The only thing Venezuela had in abundance was angry words as its main political players attacked each other in simultaneous news conferences while the nation teeters on the brink of a humanitarian catastrophe.
In Caracas, President Nicolas Maduro denounced the presence of trailers of humanitarian aid brought to the Colombian border, calling them part of a plan cooked up in Washington to destabilize his government. His nationwide address went off air twice, due to power blackouts.
“The humanitarian aid has become a show to justify an invasion of the country,” Maduro said. “Venezuela isn’t going to allow a false show of humanitarian aid, because we’re not beggars.”
At the same time, Juan Guaido, the Venezuelan National Assembly leader recognized as the country’s rightful leader by more than 30 governments, was attacking Maduro for refusing to admit the supplies and called for street protests.
“If they dare to keep blocking the routes, and creating obstacles to the lives of Venezuelans, we’ll go to open them, with the people, the security forces,” Guaido said.
Under Maduro’s rule, Venezuela has endured one of the deepest economic collapses in recent history, with hyperinflation and ever-worsening shortages. The aid assembled at the behest of Guaido has become the focal point of the effort to unseat the president.
In the Colombian border town of Cucuta, where the first US aid arrived, the American ambassador called on the Venezuelan security forces to allow the aid in. It includes staples such as vegetable oil, flour and rice, as well as nutritional supplements for children.
“Help is on the way,” Kevin Whitaker said. “This is just the start.” The effort is mainly symbolic, and has been shunned by aid groups leery of the standoff’s fraught politics. The first trucks of food to arrive at the distribution point on the border are enough to feed only 5,000 people for 10 days, according to the
US Embassy in Colombia, equivalent to less than 0.02 percent of the population.
Diplomat backs military threats to oust Maduro
A military intervention may be necessary to bring humanitarian aid to Venezuela and possibly topple Nicolas Maduro, according to a former senior Venezuelan diplomat who broke with the government in 2017.
Venezuela is now controlled by drug cartels and militant groups Isaias Medina told reporters at the United Nations. The governments of Cuba and Russia are also active and won’t cede ground easily, he said. Medina left his post at the UN mission in Venezuela due to the killings of protesters.
Venezuela needs to “vacate the invaders so that we can bring back the rule of law,” he said. “We do need more strength to negotiate with a strongman. The main intention is to bring humanitarian assistance, and if it must be done by military support, so be it.”
US President Donald Trump has stepped up pressure on Maduro and said using the military to remove him remains an option. While most Latin American nations backed the US’s initial moves against Maduro, including sanctions, all have balked at the idea of using foreign military forces to remove Maduro, including neighbours Colombia and Brazil.
“I think we need the strength of the US, Brazil, and Colombia,” he said.