A US-backed operation to send aid to Venezuela in 2019, which ended in a violent stalemate on the border with Colombia, was not planned according to technical and humanitarian criteria, according to an audit of the American agency involved in the action.
A report from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), made public Thursday (29), underlines that officials have been charged with aligning the decisions of the operation “to strengthen the credibility of the interim government”.
A few weeks before the aid was sent, the Donald Trump administration had recognized the opponent Juan Guaidó as the legitimate president of Venezuela and supported the creation of an interim government that should promote a political transition in the country to replace the regime. by Nicolás Maduro.
The audit also indicates that USAID management asked employees to minimize funding from United Nations (United Nations) agencies, despite having an infrastructure in Venezuela to deliver these products – because they thought they were sympathetic to Maduro’s government.
The operation was announced to help Venezuelans, starving and facing drug shortages, but the United States arranged for the supplies to be transported across the Colombian border by Guaidó’s allies.
Dictator Nicolás Maduro called the action a violation of national sovereignty and Venezuelan security forces set the convoy on fire.
A month later, videos and footage obtained by the New York Times showed Maduro’s security forces, alongside gangs aligned with the regime, attacked protesters, armed with stones and Molotov cocktails. Amid the confusion, one of the aid trucks caught fire, triggering a heated exchange of accusations on those responsible for the blaze – opponents or Maduro’s men.
The episode drew widespread condemnation from the Venezuelan government. At the time, US Vice President Mike Pence wrote that “the tyrant of Caracas danced” while his minions “set the food and medicine on fire,” and the State Department released a video saying that Maduro ordered that the trucks be set on fire.
The Venezuelan opposition showed footage of the burning trucks, which was reproduced by dozens of news sites and broadcasters across Latin America.
Of the 368 tons of supplies sent to the border region, only 8 were delivered to Venezuela, with the rest being distributed to Colombia or shipped to Somalia, according to the USAID report.
“The Bolivarian government warned in February 2019 against the fraud of alleged United States humanitarian aid in Cúcuta,” Venezuelan chancellor Jorge Arreaza wrote on Friday (30) in his social networks, referring to the city. Colombian where much of the aid was sent. “Today USAID itself recognizes that it was part of a political operation to change a government.”
“It was never humanitarian action, but a covert operation,” Information Minister Freddy Ñañez wrote in an email. “Humanitarian aid was the excuse with which they tried to break our territorial sovereignty.”
The US State Department did not respond to requests for comment from Reuters news agency.
After the 2019 aid standoff, the Maduro government gradually began to allow for a larger influx of foreign aid and an increased presence of international humanitarian organizations.