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Alfred de Zayas argues that Caracas has grounds to reject offers of “aid” coming from Donald Trump’s White House, given the precedent of U.S. humanitarian aid being used as a trojan horse.
The delivery of some twenty-four tons of medical supplies to Venezuela’s Maiquetia Airport on April 16 received little fanfare, in marked contrast to a debacle that occurred just weeks before.
That previous attempt to send aid to the increasingly desperate country came a day after British billionaire Richard Branson held a multi-million dollar concert, “Venezuela Aid Alive,” in the Colombian border town of Cucuta. Venezuela’s opposition in Bogota attempted to force a USAID shipment of food and other aid through Venezuela’s border.
The dramatic scenes of burning trucks and cargo made international headlines, with media and U.S. leaders alike blaming Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro. U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton warned via Twitter, “Masked thugs, civilians killed by live rounds, and the burning of trucks carrying badly-needed food and medicine. This has been Maduro’s response to peaceful efforts to help Venezuelans. Countries that still recognize Maduro should take note of what they are endorsing.”View image on Twitter
Masked thugs, civilians killed by live rounds, and the burning of trucks carrying badly-needed food and medicine. This has been Maduro’s response to peaceful efforts to help Venezuelans. Countries that still recognize Maduro should take note of what they are endorsing.15.8K10:36 PM – Feb 23, 201912.8K people are talking about thisTwitter Ads info and privacy
An investigation from The New York Times later confirmed what journalists on the ground had been reporting all along—that the trucks were burned, if inadvertently, by opposition protesters themselves.
Alfred de Zayas, an expert in international law who visited Venezuela as a U.N. representative in 2017, argues that Caracas has grounds to reject offers of “aid” coming from Donald Trump’s White House, given the precedent of aid being wielded as an instrument of U.S. foreign policy.
“We know from experience in Haiti, in the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, that U.S. humanitarian aid has been used as a trojan horse,” de Zayas says in an interview. “They have brought in weapons for the Contras in Nicaragua which is something that was documented.”
Trump’s special representative for Venezuela, Elliott Abrams, was in fact charged for his involvement in a scheme of delivering weapons as aid to anti-government terrorists in Nicaragua.
According to de Zayas, aid is being “weaponized” by opponents of the Maduro government “in order to facilitate a coup d’etat.” But the most recent shipment of aid from the International Red Cross aid was accepted, like other aid coming from Russia, China, Cuba, and others.
“If humanitarian aid is offered in good faith, without strings attached, of course the Venezuelan government wants it!,” says de Zayas.
As the U.N. Rapporteur to Venezuela and Ecuador, de Zayas visited the country to meet with officials from Venezuela’s government and opposition, as well as members of numerous non-governmental organizations.
In his report to the Human Rights Council, he suggested that the country’s woes were largely a consequence of external pressures and measures.
“It was a country under an economic war, both an internal war, including sabotage, including contraband of subsidized medicine in Colombia, Brazil etc, and especially an external economic war with a financial blockade,” maintains de Zayas, who was the first U.N. official to visit the South American country in twenty-one years.
The collapse of global oil prices in 2014-2015 is widely regarded as the main driver of the severe decline of Venezuela’s oil-dependent economy. But critics of the Maduro government blame mismanagement and corruption for the continued woes, including mass shortages, hyperinflation, and more recently, rolling blackouts.
“. . . you are trying to give the coup de grace to a country that could be the richest country in Latin America were it not being asphyxiated by the United States.”
Others, including de Zayas, say Venezuela’s oil reliance was exploited to weaken the government, and shortages and inflation have been “induced” by credit agency ratings and the litany of sanctions leveled against the country.
“If you take advantage of that weakness, and then you block the possibility of the government to restructure its sovereign debt, and you make it practically impossible to issue bonds . . . you are trying to give the coup de grace to a country that could be the richest country in Latin America were it not being asphyxiated by the United States.”
Since the presentation of his report in September 2018, de Zayas says measures to target Venezuela’s economy and government have significantly intensified, making the situation for ordinary citizens more dire.
U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres has warned that some 7 million Venezuelans are now in need of aid, as mounting sanctions continue besieging the economy, exacerbating shortages compounded by recent blackouts. And a report by the School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins underscored the deterioration of health indicators in the country—once a source of pride for the Bolivarian Revolution.
In their pursuit of Maduro’s ouster, the United States and its allies have continued their onslaught against Venezeula’s economy, such as seizing its oil assets on U.S. soil, including Citgo and its more than 5,000 branded service stations. Meanwhile, the Bank of England is refusing to allow Caracas access to its gold deposits.
According to de Zayas, these moves are “violations of fundamental principles of international law” meant to force a change in government by making Venezuelans suffer.
His observations have also been echoed by others including Idriss Jazairy, the United Nation’s current special rapporteur on unilateral coercive measures, who calls the sanctions being employed against Venezuela “a very blunt tool to achieve the proclaimed objective.”
U.S. officials aren’t exactly working to dispel this characterization, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo characterizing newly announced sanctions a “tightening of the noose.”
For de Zayas, the “aid” promoted by Washington can’t be seen as sincere or legitimate, and won’t be accepted by Venezuelans. “If you are the tormentor today, you can’t become the savior tomorrow,” he says. “It doesn’t make any sense!”