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US announces aid as Venezuela struggles with humanitarian crisis

Washington does not recognize Nicolas Maduro’s government and tensions between the two countries remain high.

The United States has pledged more than $171 million in humanitarian aid and development funding to help Venezuelans affected by the South American country’s economic and political crisis.

Seven million people have left the country in recent years as a result of the crisis, and most are now scattered across Latin America and the Caribbean, according to United Nations figures. Many have difficulties accessing basic services, food and formal work.

“This new funding will help provide food, healthcare, emergency shelter and access to legal and protective services,” US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield said virtually at Friday’s donor conference in Brussels.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) said in a statement that $84 million of the funding will go to direct aid for Venezuelans who remain in the country. Another $31 million will be used to promote the economic integration of Venezuelans who have fled to Colombia and Ecuador.

The remaining $56 million will support a number of humanitarian programs for Venezuelans and their host communities, including emergency shelters, access to health care and the protection of vulnerable groups, USAID said.

The funding follows Washington’s announcement in September that it would provide nearly $376 million in humanitarian aid to Venezuelans.

The US supports the Venezuelan opposition, recognizes its parallel legislature and condemns what it believes is the dictatorship of socialist President Nicolas Maduro.

Under the rule of former President Donald Trump, the US has intensified sanctions against the South American country. It froze and seized Venezuelan government funds at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and used the money to support opposition lawmakers opposed to Maduro.

The Venezuelan opposition has complained that the US approval process needed to replace the previous person in charge of distributing funds, former interim president Juan Guaido, continues. They say the funds will aid humanitarian efforts.

Maduro’s government opposes what it says is US foreign interference in its politics and has said the opposition has stolen funds that could be used for social and medical support.