The United States and Canada respectively pledged $20 million and $53 million in humanitarian aid to Venezuela in order to fulfill the promise made by the opposition leader and disputed Interim President Juan Guaido.
Venezuela is suffering from crippling shortages of food and medicine, aggravated by American sanctions and the now-disputed President Nicolas Maduro’s haphazard economic policies. The aid was planned to be delivered through the Tienditas International Bridge near Cucuta, Colombia, but it was blocked by two large blue containers and an orange tanker forming a makeshift fence, per Associated Press.
Maduro vowed to stop the supplies from entering the country, arguing that Venezuela “isn’t a nation of beggars.” Guaido, on the other hand, accused Maduro of rejecting the aid because it would cut his officials from an under-the-table revenue stream, alleging that Maduro’s people illegally sell imported food for bribes.
Guaido later added that the aid is a temporary measure and that he plans to make Venezuela more self-reliant.
“We don’t want to depend more on food subsidies than is necessary today… [the blockade] is an absurd reaction from a government that doesn’t have the interest and well-being of Venezuelans.”
Guaido referred to the shipment as a “test” for the Venezuelan armed forces, making them choose between letting the aid pass or following orders.
Venezuelan military attempts to block U.S.-backed effort by the opposition to bring humanitarian aid to the troubled nation from Colombia by barricading bridge at key border crossing. https://t.co/rXp9poMpMm pic.twitter.com/qxWATYIWc2
— ABC News (@ABC) February 7, 2019
The New York Times reports that the Venezuelan army has been in disarray since Juan Guaido swore himself into the presidency. Thousands of officers defected in opposition to Maduro. The top brass, however, remains loyal and ruthlessly punishes any open rebellion.
Venezuela has become a country divided by two presidents, both claiming the other is fraudulent, and both having international support behind them.
Juan Guaido rose to power citing a clause in the Venezuelan constitution that allows for the opposition leader to become president if the current president is illegitimate, which is what the opposition alleges of Maduro.
Irregularities marred Maduro’s reelection, such as the imprisonment of opposition members and lack of advance notice for the election date. This led to many countries not recognizing Maduro’s presidency.
Nicolas Maduro dismisses both the allegations and Guaido, claiming he is a United States puppet seeking to steal Venezuela’s oil.
Guaido has been recognized by over 40 countries, including the United States, Canada, most of South America and the European Union. Meanwhile, over 20 countries still support Maduro, including Russia, China, and Turkey. Several other nations, notably Uruguay and Mexico, have remained neutral.