The confrontation between the two proclaimed presidents of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro and Juan Guaidó, may come to a head this weekend over the issue of humanitarian aid that sits just across the border from the economically devastated socialist country.
Juan Guaidó and 80 other lawmakers are making their way towards the Colombian border where tons of aid from the United States sits waiting to enter Venezuela. According to Reuters, Guaidó plans to bring the stockpiled humanitarian aid into the country on Saturday.
The Brazilian government also said it would allow Guaidó’s supporters to bring aid into Venezuela by truck.
According to Reuters, Maduro ordered the border with Brazil to be closed tonight and is threating to close the borders with Colombia. He has called the stockpiling of humanitarian aid across the border a “provocation”.
The United States, which started delivering aid to the border city of Cúcuta, Colombia, on February 16, is not backing away from its support for Guaidó. In an interview with Craig Melvin of NBC Today Show, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was asked about the situation in Venezuela:
QUESTION: Let’s talk about Venezuela. Of course, this weekend the deadline – we’re trying to get aid into this country. President Maduro has said that he is going to close the borders. He believes that it’s a pretext for a U.S. invasion. First of all, what is our national interest in Venezuela? And secondly, what do we expect to happen this weekend?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So this weekend we will attempt to deliver what are now hundreds of tons of humanitarian assistance that the American people, our taxpayers, have generously paid for, now have moved into the region. We hope we can get it across the border. There have been 3 million refugees have to leave the country. The humanitarian crisis is enormous. That’s always an American interest to try and make sure that we feed those that the – in this case the government causes. This is a wholly man-made catastrophe in Venezuela.
We have security interests too. This is in our region. We don’t want this to be a Cuban puppet state in Venezuela. So there are many American interests, and President Trump is determined to protect the American people and to provide humanitarian assistance in this true crisis.
Venezuela is in dire economic straits. The country has been in an economic depression since 2014 with the gross domestic product contracting by a staggering 16.5% in 2016, 14% in 2017, and 18% in 2018.
The overall gross domestic product of Venezuela is the same as it was in 2004.
For the Venezuelan people, the recent economic catastrophe wiped out all gains made under the late-President Hugo Chávez.
Aid is desperately needed in Venezuela. Since the economic crisis began, the average Venezuelan weighs 11 kilograms less than they did last year, reports Reuters.
The Maduro regime is caught in a trap. It cannot accept aid from the United States, its mortal enemy since the failed coup in 2002. However, it cannot maintain the facade that things are not as bad as they seem.
The showdown this weekend may prove to be a tipping point in the conflict, especially if Maduro attempts to use the military to stop foreign aid from entering the country.
Ultimately, the regime will only fall when the military as a whole refuses to follow Maduro, which may be the scenario that the foreign and domestic opposition is hoping to provoke.