President Nicolás Maduro is blocking $60 million in foodstuffs collected by the U.S. and other critics of the regime to alleviate suffering in a bankrupt Venezuela.
Maduro’s chief opponent, – already recognized as interim president by several Latin American countries and the U.S. – is pushing the aid from Colombia and Brazil toward the bankrupt Venezuelan economy.
Juan Andrés Mejía, a lawmaker from Guaidó’s party, Voluntad Popular (People’s Will), says delivering aid across borders is a double challenge to Maduro’s regime – as well as an effort to alleviate a humanitarian crisis that has seen millions of Venezuelans emigrate.
“The government has a dilemma,” Mejia said”. “Either they let it [aid] in [and look weak] or they refuse it, which I don’t think they will because they are not so stupid, and they will also lose. So it is a win-win situation for us – and for the people.”
Meanwhile, the U.S. is facing another ugly choice: whether to intervene militarily to bring down the regime before the internal economic situations deteriorates further or risk the anti-American protests which traditionally accompany such enterprises from other Latin countries even those now antagonistic to Maduro.
The main goal of the post position now is to break Maduro’s hold on the military – and the humanitarian aid is basically ‘the Trojan horse’ to try to do that. Pushing aid in from Colombia and Brazil represents the latest attempt to weaken Maduro’s regime by forcing members of the military to disobey his orders and allow the aid to pass.
Mejía denies the opposition hopes to provoke a military incident which could be used to justify international intervention to unseat Maduro.
“That’s not our goal. That is not what we are looking for. Basically, the strategy … is to show people that humanitarian aid is real, [that] it is not only a discourse … and it is close and it can be here soon.”
Mejía added: “We are a non-violent movement. We do not have weapons and we do not want to have them. We are absolutely certain that violence benefits the government and we cannot win a violent struggle against the government.”
Mike Pompeo, the U.S. secretary of state, tweeted: “The Venezuelan people desperately need humanitarian aid. The U.S. & other countries are trying to help, but Venezuela ’s military under Maduro’s orders is blocking aid with trucks and shipping tankers. The Maduro regime must let aid reach the starving people.”
“With this show of humanitarian aid they are trying to send a message: ‘ Venezuela has to go begging to the world!’ And Venezuela will not beg for anything from anyone in this world,” Maduro responded to the aid offer.
Diosdado Cabello, another top Chavista supporter of Maduro, said the aid effort was part of a hostile foreign military intervention that would be rebuffed.
“Our territory must be respected. As our brother President Nicolás Maduro has said: any military unit that tries to penetrate our territory will be repelled and our Bolivarian national armed forces will defend our territory. There should be no doubt about it.”
But discontent with Maduro is growing, fueled by an economy in free fall with widespread shortages of food and medicine. Dozens of groups called colectivos, or collectives see themselves as the defenders of Chávez’s Bolivarian revolution and vow to defend his successor, President Nicolás Maduro, as he faces Venezuela in economic and political crisis.
Things could turn even more violent with the armed colectivos, working alongside security forces loyal to the president, playing a key role in the streets. At least 40 people were killed across the country in a week alone last month, according to the United Nations, with pro-government forces blamed for most of the deaths.
More than 20 countries have recognized opposition leader Juan Guaidó as interim president, including the U.S. A top military representative to the U.S., Col José Luis Silva, has defected and called on other officers to do the same.
Maduro’s hold on power is slipping, although Venezuela ‘s powerful military has not yet stepped in to give him the final push.
Maduro’s predecessor, Hugo Chávez, when he came to power, purged the military to ensure its senior figures shared his left-wing ideals. The former paratrooper cut a military figure and commanded loyalty. In return he rewarded officers with positions of power.