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Rival concerts take place on either side of Venezuela-Colombia border

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Rival concerts take place on either side of Venezuela-Colombia border
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REUTERS/Edgard Garrido
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Two rival concerts were planned on Friday on either side of a bridge linking Venezuela and Colombia.

The border city of Cucuta in Colombia played host to a concert organised by British billionaire Richard Branson on Friday, aimed at raising money for people in neighbouring crisis-stricken Venezuela.

Not to be outdone, embattled President Nicolas Maduro also organised a three-day festival, called "Hands off Venezuela", on the other side of the border in Venezuela. The government's concert lineup has not been announced. On Friday, very little was known about the concert, and although a big scene was built on the Venezuelan side of the border, the AFP reported that no crowd of attendants could be seen.

"The artists playing [at the concert] in Colombia must know they are committing a crime. They are endorsing a military intervention", Maduro has warned.

Venezuela Aid Live, a free concert organised by British billionaire Richard Branson in Colombia, aimed to raise $100 million to help those suffering because of shortages in food and medicine. Members of the public were encouraged to donate online.

The event promised performances from 35 artists, like Alejandro Sanz, Maluma, Luis Fonsi and Carlos Vives. The Manu Chao band denied taking part in either concert.

The Venezuela Aid Live organisers aimed to "create awareness of the current situation, to reopen the Venezuelan borders in order to get the humanitarian aid in, and to obtain enough funds to design and carry out a sustainable social investment that will benefit Venezuela and help bring it and its people back," according to its website. They hoped over 250,000 people would attend.

But not everyone supported Branson's initiative — Pink Floyd musician Roger Waters posted a video on Twitter saying Branson should "back off" and that his concert has "nothing to do with aid".

According to the United Nations, around 3 million Venezuelans have left their country since 2015 to escape the economic crisis.

On Thursday, the US sent food aid to Cucuta destined for Venezuela. Maduro's main political opponent, self-proclaimed Venezuelan president Juan Guaido, led a convoy to the Colombian border to collect aid for the country. But Maduro ensured that no aid could cross the border into Venezuela.

Maduro also closed the country's border with Brazil on Thursday night after Brazil announced it would send aid to Venezuela.

Among many international voices who has criticised Maduro's response to the crisis in Venezuela was British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who said the leader closing the country's border to humanitarian aid was "inhumane" and that "Venezuelans have suffered enough".