Clean up begins after aid blockade protests leave four dead and 300 injured in Venezuela

Venezuelans work to remove a road block at the border. Credit: AP

Venezuelans who have fled their country have been helping to clear debris from a border bridge where a day earlier, troops loyal to President Nicolas Maduro fired tear gas on activists trying to deliver humanitarian aid amid violent clashes that left four people dead and some 300 injured.

Colombian President Ivan Duque reinforced security around two international bridges near the city of Cucuta and ordered them closed for 48 hours to allow for the clean-up effort.

He said that acts of "barbarism" committed by Maduro's troops in blocking the delivery of humanitarian aid required a forceful international response, something that could come as early as Monday, when US Vice President Mike Pence travels to the Colombian capital for an emergency summit on Venezuela with foreign ministers from more than a dozen mostly conservative Latin American and Caribbean states.

"Yesterday the dictatorship sealed its moral and diplomatic defeat before the eyes of the world," Mr Duque said after surveying damage on the Simon Bolivar bridge.

However, Mr Maduro looks set to cling on to power, telling a rally on Saturday that he will never surrender and vowing to defend his country's independence with his life if necessary.

President Maduro has insisted he will not stand down. Credit: AP

Currently in Venezuela - a country in the grips of a political and economic crisis - the National Guard remains loyal to Mr Maduro, helping him to retain power.

Although on Saturday at least 60 soldiers defected from their posts blocking the border in a bid to allow much needed aid into the country, the majority remained loyal to the socialist government, meaning lorries carrying aid were unable to enter the country.

Violence flared at the country's borders with Colombia and Brazil on Saturday when troops loyal to Mr Maduro fired tear gas and pellets on protesters attempting to clear blocks, resulting in the four deaths and more than 300 people suffering injuries.

There were reports some of the aid stuck at the border was set alight to stop it entering the country, although Venezuelans rescued emergency aid boxes from burning lorries stalled on a border bridge.

A truck which had been carrying aid sits abandoned at the border. Credit: AP

Opposition leader Juan Guaido - who is recognised by more than 50 countries as Venezuela's legitimate ruler - is attempting to get aid into the country as Venezuela's inflation rate has seen prices soar in recent years, leaving many struggling to afford basic items such as food, toiletries and medicine, in the world's most oil-rich nation.

The self-declared interim president - who has promised to overthrow Mr Maduro and hold new elections to restore democracy - argues aid is desperately needed and could save thousands of lives.

However, President Maduro denies a humanitarian crisis exists and has ordered the closing of his country's borders to block Mr Guaido's efforts, which he says are part of a US-led coup and has branded him a puppet of the White House.

Aid has become the centre-piece of the standoff between the two men.

Violent clashes between protesters and the National Guard broke out on Saturday. Credit: AP

Sunday has remained relatively quiet in the country.

In Urena, a border town where violence flared on Saturday after aid was not allowed into the country, many businesses remained shuttered, fearing more violence from motorcycle-riding gunmen loyal to the Government.

Late on Saturday, Mr Guaido refrained from asking supporters to continue risking their lives trying to break through the government's barricades at the Colombian and Brazilian borders.

But he did make one last appeal to troops to let the aid in and renounce Mr Maduro.

"How many of you national guardsmen have a sick mother?

"How many have kids in school without food?" he asked, standing alongside a warehouse in the Colombian city of Cucuta where 600 tons of mostly US-supplied boxes of food and medicine have been stockpiled.

"You don't owe any obedience to a sadist ... who celebrates the denial of humanitarian aid the country needs."

Juan Guaido has repeatedly called on the military to defect from Mr Maduro. Credit: AP

The 35-year-old also urged the international community to keep "all options open" in the fight to oust Mr Maduro, echoing comments from the Trump administration, which has hinted it may be prepared to use military force.

For weeks, Donald Trump's administration and its regional allies have been amassing emergency food and medical supplies on three of Venezuela's borders with the aim of launching a "humanitarian avalanche."

International leaders, including UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, are appealing for both sides to avoid violence.

Late on Saturday Mr Guaido tweeted that the day's events had obliged him to "propose in a formal manner to the international community that we keep all options open to liberate this country which struggles and will keep on struggling".