Red Cross Chief: Venezuela Aid Being Politicized to ‘Destabilize the Country’

Francesco Rocca slammed the underfunding of aid programs as a problem of “political will.”


Caracas, December 5, 2019 ( – The president of the International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC) has criticized the “unacceptable” politicization of humanitarian aid to Venezuela.

Speaking in a press conference in Geneva on Monday, Francesco Rocca denounced a lack of funding for the organization’s programs in Venezuela.

“This is not about resources, this is about political will,” he told reporters, adding that less than ten percent of the IFRC’s September US $50 million emergency appeal had been met.

Rocca went on to state that aid programs run by United Nations agencies and other international actors in Venezuela were being likewise underfunded, slamming the privation of aid “as a tool to destabilize the country.”

The Red Cross chief drew comparisons with other countries, pointing out that the organization’s $12 million funding appeal for the Bahamas following a hurricane in September was surpassed by $8 million within ten days. He added that “it’s easier to receive funds for Syria and even for Yemen.”

“I cannot imagine any other explanation except political will for the creation of this situation on the ground” he concluded, while also dismissing the idea that the Venezuelan government is blocking access to aid.

The Red Cross runs a host of programs in cooperation with the Venezuelan government. Its operations were expanded in April with the goal of addressing the immediate food and medicine needs of 650,000 people. Yet, lack of funding has meant only around 50,000 Venezuelans have been reached, according to IFRC figures.

The organization had previously condemned the “politicization” of relief efforts when the US and the Venezuelan opposition attempted to force so-called “humanitarian aid” across a closed Venezuelan-Colombian border on February 23. The efforts were ultimately unsuccessful.

Opposition leader Juan Guaido proclaimed himself “interim president” in January and was immediately recognized by Washington and regional allies. He has since tried to oust the Maduro government, including via a failed putsch attempt on April 30. For its part, the US has led international efforts to encircle Venezuela including the activation of the TIAR military pact.

Venezuela has been mired in a deep economic crisis in recent years which has been severely exacerbated by punishing US sanctions. Following successive rounds of measures targeting the oil industry and other vital economic sectors, Washington imposed a blanket embargo in August, banning all dealings with the Venezuelan government and state entities as well as authorizing secondary sanctions against third party actors.

US sanctions have led to drastic fall in oil output – formerly the source of around 95 percent of export revenues –, constraining the government’s ability to pay for imports of food, medicine, and other essential goods.

A report by the Washington DC-based Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) found that US measures have been responsible for at least 40,000 deaths since 2017, with hundreds of thousands more at risk.

Edited by Lucas Koerner from Caracas.