US says could send Venezuela aid through Red Cross


Washington (AFP)

The United States on Friday welcomed a Red Cross announcement that it would distribute aid in Venezuela and said it may send assistance through the international organization after Washington's own forceful bid failed.

The International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent said it would impartially distribute badly needed assistance in the economically battered country in two weeks, initially reaching 650,000 people.

Elliott Abrams, the envoy heading the US effort to oust President Nicolas Maduro, praised the Red Cross initiative and credited appeals by Juan Guaido, the opposition leader considered interim president by the United States and some 50 other countries.

"This looks like a real opportunity, and we think that it is a response to the efforts that interim President Guaido has been making," Abrams told reporters.

"So it's very welcome, we hope it works, and -- assuming that it does, which we do -- the United States would be happy to put some of our aid into this method of reaching the Venezuelan people," he said.

The United States worked with Guaido on a high-profile effort on February 23 to force assistance through the Colombian border.

Venezuelan security forces successfully thwarted the aid amid scattered clashes, with Maduro warning that the operation was a precursor to a US invasion.

The United States argues that Maduro only gives aid to regime supporters, not necessarily to those most in need.

Abrams nonetheless said the Red Cross assistance was no substitute for toppling Maduro.

"The kind of aid that is needed for a broad recovery of the Venezuelan economy really cannot be put in place until the regime is replaced by democratic government," Abrams said.