the border to neighbouring Colombia.

We are following in the footsteps of three million people - an exodus so large it has few peacetime parallels.

But nor is there much precedent for the calamitous collapse of the country they’re escaping.

We’re crossing the bridge over the river that marks the border between Venezuela and Colombia, a three hundred metre stretch that separates two different worlds.

People travelled for days to reach the Colombian border. Credit: ITV News

There are many thousands of us today among them Maria who has walked for two days, clutching her four-month-old baby.

"It’s very hard. We have no money,’’ she tells me. “We’ve been living in the streets.’’

Another woman, a teacher, overhears our conversation.

"Maduro is not our president,’’ she says.

Celis Castro, with his wife and baby, broke down as he spoke to ITV News. Credit: ITV News

"He has to leave power. If not, he’ll be the last man left in the country.’’

On the Colombia side of the border, sitting forlornly at the side of the road, we meet Celis Castro, an unemployed factory worker, and his wife, Marilyn.

They’ve been travelling for days with their baby daughter, who chews on a plastic bottle top.

They’re exhausted, penniless, and finally free. Though it’s hard to know what that freedom will buy them.

Celis is in tears. In part from relief, in part through fear for the future of his family that is at best uncertain.

A barricade of steel containers blocks the Tienditas Bridge. Credit: ITV News

"It’s the worse thing to be a mother in Venezuela now,’’ says Marilyn.

"There’s no food, and nothing to buy. Even the little Maduro gives us, it’s just not enough.’’

Half a mile away there’s another border crossing where the Venezuelan government is determined nothing shall pass.

Across the highways of the Tienditas Bridge, they’ve thrown a barricade of steel containers.

It’s to block an aid convoy – a consignment food and medicine – though in truth the donor’s intentions are more political than humanitarian.

Millions of Venezuelans are fleeing Maduro's rule. Credit: ITV News

Refuse it and Maduro’s regime looks cruel; accept it, and they lose control.

The embattled president is on television most nights, warning his people that it’s an American trap designed to humiliate the country.

But Celis doesn’t care.

"They told us the Americans are coming - that they’ll make us their slaves. But I would prefer to be a slave who can eat.’’

Few believe Maduro can survive for long, but the multitudes whose lives he destroyed, now crossing the bridge to Colombia, aren’t waiting around to witness his downfall.