On 6 February, US secretary of state Mike Pompeo urged Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro to open the country’s borders to US “humanitarian aid”. The request came after Venezuelan troops blockaded a bridge on the country’s border with Colombia:
The Venezuelan people desperately need humanitarian aid. The U.S. & other countries are trying to help, but #Venezuela’s military under Maduro's orders is blocking aid with trucks and shipping tankers. The Maduro regime must LET THE AID REACH THE STARVING PEOPLE. #EstamosUnidosVE pic.twitter.com/L4ysYJaM6H
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) February 6, 2019
Using “humanitarian aid” to smuggle arms
The mainstream media has predictably portrayed Washington’s offer of “aid” as noble and well-intentioned. Meanwhile, it paints Maduro as a stubborn tyrant, starving his country of vital resources.
CNBC described Maduro’s actions as a “dramatic attempt to prevent a delivery of humanitarian aid”. The Independent reported matter-of-factly that Maduro closed the border “to stop humanitarian aid entering”. Other outlets like the Guardian failed to mention that “humanitarian aid” would hardly scratch the surface of the crippling effects US sanctions are already having on the country.
But most importantly, the media comprehensively failed to mention that the US has previously used “humanitarian aid” programmes to covertly attack left-wing governments in Latin America. And none other than Elliott Abrams, recently appointed Washington’s special envoy for Venezuela, was at the centre of it all.
Nicaragua’s history follows a typical pattern of US intervention in Latin America. After toppling a US-friendly dictatorship in 1979, Nicaragua’s Sandinista government implemented a set of social and economic reforms aimed at wealth distribution. Finding these reforms unacceptable in its ‘backyard’, Washington waged brutal economic and covert warfare on Nicaragua throughout the 1980s. And this campaign was, at times, hidden behind “humanitarian aid” programs.
By the late 1970s, the Sandinistas were overwhelming the Nicaraguan dictatorship’s National Guard. At this point, in the words of Noam Chomsky, the Jimmy Carter administration “flew Guard commanders [later renamed contras] out of the country in planes with Red Cross markings (a war crime)”.
During the mid-1980s, US Congress issued a law allowing humanitarian aid to be provided only to Nicaragua’s contras.
But in 1987, as the Los Angeles Times reported:
Reagan Administration aides deliberately used a 1986 program of “humanitarian aid”… to help support the secret effort to deliver military aid to the contras.
The article continued by linking this to Abrams, Washington’s current special envoy to Venezuela:
Officials said that all significant decisions were made by a “Restricted Inter-Agency Group,” consisting of North, Assistant Secretary of State Elliott Abrams and Alan D. Fiers, chief of the CIA’s Central America Task Force.
Another New York Times sourced within Chomsky’s The Culture of Terrorism detailed:
The official who headed the United States humanitarian aid program for the rebels in Nicaragua said today that he twice ordered his planes to shuttle weapons for the contras in Central America at the direction of Elliott Abrams.
Abrams, therefore, was a key figure in exploiting “humanitarian aid” programmes to wage covert warfare. And after a lifetime “crushing democracy” across Latin America, his reported advice to Maduro “to leave power… the sooner the better” carries an ominous tone.
“Not one invading soldier”
On 6 February, the BBC reported Maduro saying: “No-one will enter, not one invading soldier”.
Contrary to most media coverage, Maduro’s rejection of US “humanitarian aid” seems altogether rational. Quite predictably, Washington’s record of helping citizens while agitating for their government’s removal is shameful. And while the US continues to punish ordinary Venezuelans with crippling economic sanctions, there’s no reason to believe anything has changed.
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