CARACAS: The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said on Friday that it is poised to deliver aid to Venezuela, warning that it will not accept any interference from President Nicolas Maduro or opposition leader Juan Guaido.
Federation president Francesco Rocca said at a news conference in the capital of Caracas that the humanitarian network can start distributing assistance to an estimated 650,000 people in the South American country in around 15 days.
The Red Cross “can never accept interference from other actors’’, Mr Rocca added, saying that Venezuela was a deeply polarised country and it was vital that no one take advantage of the aid.
On Twitter, however, Mr Guaido almost immediately claimed credit for the effort, saying the announcement amounted to a victory for “our struggle’’. He also said medical aid would be coming into Venezuela in a matter of days, reiterating a promise that he was forced to renege on in February after security forces blocked US-backed assistance from entering the country and clashed with protesters.
Mr Guaido said Venezuelans should stay vigilant to make sure incoming aid is not diverted for “corrupt’’ purposes, but did not expound on the logistics of aid shipments nor say whether any agreement had been made with Mr Maduro to let them in.
The leader of the opposition-controlled National Assembly has previously rejected the idea of negotiations with Mr Maduro, saying his embattled adversary must resign immediately so that elections can be held.
Early on Friday evening, pro-Maduro demonstrators tried to block Mr Guaido as he arrived in a vehicle to address a crowd in a Caracas neighbourhood. Police, who in the past have cracked down on opposition gatherings, set off a tear-gas canister to disperse the government supporters and formed a line to separate the two groups.
Mr Maduro, who has previously denied that Venezuela was suffering a humanitarian crisis, did not immediately comment on the initiative.
A Chinese plane, meanwhile, arrived at the country’s main airport, carrying what Venezuelan officials said was a 65-tonne cargo of medical supplies. The plane was positioned near a plane that had brought Russian military personnel to Venezuela last weekend. The scene, and the timing of the aid arrival, projected symbolism for Mr Maduro’s government, which counts China and Russia among its allies but has been urged to give up power by the United States and dozens of other countries.
The latest announcement comes as dire conditions in Venezuela force millions to leave the country and make lives elsewhere. Many who have stayed behind struggle to afford supplies of food and medicine, while nationwide power outages this month have exacerbated widespread misery.