Events in Venezuela are taking a turn this week from the ugly and brutal to the downright bizarre. We recently learned that billionaire Richard Branson was planning a concert on the Venezuelan border in Colombia, hoping to raise both money and awareness in an effort to help the starving people of Venezuela. How much good that will do until Nicolas Maduro agrees to let foreign aid come over the border is unknown, but let’s give him credit for trying.

So what did Venezuela’s dictator do in response? He announced that he was going to host his own huge concert on his side of the border to drown out Branson’s event. But will he at least allow the food waiting at the bridge into his country? Nope. (Associated Press)

Venezuela’s Information Minister Jorge Rodriguez on Monday announced a rival concert for Friday and Saturday on the Venezuelan side of the border. Rodriguez did not announce the artists that are expected to perform, saying only that it would be massive.

“People from all over the world want to take part in this message of love, solidarity and denunciation against the aggression that they’re trying against the Venezuelan people,” Rodriguez said.

Guaido said the move by Maduro’s government was “desperate” and showed its indecision.

“They’re debating whether the aid should come in or not … They don’t know what to do,” Guaido said Monday. “They’re now making up a concert. How many concerts are they going to stage?”

Maduro further announced that his country still didn’t need all of the western food and medical supplies waiting at the border because he’s already arranged for his own supply of aid. And it’s coming from the Russians. He claims they “paid for it themselves,” without specifying how. (Venezuela is already massively in debt to Russia, so it was probably just added to his tab.) But none of that promised aid has arrived yet.

It’s become tiresome to keep asking what sort of a monster does something like this, but the tyrant definitely follows a pattern in his decisions. First of all, there are literally millions of people in Venezuela in need of food and medical supplies. (The main hospital in Caracas doesn’t even have potable water most of the time, say nothing of drugs, vaccines, and other supplies.) If there really are two huge shipments of aid available, why would you not accept both of them. Even double the amount waiting in Colombia wouldn’t address all of their needs, but it would certainly help.

Instead, Maduro will take some of the few remaining pools of money he has available and spend it on a huge party just to poke a thumb in Richard Branson’s eye. I suppose his starving citizens can be expected to live on corn dogs and cotton candy for a couple of days. (Actually, that would probably be a vast improvement for many of them.) This is literally adding insult to injury. Some are asking what bands he will have playing at his concert. It’s difficult to imagine any internationally notable performers coming to help him out. More likely it will be Venezuelan artists who will learn that it’s their patriotic duty to come play at the concert, with a clear message that not doing so would be bad for their long-term health prospects.

Maduro is following in the footsteps of Il Duce at this point. He’s living it up and throwing huge parties while his people starve to death in the streets or are beaten down by the brute squad if they dare to object. If the military can’t be convinced to jump ship and remove him from office, the people will need to do it themselves.