In Venezuela, U.S. Uses Humanitarian Aid as a Political Tool

SONYA HU: As president of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez initiated an era of socioeconomic and political instability that has continued to plague Venezuela. Since 2010, conditions have grown increasingly dire, with nearly 90 percent of the population living beneath the poverty line, over three million people displaced, and a projected inflation rate of 10 million percent.

The simmering crisis boiled over in January, when Juan Guaido invoked Articles 233, 333, and 350 of Venezuela’s constitutional crisis provisions to declare himself the interim president of the tormented nation. President Donald Trump, as well as numerous other American and European leaders, was quick to announce his support of Guaido, urging the despotic President Nicolas Maduro to step aside.

Alongside his existing strategy of using sanctions to deprive the Maduro regime of oil revenues, Trump has recently introduced a new tactical apparatus: humanitarian aid. The United States has been massing much-needed food and medical supplies in the Colombian border city of Cúcuta. However, the aid is unlikely to reach the people who rely upon it for survival due to Maduro’s steadfast refusal to permit the aid to cross the border, citing fears that the United States is using the supplies as a ‘Trojan horse’ to justify military intervention.

While U.S. actions thus far appear benevolent, its efforts to distribute food and medicine are more than just a humanitarian mission — the operation is designed to incite regime change in Venezuela.

This is where the problem arises — using humanitarian aid as a “pawn in the political chess match between the governments of the United States and Venezuela” undermines its purpose and purity. Stéphane Dujarric, spokeswoman for the United Nations Secretary-General, explained earlier this month that “humanitarian action needs to be independent of political, military, or any other objectives. The needs of the people should lead.”

The United States has shown little concern for the immediate wellbeing of the Venezuelan people, opting instead to leverage their desperate conditions to encourage a rebellion.

This practice of taking advantage of human suffering to advance policy objectives becomes even more problematic when one considers the broader power politics at play in Venezuela — Russia has been a key actor in the South American country for years, investing billions into buying Maduro’s support. Today, key U.S. adversaries Russia and China are among the last few countries that remain on the despotic president’s side. This reality raises even more questions concerning the United States’ true motivations for attempting to oust Maduro from office.

Both sides have begun to take advantage of the chaos and human suffering in Venezuela, turning the already bereaved nation into the battleground for a new type of proxy war.

On Wednesday, a Russian shipment of medicine and other aid arrived in Venezuela. This indicates that the two global powers are on a collision course; Carlos Romero, an international affairs professor at the Central University of Venezuela, stated that “the fate of Venezuela is in the hands of outsiders. It’s like two trains headed toward one another on the same track and every day that passes they gain speed.” Russia and the United States have each attempted to justify their behavior as being well-intentioned efforts to protect the Venezuelan people and regime, when, in reality, both countries are simply gambling Venezuelan lives in hopes of accomplishing their own geopolitical goals.  

The United States has allowed its political interests to eclipse the need to protect the Venezuelan people. Starvation and an acute lack of medical supplies continue to threaten the livelihood of millions of Venezuelan citizens, and the U.S.’s selfish use of the aid that could alleviate the suffering of millions as political bait places the already vulnerable population at even greater risk.

Sonya Hu is a freshman in the college from Missouri. She is currently majoring in Economics with a minor in Religion and Ethics in World Affairs.

Jeff Cirillo