WASHINGTON — Public and private sector donations to address needs inside Venezuela now stand at over $100 million, according to the collapsed petrostate’s opposition government. The news follows the opposition-organized Global Conference on the Humanitarian Crisis in Venezuela.
“I hope that [Feb. 23] is the day where all the members of the Venezuelan military will say ‘no more’ to Maduro and allow the humanitarian aid to enter the country and help the people.”— Iván Duque, president of Colombia
The conference, held at the Organization of American States in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, was organized by members of the government of Venezuelan interim president Juan Guaidó, whom many OAS member states recognize as the legitimate leader of the country. More than 60 countries sent delegations to the conference, including the United States, Canada, Australia, Brazil, and Colombia.
Guaidó’s government insists that despite blockades on the Colombian border, humanitarian supplies will get into the country on Feb. 23. Lester Toledo, international coordinator for humanitarian aid for the Guaidó government, said masses of Venezuelan people will mobilize to help surround aid convoys and usher food and medicine across the border.
“Military members have received instructions from President Guaidó: ‘Get on the side of the people,’” Toledo said. “We’re convinced that our military are going to accompany and guard the humanitarian aid because they know that these containers, these trucks also have food for their children, they also have food for their suffering family members.”
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The Venezuelan military remains under control of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, and forces continue to blockade the border, preventing humanitarian supplies from entering. Toledo and Gustavo Tarre, the Guaidó government’s ambassador to OAS, insisted that the military will cooperate with their efforts to move aid in on Feb. 23, and said there was no plan B were the military to refuse.
Guaidó this week set the Feb. 23 deadline for moving aid prepositioned in Cúcuta on the Colombian side of the border into Venezuela. The opposition also said at the aid conference Thursday that supplies are being prepositioned in Brazil and on the Caribbean island nation of Curaçao. This placement will facilitate access of supplies into the eastern part of the country in addition to the border region of Colombia, they said.
Colombian President Iván Duque, who was in Washington meeting with U.S. officials this week, said Thursday that his government will cooperate to get aid into Venezuela.
“I have said to President Guaidó that Colombia will support the caravans on the 23rd, that our territory is open to receiving the international aid,” Duque said. “I hope that that day is the day where all the members of the Venezuelan military will say ‘no more’ to Maduro and allow the humanitarian aid to enter the country and help the people.”
Colombia has received the largest portion of Venezuelan refugees fleeing conditions in their home country, over an estimated 1 million people. Colombia’s deputy health minister, Iván Gonzalez, said at the aid conference that even though 80 percent of the people his country is receiving from Venezuela are under the age of 50, many are arriving with significant health issues.
“We’ve been strengthening public hospitals in Colombia to provide humanitarian aid to all migrants on our borders. We have around $150 million in costs we haven’t been able to recover, but we would never suspend treatment and care,” Gonzalez said, thanking the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Pan American Health Organization for their assistance, but noting that great need remains to treat people with serious health problems.
“We need medical supplies in order to continue treating conditions like cancer, HIV, kidney disease … ,” Gonzalez said.
The U.S. has given nearly $100 million in humanitarian aid and over $40 million in development assistance to countries in the region, said Elliott Abrams, U.S. special representative for Venezuela. He said more help is coming to assist Venezuelans who have fled to neighboring countries — as well as those who remain.
“We have stocked warehouses full of food and basic medicines at the border crossing in Cúcuta, Colombia, and we are seeking ways to help bring these supplies into Venezuela where they can be distributed to people in need,” Abrams said. “I can assure you that there will be more U.S. assistance coming in the future.”