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Can music save Venezuela? Richard Branson hopes so

On the Colombian border with Venezuela, a sense of giddy hope filled the air.

The streets were thronging with people. Bands played drums, as street vendors loudly sold water. A sea of Venezuelan flags and faces old and young beamed with optimism.

Hundreds of thousands of them descended on the bridge of hope – a place that conversely has seen very little of that realised.

This is where hundreds of tonnes of aid has sat in a warehouse – President Nicolas Maduro’s government is unwilling to allow it across.

Now, the focus was on stage – a string of Latin American artists and the belief they could raise enough money and goodwill to change the military’s mind.

The concert was staged by Richard Branson
Image: The concert was staged by Richard Branson

At the front of it all stood billionaire businessman Richard Branson, addressing a large group of journalists.

He had thrown together Venezuela Aid Live in just a few weeks – inspired, he told me, by a phone call with the opposite leader Juan Guaido.

More from Venezuela

“We hope to draw attention to the situation in Venezuela… Babies are dying, old people are not being looked after and literally millions have left the country to find jobs. We will see if the the soldiers do the right thing and let the aid in,” Sir Richard said.

Sir Richard Branson speaks to Sky News
Branson: ‘Concert will raise attention’

But those soldiers show no sign of losing their loyalty – whether through fear, respect or financial favours – they seem locked in.

Everywhere in Cucuta, there are whispers and rumours about what might happen at the weekend.

It’s meant to be the deadline for critical supplies – America has flown in extra in advance.

Mr Guaido managed to sneak in, defying a travel ban and promising to get more than a million people to help him transfer the food and medicine people so desperately need.

Hundreds of thousands gathered for the event
Image: Hundreds of thousands gathered for the event

But Mr Maduro views this as a US invasion and shows no sign of capitulating.

As night fell, we were told Mr Guaido would be part of the relief effort as dawn broke on Tienditas bridge, where trucks sit waiting to be filled.

It is a risk for him and I met plenty of others, willing to take their own.

“I’ll fight them to the death if I have to,” one woman told me with tears in her eyes.

Another man defiantly exclaimed: “We’ll show the world we’re against this dictatorship.”

Merchandise for the Live Aid-style concert
Image: Merchandise for the Live Aid-style concert

But Mr Maduro could close the borders and his troops could easily take a firm hand on anyone willing to threaten the status quo.

This could be a crescendo, or just another chapter in false hope for those desperate for change.

But it’s a moment so many are invested in and the world is watching.

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