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Venezuelan congress authorizes entry of humanitarian aid

Caracas : Venezuela’s opposition-controlled National Assembly voted on Tuesday to authorise the entry of humanitarian aid from the US and other countries that President Nicolas Maduro’s government refuses to accept.

The unanimous vote in favour of authorization followed numerous speeches from lawmakers about what they described as a humanitarian emergency in the oil-rich nation.

The assembly ordered the Venezuelan armed forces and national police to dismantle the barriers blocking the delivery of the aid accumulating in warehouses in the Colombian border city of Cucuta and two other locations, Efe reported.

Legislators also instructed customs agents and the various agencies that normally oversee the import of medication and other medical supplies to suspend the usual procedures and requirements for the duration of the emergency.

The assembly thanked the countries that have donated supplies and sent copies of the resolution to those governments.

The request for international assistance came from National Assembly speaker Juan Guaido, who proclaimed himself Venezuela’s acting president on January 23.

The US quickly recognised Guaido as president and roughly 50 other countries have followed suit, including Canada, Colombia, Argentina and Brazil, as well as major European powers France, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom.

Those nations agree with the Venezuelan opposition that Maduro’s May 2018 re-election victory was a sham.

The Maduro administration denounces the aid initiative as a cover for US invasion. Both the UN and the International Red Cross have rejected Washington’s approach and say they will continue to work with the government in Caracas.

Guaido, 35, has said that he will organise volunteers to bring the aid arriving in Cucuta, the Brazilian border state of Roraima and the island of Cura�ao into Venezuela starting Saturday if Maduro does not relent.

Cucuta is linked to the Venezuelan city of San Cristobal by the Tienditas, a modern bridge completed in 2016 that has never been opened to traffic amid ongoing quarrels between Bogota and Caracas over migration, smuggling and cross-border crime.

As the US shipments began to arrive in Cucuta, the Venezuelan army parked large vehicles on their side of Tienditas, which was already bisected by mental fencing.