U.S. Air Force C-17 cargo planes carrying humanitarian aid intended for Venezuelans have landed in the Colombian border city of Cucuta.
The food and medicines are being stored there as Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro refuses to allow aid to enter the country.
Saturday’s 180-tonne shipment includes high-energy food products and hygiene kits of soap, toothpaste and other goods for more than 25,000 people.
The shipment on Saturday is the second arrival of large-scale US and international aid for Venezuelans, many of whom have scant access to food and medicine since the opposition leader Juan Guaidó declared himself interim president last month in defiance of the socialist president, Nicolás Maduro.
The shipment includes high energy nutritional food to treat an estimated 3,500 malnourished children for two months. It also contains hygiene kits with toothpaste, sanitary towels, soap
Additional aid is ready to be shipped from Miami and Houston, officials said. A collection drive is scheduled to take place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m on Sunday at 11421 NW 107th Ave., in Doral.
Nicolás Maduro, who also considers himself president of Venezuela, has blocked the entry of humanitarian aid claiming that it is an excuse by the United States to launch a military intervention. Venezuelan Vice President Delcy Rodríguez has said that the U.S. aid accumulating in Cúcuta and other collection centers is “contaminated and poisoned, it’s carcinogenic.”
To show that Venezuela did not need medicines, despite its severe shortage in the country, Health Minister Carlos Alvarado announced the arrival on Wednesday of more than 900 tons of medical products mainly from China and Cuba. But Guaidó and other members of the opposition have promised that aid will enter the country on Feb. 23.
“This wasn’t the first, and it won’t be the last,” said USAID administrator Mark Green, standing on the tarmac in Cucuta at a ceremony to receive the aid. “More is on the way.”
“We are saving lives with these aeroplanes,” said Lestor Toledo, an exiled politician who is coordinating the international aid effort for Guaido.
The US has placed Venezuela’s US assets, including oil company Citgo, under Guaido’s control and banned financial transactions by Maduro-controlled entities.
Critics of Maduro say his re-election last year was fraudulent, making the president’s second term illegitimate.