Wed | Feb 19, 2020

Red Cross ready to step in, warns against politics

Published:Sunday | March 31, 2019 | 12:36 AM
A supporter of Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro kicks a car that is part of the caravan that moves Venezuela’s self-proclaimed interim president Juan Guaido, during his arriving at a rally in Caracas, Venezuela, on Friday.

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP):

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 Nicolás 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”, 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, 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.

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 Maduro to let them in.

The leader of the opposition-controlled National Assembly has previously rejected the idea of negotiations with Maduro, saying his embattled adversary must resign immediately so that elections can be held.

Early Friday evening, pro-Maduro demonstrators tried to block Guaido as he arrived in a vehicle to address a crowd in a Caracas neighborhood. 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.