Nikki Haley announces more money to help with Venezuela crisis

Nikki Haley, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, visited the Venezuela/ Columbia border Wednesday and announced an additional $9M in humanitarian aid to help Columbia handle the daily influx of those escaping Venezuela in search of food and medicine.  The sheer number of those crossing the border trying to survive the collapse of a once wealthy nation is overwhelming the Columbian officials.

According to the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the U.S. initially pledged $46M in humanitarian aid to assist Columbia with the crisis.

These additional funds build on the United States’ ongoing efforts to provide food, medical care, water, and other critical humanitarian aid in Colombia and throughout the region for vulnerable Venezuelans. With this new funding, the U.S. Government, through the U.S. Agency for International Development, is providing:

  • Clean drinking water, hygiene supplies, and sanitation services in Colombian towns along the border with Venezuela to prevent the spread of disease;
  • Cash assistance to help vulnerable Venezuelans and Colombians gain access to shelter, water, and sanitation and healthcare in Colombian border areas; and
  • Medicine for health facilities in Colombian host communities; In addition, USAID’s partners are helping to operate primary health care clinics in six different Departments of Colombia that are receiving Venezuelan migrants.

To complement this humanitarian assistance, the United States Government has committed $23.5 million in bilateral economic and development funding to support Colombia’s medium-and long-term efforts to respond to the influx of Venezuelans in Colombia.

Haley traveled to the border to see the situation first-hand. She visited Cucuta, Columbia, a major crossing point after attending the inauguration of Columbian President Ivan Duque.  

The timing of Haley’s visit comes as Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro blames a failed assassination attempt by a drone strike on opposition members living in the United States and Columbia.

“I want to explain to the government of the United States and the government of Colombia in detail all the evidence that leads us to accomplices and direct responsible living in the state of Florida,” Maduro said, according to the Associated Press. “I trust in the good faith of Donald Trump.”

Haley rightfully lays the blame of the humanitarian crisis squarely at the feet of Maduro. 

“The Maduro regime is doing this to the Venezuelan people,” Haley said.

She spoke at the foot of the Simon Bolivar bridge where about 2,500 Venezuelans cross daily, many of them to receive a hot meal and medical care or to shop for food before returning to Venezuela.

“These are his people, these are the people he should be feeding; these are the people he should be giving medicine to; these are the people he should be giving jobs to and making sure that they have a good quality of life. But instead, he is protecting himself,” Haley said.

Haley’s visit brought attention to a crisis largely ignored among the hundreds of other stories about Russia, Russia, Russia and illegal immigration battle on our own border with Mexico. She hopes the neighboring countries will apply pressure on Maduro which has been unseen, as of yet. Haley is a longtime critic of Maduro and voices her desire for him to be gone. She doesn’t, however, call for U.S.-led regime change. Other countries are not bothered by President Trump’s criticisms of others dealing with the crisis that affects the American border.

The U.S. diplomatic push to get other nations to pin the humanitarian crisis on Maduro is not hampered by criticism from some of those same Latin American leaders of Trump’s treatment of refugees and migrants at the southern U.S. border, Haley said.

“We haven’t gotten any pushback from anyone because they realize we are doing a lot to help the Venezuelan people,” Haley said. “What I said to them was, when we were being loud about Venezuela a year ago, they were being quiet. And maybe had they done something we’d be in a different situation.”

Venezuela is an oil-rich country. Sadly, socialist dictators Hugo Chavez and now Nicolas Maduro have squandered that wealth. Socialism doesn’t work and the one-time shining star in South America now finds itself in chaos. The people are starving, there are no jobs, food and medicine shortages are forcing people into desperate measures ( like crossing into Columbia for food and medicines and then crossing back to return home for the night), economic hyperinflation, and the oil industry has collapsed.

Venezuela’s oil company, PDVSA, used to be the main source of foreign income for the government. When crude was trading at more than US $100 per gallon, earnings for the company were counted by the billions, according to company reports.

Now, PDVSA can barely stay afloat, forced to import light crude from the United States to dilute the heavy oil it drills in Venezuela.

Crude production has been falling for the past 25 months, OPEC numbers show. In April, neighboring Colombia surpassed Venezuela as a net exporter of oil to the United States.

Venezuela now produces almost half the oil it did in the late 1990s, when late president Hugo Chavez rose to power and launched his “Bolivarian Revolution.”

“PDVSA is broken for lack of investment, lack of maintenance in all its processes, for years. Now, the crisis is deepening every day,” said José Bodas, a union leader at a PDVSA refinery on the northern coast in Puerto La Cruz.

The Venezuelan people deserve better. I lived in Venezuela in 1991 and though there were economic struggles even then, most Venezuelans were living comfortable and productive lives. There was no air of desperation or hopelessness. Ambassador Haley is correct – Maduro must go.