Diplomat urges global backing for delivery of aid to Venezuela

Guaidó’s representative makes plea as Cuba claims US starting covert plan to intervene

Venezuelan opposition leader and self -declared acting president Juan Guaidó: has vowed to bring in humanitarian aid despite President Nicolas Maduro. Photograph: Federico Parra

Venezuelan opposition leader and self -declared acting president Juan Guaidó: has vowed to bring in humanitarian aid despite President Nicolas Maduro. Photograph: Federico Parra

 

The Venezuelan opposition envoy to Washington urged the international community to help allow aid into the crisis-stricken country on Thursday, as Cuba accused the United States of flying military transport close to the area.

Carlos Vecchio, opposition leader Juan Guaidó’s representative, spoke to an international aid conference hosted at the Organisation of American States (OAS) headquarters in Washington as a deadlock persisted in delivering aid.

Elliott Abrams, Washington’s special representative on Venezuela, said the United States was looking for ways to send in aid as he reiterated US support for Mr Guaidó.

Mr Guaidó invoked constitutional provisions last month to assume an interim presidency and challenge socialist president Nicolás Maduro’s rule, arguing that Mr Maduro’s re-election last year was a sham.

Many western countries, including the US and many of Venezuela’s neighbours, have recognised Mr Guaidó as the country’s legitimate head of state, but Mr Maduro retains the backing of Russia and China as well as control of Venezuelan state institutions including the military.

Mr Guaidó has said humanitarian aid will enter the country on February 23rd, setting the stage for a showdown with Mr Maduro, who has said it is not needed and should not be let in.

“They are blocking humanitarian aid that’s being sent,” Mr Vecchio told the conference, which was attended by diplomats and representatives from dozens of countries. “We must open thousands of windows to bring humanitarian aid to Venezuela . . . Here we are creating an international coalition to bring in food and medicine.”

Military intervention

The administration of US president Donald Trump has said it wants a peaceful resolution to the crisis but has refused to rule out military intervention. Cuba accused the United States on Thursday of moving special forces closer to Venezuela as part of a covert plan to intervene.

Military aircraft from the US had flown to strategically located Caribbean islands last week, Cuba said.

“It’s a new lie,” Mr Abrams said when asked about it at the event. The Pentagon did not immediately respond to a request to comment.

Mr Abrams said the US government had stockpiled food supplies in warehouses on Colombia’s border with its neighbour.

Officials from Germany, the Netherlands, Britain, Canada and Taiwan also pledged humanitarian support to the Venezuelan opposition.

Mr Maduro, who accuses Mr Guaidó of leading a US-directed coup attempt, has called the aid a show and denies there is an economic crisis, despite a widespread lack of food and medicine and hyperinflation.

Gustavo Tarre, the opposition’s OAS representative, insisted the only objective was “to relieve the suffering of Venezuelans” and that there was no political, economic or military motives.

Aid convoy

An aid convoy supplied by the United States and Colombia arrived in the Colombian border town of Cúcuta last week.

In an effort to wrest vital oil revenue from Mr Maduro, Venezuela’s opposition-controlled congress named new temporary boards to state-run oil firm PDVSA and its US refiner Citgo, Venezuela’s most valuable foreign asset, on Wednesday.

The government has opened an investigation into the new directors, the chief state prosecutor said on Thursday.

Tarek Saab said Mr Guaidó had “grotesquely made circus-style appointments” in order to please foreign interests and destabilise the country.

“The only directors legitimately appointed to the boards of PDVSA and its subsidiaries are those . . . who have been appointed by the executive government, as the constitution stipulates,” Mr Saab said, according to his office’s Twitter account.

He also said his office would investigate foreign ambassadors named by Mr Guaidó. It is unclear what action the Maduro administration could take, although it has previously jailed opposition leaders in Venezuela. – Reuters