The United Nations has warned against using aid as a pawn in Venezuela after the United States sent food and medicine to the country’s border, and accused President Nicolas Maduro of blocking its delivery with trucks and shipping containers.
“Humanitarian action needs to be independent of political, military or other objectives,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters in New York on Wednesday.
“When we see the present standoff it becomes even more clear that serious political negotiations between the parties are necessary to find a solution leading to lasting peace for the people of Venezuela,” he said.
“What is important is that humanitarian aid be depoliticised and that the needs of the people should lead in terms of when and how humanitarian aid is used,” Dujarric added.
American officials said trucks carrying aid had arrived in Colombia for delivery to Venezuela at the request of opposition leader Juan Guaido, who last month declared himself interim president.
“The Venezuelan people desperately need humanitarian aid. The US and other countries are trying to help, but Venezuela’s military under Maduro’s orders is blocking aid with trucks and shipping tankers,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo posted on social media on Wednesday, along with a photo of a blocked road.
Maduro’s government has denied that there is a humanitarian crisis, blaming economic problems on sanctions.
Venezuela is struggling with hunger, preventable diseases and hyperinflation forecast at 10 million percent in 2019.
Maduro said on Monday that Venezuelans were “not beggars” and he would not let the country be humiliated.
The US could attempt to seek the approval of the UN Security Council to deliver aid without Maduro’s cooperation, but Russia would likely block such a move.
Last month, Venezuelan opposition leader Guaido appealed to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for help in tackling the country’s crisis.
But Venezuela’s seat at the 193-member world body is held by President Nicolas Maduro’s government and Guterres is unable to ramp up a humanitarian response in Venezuela without Maduro’s approval or Security Council authorisation.
An estimated three million Venezuelans have fled the crisis, the UN has said.
Most Latin American countries, Canada and about 20 European nations have backed the US in recognising Guaido.
But these rapid endorsements have triggered angry responses from Russia, China and a few left-leaning Latin American states, and wariness from some African and Caribbean nations.