CARACAS, Venezuela — Opposition leader Juan Guaido said Tuesday that he will try to run caravans of badly needed food and medicine into Venezuela but won’t start for nearly two weeks, a timeline that threatens to deflate momentum toward unseating entrenched President Nicolas Maduro.

Surrounded by thousands of cheering supporters, Guiado set Feb. 23 as the date for bringing in the badly needed U.S. assistance that has been warehoused on the Colombian border since last week, but he provided few details.

The 11-day wait was sure to be a disappointment for Venezuelans desperate for the supplies. More than 2 million people have fled the country’s soaring hyperinflation and severe food and medical shortages over the last two years. The minimum wage, which most Venezuelans earn, amounts to less than $6 a month, and it is common to see people scouring garbage for food in the streets of Caracas.

“Right now, I’m going to give this order to the armed forces: Allow in the humanitarian aid. That’s an order,” Guaido told the mass of people gathered in Caracas.

Despite the authoritative-sounding assertion, there has been little evidence that the allegiance of the security forces – the country’s key powerbroker – has swung behind Guaido, a virtually unknown lawmaker until last month, when he took the helm of the National Assembly.

Guaido provided few details on how the aid would be brought in from the Colombian border city of Cucuta, except to call for mobilizing caravans of Venezuelans – a daring and potentially dangerous maneuver that could lead to more violent confrontation with the security forces.

At least 40 people have already been killed in clashes since the 35-year-old lawmaker declared himself interim president Jan. 23.

Jose Manuel Olivares, Guiado’s representative in helping lead the aid mission from Colombia, acknowledged the risk, saying he and other lawmakers plan to be at the front of the Feb. 23 push to get the aid in, even if it means risking their lives.

“We have never told people to do something we are not willing to do,” he said. “We’re going to be there with people taking the risk.”


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