It was billed as the start of the end for Nicolas Maduro. With foreign leaders in tow and the whole world on guard, anti-Maduro activists gathered in Colombia in February 2019 in a bid to push out entire warehouses of aid worth – flown by US military cargo plane – across the border to Venezuela.
Instead, the humanitarian convoy was violently blocked by security forces loyal to Maduro – the first in a series of miscalculations in the Trump administration’s policy toward Venezuela.
More than two years later, the risky bet is challenged by a US government watchdog. A new report (PDF) by the Inspector General of the US Agency for International Development raises doubts as to whether the aid deployment was motivated more by the US pursuit of regime change than by a technical analysis of needs and the best ways to help Venezuelans in difficulty.
The results were released on April 16 but have not been reported previously.
Report focuses on frenzies months after opposition leader Juan Guaido rose to challenge Maduro’s regime, quickly gaining recognition as the rightful leader of Venezuela by the United States and dozens of allies.
As part of this effort, YOU SAID between January and April 2019, $ 2 million was spent to position 368 tonnes of emergency supplies on the Caribbean island of Curacao and on the Colombia-Venezuela border.
Under Guaido’s orders, aid was supposed to be delivered to Venezuela in defiance of Maduro, who condemned the effort as a veiled coup attempt. But when an opposition-organized caravan trying to enter Venezuela was blocked at the border, at least one truck caught fire, destroying $ 34,000 in aid provided by the United States.
As media attention shifted and Guaido’s struggle to topple Maduro unfolded in the months that followed, US aid was quietly reallocated. In the end, only eight tonnes reached Venezuela, with the remaining 360 tonnes being distributed in Colombia or shipped to Somalia, according to the report.
The 34-page report says the U.S. aid deployment responds in part to the Trump administration’s campaign to pressure Maduro rather than simply helping Venezuelans in trouble.
For example, assistance was unnecessarily provided in giant Air Force C-17 cargo planes instead of cheaper commercial options available, the report says. Ready-to-eat meals to combat child malnutrition were also sent even though USAID’s own experts had decided that the nutritional status of Venezuelan children did not warrant their use at the time, investigators said. .
To support Guaido, USAID – believing that UN agencies had been co-opted by Maduro – downplayed UN funding, even though some UN agencies had infrastructure inside Venezuela to distribute the funding. ‘help.
“The directive to preposition humanitarian products was not driven by technical expertise or fully aligned with the humanitarian principles of neutrality, independence and needs assessment,” the report said.
The report, which ran for nearly two years, was prepared to address the challenges and “fraud risks” in USAID’s response to the Venezuelan crisis. It contains six recommendations to improve coordination within the sprawling agency – the main vehicle for US foreign aid – and strengthen controls to avoid politicizing humanitarian action.
A USAID spokesperson said the agency welcomed the findings of the report, which it is implementing, and any efforts to improve the effectiveness of USAID’s work, especially in harsh environments.
Shortly after the failure of Guaido’s aid delivery caravan, USAID began working quietly behind the scenes with United Nations agencies, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and other groups. to deliver aid to Venezuela, where these products are frequently distributed to government hospitals and Maduro-controlled agencies.