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Soldiers at the Venezuelan-Colombian border. Photo: Juan Barreto/AFP/Getty Images

As expected, yesterday brought violent clashes on the Venezuelan border. The Venezuelan opposition head Juan Guaidó, whom the U.S. and some 50 other countries recognize as Venezuela's legitimate leader, led a massive effort to force humanitarian aid across the Colombian border into Venezuela.

The bottom line: Embattled dictator Nicolás Maduro is rapidly isolating himself. He's shut down commercial airspace; he's broken diplomatic ties with neighboring Colombia; and the military still loyal to him are shooting Venezuelan civilians. 

  • The Trump administration — including President Trump, Vice President Pence, national security adviser John Bolton and the State Department — have been declaring their support for the aid effort and issuing warnings to Maduro. 
  • Bolton tweeted: "Masked thugs, civilians killed by live rounds, and the burning of trucks carrying badly-needed food and medicine. This has been Maduro’s response to peaceful efforts to help Venezuelans. Countries that still recognize Maduro should take note of what they are endorsing."

Why it matters: Guaidó and his allies set up this moment to test Maduro — to see whether his troops, the key to his power, would obey his orders.

What's next? Maduro clings to power but is having trouble with energy and resources. The U.S. government already has broad sanctions in place. But senior Trump officials are now identifying individuals to sanction — they're going one by one through the senior ranks of Maduro's regime.

  • Pence plans to have his first meeting with Guaidó, in Colombia tomorrow, signaling support after the weekend violence. (Reuters)
  • Sen. Marco Rubio tweeted last night: "After discussions tonight with several regional leaders it is now clear that the grave crimes committed today by the Maduro regime have opened the door to various potential multilateral actions not on the table just 24 hours ago."

Go deeper: Saturday's showdown in Venezuela will test strength of Maduro, Guaidó

Go deeper

1 hour ago - Health

CDC panel recommends Pfizer boosters for high-risk individuals, people 65 and up

Photo: Marco Bello/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

A key panel at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday recommended the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus booster shots for people 65 years old and older, as well as those at high risk of severe COVID-19.

Why it matters: The approval is the near-final step in making the booster shots available to tens of millions of Americans, and comes a day after the FDA approved Pfizer boosters for the two groups. CDC director Rochelle Walensky is expected to accept the recommendation.

DHS temporarily suspends use of horse patrol in Del Rio

U.S. Border Patrol agents watch as Haitian immigrant families cross the Rio Grande from Mexico into Del Rio, Texas on Sept. 23, 2021. Photo: John Moore/Getty Images

The Department of Homeland Security on Thursday temporarily suspended the use of horse patrol in Del Rio, Texas a DHS spokesperson confirmed.

Why it matters: The suspension comes after images showing border patrol agents whipping at and charging their horses at migrants surfaced earlier in the week, prompting widespread criticism of the Biden administration's handling of the crisis at the border.

Southwest drought is worst on record, NOAA finds

In a stark new report, a team of NOAA and independent researchers found the 2020-2021 drought across the Southwest is the worst in the instrumental record, which dates to 1895.

Why it matters: They also concluded that global warming is making it far more severe, primarily by increasing average temperatures, which boosts evaporation.

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