A report from the US Agency for International Development’s (USAID) watchdog found that aid allocated for Venezuela in 2019 was used as part of the Trump administration’s failed regime change effort.
In January 2019, the US and many of its allies recognized Juan Guaido as the interim president of Venezuela in an attempt to unseat Nicolas Maduro. As part of this policy, USAID started coordinating aid deliveries with Guaido.
The report from USAID’s Inspector General reads: “In January and February 2019, the US Government identified USAID’s humanitarian assistance for Venezuelans as also serving as a key tool to elevate support to the Venezuelan Interim Government and increase pressure on the Maduro regime.”
In February 2019, USAID sent 368 tons of aid worth $2 million to the Colombia-Venezuela border and the Caribbean island of Curacao. A media frenzy ensued as the Trump administration tried to force the Venezuelan government to accept the aid.
Since the US was calling for Maduro to be overthrown, he did not allow the trucks carrying the aid to enter the country from Colombia and stopped them at the border. One truck was set on fire, which US media outlets initially blamed on Venezuelan forces. But it turned out the blaze was started by a molotov cocktail thrown from the Colombian side of the border.
The Inspector General’s report makes it even more apparent that the attempt to ram the aid into Venezuela was merely a political stunt. For example, the aid was dramatically delivered to Colombia in giant Air Force C-17 cargo planes when there were cheaper commercial delivery options available.
The report also found that the aid package included ready-to-use supplemental food even though USAID said this type of commodity was not necessary after determining the nutritional status of Venezuelan children. Ultimately, only eight out of the 360 tons allocated for Venezuela made it into the country. The rest was delivered inside Colombia or shipped to Somalia.
Under direction from Guaido, USAID also minimized funding to the UN agencies that already had infrastructure set up in Venezuela to deliver aid. A Venezuelan non-governmental organization, which wasn’t named in the report, was awarded funding because it had US-aligned interests.
The Trump administration’s regime change effort came with a failed coup attempt and a brutal sanctions regime that has had a devastating impact on Venezuela’s civilian population. President Biden has continued the policy, continues to recognize Guaido, and appears to have no interest in giving Venezuela sanctions relief.