Reuters Cúcuta, Cucuta, North Santander, Colombia
Feb 17, 2019, 06.37 AM
A US military transport plane carrying humanitarian aid meant for Venezuelans landed in the Colombian border city of Cucuta on Saturday, where food and medicine is being stored amidst uncertainty over how and where aid will be distributed.
The shipment will be the second arrival of large-scale US and international aid for Venezuelans, many of whom have scant access to food and medicine, since opposition leader Juan Guaido declared himself interim president in defiance of socialist President Nicolas Maduro.
Guaido, who invoked constitutional provisions to declare himself the country's leader last month, arguing Maduro's 2018 re-election was a sham, has said aid will enter Venezuela on February 23.
But it remains unclear whether Maduro, who has called the aid a US-orchestrated show and denies any crisis, will allow the supplies to cross into Venezuela.
Millions of Venezuelans will be traveling to the border to safeguard arriving aid, Lester Toledo, a Guaido representative, said at a press conference in Cucuta.
"We are seven days from this being a reality, we are going to have the accompaniment of people, of hundreds of thousands, of millions of Venezuelans that our president Juan Guaido has called upon, who we have asked to go to the border dressed in white as a sign of peace," said Toledo.
A US official told Reuters the aid delivered on Saturday amounted to more than 200 tonnes, but a US embassy representative said they had no measurements of the shipment. Toledo said three planes would eventually arrive.
Most Western countries and many of Venezuela's neighbors have recognized Guaido as the legitimate head of state, while Maduro retains the backing of Russia and China and control of Venezuelan state institutions including the military.
The supplies, including hygiene kits and special products meant for children suffering malnutrition, are arriving from an air force base in Florida aboard C-17 military cargo planes, the US embassy said in a statement.
Additional aid flights will take place over the coming days, the statement added, and medical supplies and pharmaceuticals meant for use in hospitals will arrive early next week.
The aid, the second shipment of large-scale US and international aid, landed in the Colombian border city of Cucuta. It is still uncertain how and where it will be distributed.