More than 200 tons of U.S. humanitarian aid intended for Venezuela is scheduled to begin arriving just across the border in Colombia Saturday, delivered by U.S. military cargo planes.
The aid will be delivered to Cucuta, Colombia, where other food and medical supplies are being held.
The aid comes at the request of Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido to ease shortages of food and other essentials in economically troubled Venezuela.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has said the aid is part of Washington’s political maneuvering to get him out of office, and he has blocked off a bridge needed to bring the supplies into Venezuela.
The United States said Maduro’s election was unfair and illegitimate, and U.S. officials and scores of other nations have recognized his rival, Guaido, as the country’s interim leader.
On Friday, Washington added to the political pressure on Maduro by sanctioning the head of Venezuela’s oil company as well as top intelligence officials.
Earlier Friday, Guiado’s representatives collected aid pledges from many nations at a meeting of the Organization of American States in Washington, where 25 countries promised more than $100 million in humanitarian aid to Venezuela.
“We came to ask for the solidarity of the governments of the world,” said Lester Toledo, coordinator for international help for Venezuela. “We appreciate the diplomatic gestures. We appreciate the letters and the recognition of President Guaidó. But we ask for help, to make the humanitarian aid a reality. That all donations can let us purchase medical supplies that we really need.”
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Distributing the aid
U.S. Ambassador to the Organization of American States Carlos Trujillo said Guaidó has a plan.
“I believe that President Guaidó has done everything possible to make Maduro accept the humanitarian aid. Maduro has no argument, the person sitting in power doesn’t let the humanitarian aid reach his people who are dying of hunger,” Trujillo said.
Guaido said the aid will be brought into Venezuela Feb. 23.
Maduro, however, said the aid will not be brought into his nation, and he blames U.S. economic sanctions for Venezuela’s problems.
“They’re putting pressure on Venezuela’s banks, which are in charge of purchasing and bringing the food and supplies. The White House is pressuring so that none of our bank accounts work. They have frozen billions of dollars that could otherwise buy food and medicine,” he claimed.
If the aid does arrive in Venezuela, organizations like the Red Cross will help distribute the supplies with “neutral and independent” conditions, Mario Villarroel, president of Venezuela’s Red Cross, said.
“We have the necessary experience, we know it is a very complex issue, but we will do our best to coordinate the distribution and organization of this humanitarian aid,” he said.