CARACAS, Venezuela — Billionaire Richard Branson said Monday that he hopes the concert he’s throwing to rally humanitarian aid for Venezuela will save lives by raising funds for “much-needed medical help” for the crisis-torn country.

The founder of the Virgin Group said that up to 300,000 people are expected to attend Friday’s concert on the Colombia-Venezuelan border featuring Spanish-French singer Manu Chao, Mexican band Mana, Spanish singer-songwriter Alejandro Sanz and Dominican artist Juan Luis Guerra.

Branson said it is not funded by any government and that all artists are performing for free, hoping to raise donations from viewers watching it on a livestream over the internet.

“Venezuela sadly has not become the utopia that the current administration of Venezuela or the past administration were hoping for, and that has resulted in a lot of people literally dying from lack of medical help,” Branson said in a telephone interview from Necker, his private island in the British Virgin Islands.

“I think it will draw attention to the problem on a global basis.”

The concert is being held in the Colombian border city of Cucuta, a town of some 700,000 people that has been swollen by hundreds of thousands of migrants fleeing hardship in Venezuela. The city is the staging point for foreign humanitarian aid – much of it from the U.S. government – that is being blocked from entry to Venezuela by socialist President Nicolas Maduro.

Branson said he hopes that the armed forces, until now loyal to Maduro, will allow the aid to reach Venezuelans suffering from chronic shortages of food and medicine.

“We want to make it a joyous occasion,” Branson said in his first interview since he announced the concert on a brief video posted online last week. “And we’re hoping that sense prevails and that the military allows the bridge to be open so that much-needed supplies can be sent across.”


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