The U.S. and EU had sent food and medical supplies to Colombia’s border with Venezuela where it will be stockpiled until it can be delivered to Venezuela, U.S. officials with knowledge of the plan said on Tuesday.
One official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the aid will be prepositioned at the main Colombian-Venezuelan border crossing at Cucuta.
It is unclear how the supplies will get into Venezuela without the blessing of President Nicolas Maduro and cooperation of the Venezuelan military, which has remained loyal to the socialist leader and is stationed on the Venezuelan side of the border.
The U.S. officials said trucks carrying the humanitarian aid were headed to Cucuta and would arrive later this week at the request of Venezuelan opposition leader, Juan Guaido, who in January declared himself as interim president.
Prepositioning aid in warehouses or in truck convoys at border posts for weeks, or sometimes months, is common while officials negotiate the safe passage of humanitarian supplies to those in need.
Pressure is growing on Maduro to step down after more than a dozen EU nations, including Britain, Germany and France, on Monday joined the U.S., Canada and a group of Latin American countries in recognising Guaido as Venezuela’s legitimate leader.
However, Russia, China and Turkey continue to back Maduro, accusing Western nations of meddling in Venezuela’s internal affairs.
The 35-year-old Guaido, the head of Venezuela’s National Assembly, has galvanised the opposition with a hopeful message.
He has repeatedly called on Venezuela’s military, which has remained loyal to Maduro, to support a transition to democracy.
The U.S. could attempt to seek the approval of the UN Security Council to deliver aid without Maduro’s cooperation, but Russia could block such a move.
So far, Maduro has rejected foreign aid. “We are not beggars. You want to humiliate Venezuela, and I will not let our people be humiliated,” he said on Monday.
Maduro’s government, overseeing an economic collapse that has prompted three million Venezuelans to flee the country, lashed out at the EU nations, saying their move would affect relations with Caracas.
In a statement, it accused them of submitting to a U.S. “strategy to overthrow the legitimate government” and singled out Spain, which had previously led mediation efforts, for acting “cowardly.”
With almost no information about how aid will be distributed, the Cucuta crossing from Venezuela appeared to be quiet on Tuesday.
The largest city along the frontier, Cucuta has borne the brunt of the arriving migrants. Thousands of people cross the pedestrian bridge daily lugging suitcases and plastic bags.
“Maduro doesn’t want help,” said Carolina Rozo, 20, as she crossed the bridge with a wheeled metal shopping cart.
“He wants us to be poor. We have to come to buy food because we cannot even get cooking oil and eggs in Venezuela.”
Also, the EU earmarked an additional 5.72 million dollars (5 million euros) in aid to the Venezuelan people on Tuesday, amid diplomatic efforts to resolve the country’s political crisis.
Many accused Maduro of mismanagement, with external factors such as oil prices also playing a role.
Maduro won a second term in a May election widely regarded as undemocratic.
The European Commission has supported humanitarian efforts in Venezuela, providing 34 million euros in 2018.
“We are stepping up our emergency aid to help the most vulnerable, who lack access to food, medicines and basic services and have been forced to leave their homes,” said EU Humanitarian Aid Commissioner, Christos Stylianides.
Stylianides added that the bloc would also help those, who have fled the country.
More than one million Venezuelans have fled the country to neighbouring Colombia, while others have sought refuge in Peru, Ecuador and other countries in the region, in what the commission called the largest migratory flow ever recorded in Latin America.
The EU funding covers emergency healthcare as well as access to safe water, sanitation and education, while also addressing the need for protection, shelter and food, the commission said.
It also announced plans to open a humanitarian office in Caracas.
The bloc as a whole has not recognised Guaido but is calling for “free, transparent and credible” elections and has set up a contact group to that effect.
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