Food and vitamin pills are the latest weapon in the battle for control of Venezuela

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Updated

February 12, 2019 15:57:02

Venezuela’s opposition leader, Juan Guaido, says his team has delivered the first batch of the humanitarian aid that has become a flashpoint in his tussle with President Nicolas Maduro.

Key points:

  • Food and aid supply have been used as political weapons in Venezuela
  • President Nicolas Maduro has blocked aid entering the country from abroad
  • Mr Maduro says the aid is part of a US-orchestrated strategy to overthrow him

Mr Guaido, who has been recognised by most Western nations as Venezuela’s legitimate president over the past month, tweeted a photo of himself surrounded by stacks of white pots of vitamin and nutritional supplements.

He did not say from where or whom they came.

“Today we delivered the first donation, or the first cargo of humanitarian aid, albeit on a small scale, because you know they have blocked the border for the time being,” Mr Guaido, 35, said in televised remarks in Caracas on Monday evening.

Venezuela’s opposition has been coordinating an effort by Western nations, companies and organisations to deliver aid to Venezuela, where malnutrition and preventable disease have proliferated in recent years as the economy has nosedived.

Mr Maduro has said this is part of a US-orchestrated strategy to undermine and ultimately overthrow him, adding he would not allow this “show”.

Food and aid supply have been weaponised as Mr Maduro has tried to maintain his tenuous hold on power during a crisis in which three quarters of Venezuelans have lost an average of 8.6 kilograms.

In addition to banning and jailing popular political rivals from the lead-up to Venezuela’s presidential election last May, Mr Maduro promised food and cash bonuses to citizens who voted for him.

Mr Maduro was clear in his speeches, often saying “I give and you give”.

Blocking aid ‘almost genocidal’: opposition

Amid voter boycotts, Maduro critics argued many Venezuelans feared not voting for Mr Maduro would lead to the loss of government aid.

Food distribution is once again a political weapon.

According to The New York Times, Mr Maduro has blocked the opposition from importing aid, because it would greatly bolster Mr Guaido’s power and standing within Venezuela.

Mr Guaido called the move “almost genocidal”.

“This is a crime against humanity,” Mr Guaido said.

The United States last month recognised Mr Guaido as Venezuela’s legitimate leader after he declared himself president.

Mr Guaido argued Mr Maduro’s re-election last year was a sham.

The United States has since been joined by a majority of Western nations.

Senior US officials last week heralded their country’s efforts to move aid to Venezuela’s doorstep, after US supplies were among those delivered to the first collection point established, in the Colombian border town of Cucuta.

There has been no sign of the aid that is being stockpiled in Cucuta leaving the warehouse.

Mr Guaido, who has appealed to the military to allow the aid into the country, has said it will be collected at points in Brazil and a Caribbean island as well as Cucuta.

Brazil has not yet commented on whether aid is being gathered at any point there.

Leaders of the indigenous Pemon community in the Venezuelan town that contains the only paved border crossing into Brazil have said they are determined to let aid pass through when and if it arrives.

Meanwhile, Lester Toledo, coordinator of international humanitarian aid for the opposition, said on Monday that he received approval from the Netherlands to speak with the local governments of Aruba and Curacao about setting up an aid centre there.

“[Mr Guaido] will announce the day when, from Colombia, from the islands by sea, and from Brazil the humanitarian aid will arrive simultaneously,” Mr Toledo said.

ABC/Reuters

Topics:

foreign-affairs,

foreign-aid,

government-and-politics,

world-politics,

unrest-conflict-and-war,

venezuela

First posted

February 12, 2019 14:54:20



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