Eerie photo sums up humanitarian crisis facing starving Venezuela

Eerie photo sums up humanitarian crisis facing starving Venezuela

Alleging that the Maduro administration is illegitimate, opposition leader Juan Guaido, who was head of the National Assembly, declared himself interim president during an anti-government rally on January 23.

Guaido says the emergency shipment is a "test" for Venezuela's armed forces, which will have to choose if they allow the much needed aid to pass, or if they instead obey orders.

High protein energy supplements were also included for young Venezuelan children suffering from malnutrition.

"You could imagine a possibility that if there is a need to go into Venezuela and do humanitarian operations, or need to go into Venezuela to do other types of operations such as protecting the members of the Guaido government or members of the National Assembly at risk", said Evan Ellis, a research professor of Latin American studies at the Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College.

The U.S. government is also weighing possible sanctions on Cuban military and intelligence officials whom it says are helping Maduro remain in power, a second U.S. official and person familiar with the deliberations have told Reuters.

"I'd be really disappointed if we didn't have a deal", Scott said.

The official declined to provide details on the discussions or the level at which they are being held, and it was unclear whether such contacts could create cracks in the Venezuelan socialist leader's support from the military, which is pivotal to his grip on power.

Elliott Abrams, who leads the Trump administration's special envoy to Venezuela, said on Thursday that several countries have offered to take in Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro.

The U.S., Canada, most countries in Latin America and over 20 European nations have lent their backing to Guaido following the announcement.

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Guaido told a packed 2,700-seat theatre at the Central University of Venezuela that Maduro's days were numbered, as he clings to power.

In Caracas, President Nicolas Maduro denounced the presence of trailers of humanitarian aid brought to the Colombian border, calling them part of a plan cooked up in Washington to destabilize his government.

The aid, which arrived in Cucuta on Thursday, includes flour, lentils, rice and cooking oil as well as personal hygiene items like toothbrushes and soap, Colombian, Venezuelan and United States officials told reporters. But the administration has stopped short of imposing so-called "secondary" sanctions, which would punish non-U.S. companies for doing business with the Venezuela government or the state oil monopoly PDVSA.

"I think it is very unsafe, because it means that the actions that they propose are far out of proportion of, you know, really what is necessary to preserve us security interests", said Alexander Main, a Latin America political analyst and director of International Policy at the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington.

Maduro on Wednesday hit back at a tweet by U.S. national security adviser John Bolton that said "any Venezuelan senior military officer that stands for democracy and recognizes the constitutional government of President Juan Guaido" would not face United States sanctions.

He said the aid should be given to the poor in the Colombian city of Cucuta, where the supplies are being stockpiled.

Venezuela, already crippled by Maduro's economic policies, was plunged in political turmoil a year ago when he greatly reduced the power of the opposition-controlled National Assembly and created a parallel parliament that gave more control to regions of the country where he is more popular.

"The main objective here is to bring humanitarian assistance - and if it must be done by military support, so be it", he said at a news conference at United Nations headquarters in NY. Her sign reads, "In the name of God, we declare peace and freedom for our lovely Venezuela". A Venezuelan migrant from Valencia State, Perez left her home 10 months ago in search of a better life in Colombia.

The Red Cross urged Venezuelans not to politicize the aid issue, without saying how or if the aid would arrive.

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