A leaked US state department email sent to Congress on 15 February shows that the US is sending another 250 tons of ‘humanitarian aid’ to Venezuela’s border with Colombia. And this time, as Associated Press reported, it is “using US military aircraft to pressure [Venezuelan president] Nicolás Maduro to give up power”. This is the first time that the US has deployed the military to send ‘aid’ to Venezuela.
But as The Canary recently argued, there’s nothing ‘humanitarian’ about US aid to Venezuela. This is 250 more tons of US imperialism.
The list of reasons to suspect US ‘humanitarian aid’ is roughly as long as the list of corporate journals misrepresenting the coup attempt. These reasons include:
- The economic crisis in Venezuela is largely of Washington’s making. If the US wanted to help ordinary Venezuelans, it would halt the economic sanctions that are costing the country billions (dwarfing the $20m ‘aid’ offering). Instead, the US is intensifying sanctions.
- Maduro has already accepted humanitarian aid from the UN. The UN and the Red Cross, meanwhile, have warned “the US to explicitly not engage in” its own politicised aid efforts.
- US intervention in Latin America over recent decades has consistently created humanitarian crises through “support for death and destruction where US interests are at play”. And US national security adviser John Bolton recently acknowledged US interest in Venezuela’s massive oil reserves. US oil interests were similarly central to a 2002 US-backed coup attempt in the country.
- Serial war hawk Elliott Abrams, Washington’s special envoy to Venezuela, has a record of using ‘humanitarian aid’ programs to wage covert warfare against left-wing Latin American governments.
- US president Donald Trump seems more enthusiastic about offering ‘aid’ to Venezuela than he did to Puerto Rico (a US territory) after Hurricane Maria in 2017. And US interest in the well-being of Latin Americans seems to end when they arrive at the US border.
- The US is presently complicit in causing what the UN has called the “world’s worst humanitarian crisis” in Yemen. Selective care for democracy and human rights suggests no care at all.
The list could go on.
So if US ‘humanitarian aid’ isn’t about helping ordinary Venezuelans, what is it for?
Firstly, offering ‘humanitarian aid’ – while ignoring that the US is largely responsible for Venezuela’s humanitarian crisis – is an effective piece of propaganda. With the help of a compliant media, the US can present Maduro as the main obstacle between ordinary Venezuelans’ starvation and freedom. As FAIR’s Adam Johnson wrote, this narrative was presented as a “visual metaphor” when the US claimed that Maduro had closed a bridge – which had never been open – to stop ‘aid’ getting in.
Secondly, the use of military aircraft to deliver ‘humanitarian aid’ offers a (albeit thin) cover for military build-up on the Venezuelan border. And as the state department email revealed, this build-up is designed to “pressure… Maduro to give up power”.
Finally, if US efforts to oust Maduro prove unsuccessful – as seems increasingly likely – the US can use military build-up to provoke Maduro into a reaction and instigate war. Indeed, the US has a long record of using provocation – real or imagined – to attack a country in ‘self-defence’.
This is how US ‘humanitarian aid’ to Venezuela is an extension of the US empire. And journalists are complicit from the second they write US ‘humanitarian aid’ without inverted commas.
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