US announces aid as Venezuela struggles with humanitarian crisis

Washington does not recognise the government of Nicolas Maduro, and tensions between the two countries remain high.

The United States has pledged more than $171m in humanitarian assistance and development funding to help Venezuelans impacted by the South American country’s economic and political crisis.

Seven million people have left the country in recent years as a result of the crisis, and most are now scattered around Latin America and the Caribbean, according to figures from the United Nations. Many face difficulties accessing basic services, food and formal employment.

“This new funding will help provide food, health care, emergency shelter and access to legal and protection services,” US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield said virtually at Friday’s donor conference in Brussels.

The US Agency for International Development (USAID) said in a statement that $84m of the funding will go to direct aid for Venezuelans who remain in the country. Another $31m will be used to help the economic integration of Venezuelans who have fled to Colombia and Ecuador.

The remaining $56m will support a number of humanitarian programmes for Venezuelans and their host communities, covering emergency shelter, access to healthcare and the protection of vulnerable groups, USAID said.

The funding follows Washington’s announcement in September that it would provide nearly $376m in humanitarian aid to Venezuelans.

The US backs Venezuela’s opposition, recognizing its parallel legislature and decrying what it says is socialist President Nicolas Maduro’s dictatorship.

Under former President Donald Trump’s administration, the US intensified its sanctions against the South American country. It froze and seized Venezuelan government funds at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and used the money to support opposition lawmakers who oppose Maduro.

The Venezuelan opposition has complained that the US clearance process needed to replace its previous point person for fund distribution, former interim President Juan Guaido, is stretching on. They say the funds will help humanitarian efforts.

Maduro’s government opposes what it says is US foreign interference in its politics and has said the opposition stole funds that could be used for social and medical support.