Russian medicine arrives in Venezuela as Maduro blocks US aid
MOSCOW – The Associated Press
As tensions in Venezuela mount ahead of a Feb. 23 showdown over humanitarian aid, Russian state news agencies said on Feb. 20 that a Russian shipment of medicine and medical equipment had arrived in Venezuela.
The reports did not give the size of the shipment or say what it contained, though they cited a diplomatic source as saying the delivery was made under the aegis of the World Health Organization.
Russia is an ally of President Maduro, who is under challenge from opposition leader Juan Guaido in a resurgence of the country’s political crisis.
Guaido has called for “caravans” of tens of thousands of Venezuelans to join forces on Feb. 23 to carry the U.S. aid from Colombia into Venezuela, despite Maduro’s objections and the barricading of a key bridge linking Venezuela and the Colombian border city of Cucuta, where the aid is stored.
Maduro is vowing to block aid from entering, saying the effort is part of a U.S.-led coup attempt.
The Kremlin has also sharply criticized the plan as reckless, accusing Guaido of seeking a pretext to call for a U.S. military intervention.
“If the organizers really want to just deliver some kind of humanitarian aid to the needy, why not use the specialized U.N. agencies that have extensive and invaluable experience in carrying out such operations?” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in a statement on Feb. 20.
In the meantime, Venezuela’s deputy U.N. military attache, Colonel Pedro Chirinos, said in a video on social media that he recognized Guaido as the country’s interim president, increasing pressure on Maduro.
Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, highlighted Chirinos’ announcement in a note posted on Twitter on Feb. 20 but misidentified him as the military attache to the United Nations.
“Venezuela’s military attache to the United Nations, Colonel Pedro Chirinos, has announced his official recognition of Juan Guaido as Interim President of Venezuela,” Bolton said in his note.
Guiado’s designated ambassador to Costa Rica took control of Venezuela’s embassy in the Central American country on Feb. 20, triggering criticism from the Costa Rican government for not waiting.
On Feb. 15, the Costa Rican government gave Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s representatives 60 days to leave the country.
Maduro got the support of the Pink Floyd co-founder Roger Waters as he has criticized an upcoming Live Aid-style concert to raise funds for humanitarian aid for Venezuela, by claiming it is a U.S.-backed effort to tarnish the socialist government.
The billionaire Richard Branson has backed today’s show in the Colombian border city of Cucuta with a fundraising target of $100 million.
“Do we really want Venezuela to turn in to another Iraq or Syria or Libya? I don’t and neither do the Venezuelan people,” Waters said on Feb. 19 in a video circulating on social media.