Puebla, Mexico, September 29, 2017 (venezuelanalysis.com) – US lawmakers took a step closer to approving humanitarian aid for Venezuela Thursday, despite opposition from Caracas.
The House Committee on Foreign Affairs approved a bill that would instruct the Secretary of State and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to send aid to Venezuela. It would also order the US ambassador to the United Nations to call on the international community to pressure Venezuela to accept US aid.
“This bill calls for a plan to be created to provide health and medical supplies as well as basic food commodities to the people of Venezuela through independent and credible non-governmental organisations,” Florida Representative and committee chair Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said.
“The House Foreign Affairs Committee has once again proven, in a bipartisan manner, that it stands with the people of Venezuela and against their oppressor Nicolas Maduro,” she added.
Venezuela has already refused at least four offers of support from the US in recent months, with critics arguing Washington could use aid as a pretext for intervention against the Maduro administration. Advocates of US aid have denied this, despite the US using aid in the past in political efforts. In 2014, the Associated Press published an exposé alleging USAID had promoted a social networking service with the goal of creating a “Cuban Spring”. The service, Zunzuneo, was planned to incite Cuban users with soft news and sport, while content would later morph into anti-Castro propaganda. The US has denied allegations the plan was politically motivated.
USAID currently has no official presence in Venezuela, after closing its local office in 2011. According to journalist and lawyer Eva Golinger, USAID used the majority of its operational budget to fund a collection of 64 opposition groups, along with an unsuccessful campaign to remove then president Hugo Chavez from office in 2004. Critics allege the US is continuing to quietly fund opposition groups, and US Department of State has requested at least US$5.5 million in funding this year to “help civil society” groups in Venezuela.
Venezuelan state media outlet teleSUR has alleged this funding is just the tip of the iceberg and that the State Department has so far funnelled at least US$49 million to Venezuela’s opposition since 2009.