Mon, Feb 18, 2019 - Page 5 News List

US aid arrives at Venezuelan border

‘MORE ON THE WAY’:Maduro said his country did not need any aid, while a nurse at an opposition rally said she witnessed a child die due to a lack of medical equipment

AP, CUCUTA, Colombia

The US military on Saturday airlifted tonnes of humanitarian aid to a Colombian town on the Venezuelan border as part of an effort meant to undermine Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and back his rival for the leadership of the South American nation.

Three US Air Force C-17 transport planes that took off from Homestead Air Reserve Base in Florida landed in Cucuta, Colombia.

The border city, swollen by a flood of migrants from Venezuela, is a collection point for aid that is supposed to be distributed by supporters of Juan Guaido, the congressional leader who is recognized by the US and many other nations as Venezuela’s legitimate president.

He has called for the aid.

“This wasn’t the first, and it won’t be the last,” US Agency for International Development administrator Mark Green said, standing on the tarmac in Cucuta at a ceremony to deliver the aid. “More is on the way.”

Commercial planes had been used for earlier shipments of aid.

Critics have said that last year’s presidential election was fraudulent, making Maduro’s second term illegal.

“We are saving lives with these airplanes,” said Lestor Toledo, an exiled politician who is coordinating the international aid effort for Guaido.

Maduro has been using the military to block the aid from entering Venezuela, describing it as “crumbs” from a US government whose restrictions have stripped his administration of control over many of its most valuable assets.

“They hang us, steal our money and then say: ‘Here, grab these crumbs,’ and make a global show out of it,” Maduro told reporters on Thursday. “With dignity we say: ‘No to the global show.’ Whoever wants to help Venezuela is welcome, but we have enough capacity to pay for everything that we need.”

Venezuelan Vice President Delcy Rodriguez has alleged, without evidence, that the aid packages were contaminated.

Green called the allegations “absurd.”

The weekend’s 163-tonne shipment includes high-energy food products, and hygiene kits of soap, toothpaste and other goods for more than 25,000 people.

Guaido spoke to a crowd of supporters gathered in eastern Caracas and vowed to form caravans to reach the border and bring in aid on Saturday.

He also called for people to gather in cities across the country to receive the aid — and called for the armed forces to allow it into the country.

In the crowd was Anibrez Peroza, a 40-year-old nurse, who said she was ready if necessary to go to Cucuta in a caravan to bring in the aid.

“We have to do something to save so many people who are suffering and dying for lack of medicine,” she said.

Peroza wept as she described a dehydrated child dying in her arms for lack of a catheter to rehydrate him.

The US and widespread European recognition of Guaido complicates Maduro’s efforts to find funds to keep his government, and its own food programs, running.

The US has placed Venezuela’s US assets, including oil company Citgo, under Guaido’s control and banned financial transactions by Maduro-controlled entities.

Scores of Venezuelan officials also face personal financial sanctions in the US.

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