Venezuela’s opposition is preparing to deliver tens of millions of dollars in food and medicine to ease devastating shortages and undermine the authoritarian rule of Nicolas Maduro, New York Times writes. However, some major relief organizations are reluctant to cooperate, fearing the plan could turn humanitarian aid into a political weapon.
On Tuesday, the opposition said it would begin stocking warehouses near the Venezuelan border with supplies donated by the United States, Colombia and Venezuelans abroad. The humanitarian aid – baby formula, nutritional supplements, medicine and hospital supplies – could provide the opposition with a tangible way of weakening Maduro, who has long relied on food handouts to keep his political base loyal during the country’s long economic collapse.
Getting the aid into Venezuela, past Maduro’s security forces and into the right hands will be a critical test of the opposition’s ability to rally the nation and establish an interim government. While the United States and more than 30 other nations have recognized the opposition leader, Juan Guaido, as Venezuela’s rightful leader, he and his supporters still need to show that they can run the country effectively, the Times adds.
The standoff in Venezuela has created an untenable situation in which two men claim to be the legitimate president. On Tuesday, Pope Francis said he would be willing to mediate a peaceful resolution if asked by both Guaido and Maduro.
“We are always willing,” said Francis on the papal plane, but added that both parties needed to be willing. The opposition is suspicious of Maduro’s calls for talks, and hopes that its aid plan will accelerate his ouster.
According to the Times, international aid organizations and local activists are concerned not just about the many logistical and security problems but also about the prospect of using aid as a tool in a political contest.
The International Committee of the Red Cross and its local affiliate in Colombia said in a statement that they would not participate in the delivery effort for the time being, citing the group’s “fundamental principles of impartiality, neutrality and independence.”
Meanwhile, Maduro has issued a thinly veiled threat to the young opposition leader trying to force him from power, hinting that Guaido could soon be imprisoned as a result of his challenge, Guardian informs.
Addressing a meeting of supporters on Monday night, Maduro questioned how long Guaido would persist with his “virtual term”. “Until 2025, too?” Maduro said, referring to the six-year term he recently assumed to a storm of international condemnation. “Or until he ends up in jail by order of the supreme court of justice.”
Western diplomats have expressed surprise that, nearly two weeks after he threw the gauntlet down to the incumbent leader, Guaido remained a free man. Many attributed that fact to warnings from his key backer, the United States, that any move against him would have consequences, the Guardian points out.