During a trip to the border town of Cucutá this week, Nikki Haley, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, announced that the United States will provide an additional $9 million USD in humanitarian aid for Venezuelans in Colombia.
The money will go toward funding critical needs such as shelter, medicine, health facilities, drinking water, and sanitation supplies and services, according to the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
Photo: Migration officials work in Cúcuta, the border city where tens of thousands of Venezuelans cross into Colombia every day to flee the desperate social conditions and economic crisis occurring in their homeland. (Credit: National Police of Colombia)
The agency, which will oversee the aid package, added that this funding would help finance health clinics in six other locations in Colombia that have been receiving a large number of Venezuelans. It said those clinics are being operated by USAID partners in the country.
This commitment adds to earlier funding and brings the total assistance from the United States for Venezuelans in Colombia to some $46 million USD.
“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,” said USAID in a statement.
Haley, who was in Colombia to attend the inauguration of new Colombian President Iván Duque, made the announcement during a visit to Cúcuta, the largest border city and the site where some 40,000 Venezuelans cross into the country each day, according to Colombian officials.
While many cross back and forth across the border, which is divided by a river that has several bridges in the area, but others have opted to stay in the neighboring nation despite not having work or housing opportunities.
In April, Colombian immigration officials in estimated that between 600,000 and 800,000 Venezuelans are now residing in the country after fleeing their homeland in recent years. Former President Juan Manuel Santos repeatedly said that Colombia desires to welcome refugees in need while also stressing that the country lacks the resources to properly manage an immigration influx on this level.
Earlier this year, the European Union pledged $41 million USD in humanitarian aid for Venezuelans, including those who have fled to Colombia. “We cannot remain bystanders to this human tragedy,” said Christos Stylianides of the European Union.
Haley, in a report from the Washington Post, blamed the desperate conditions that are forcing Venezuelans to flee on Nicolás Maduro, whose socialist rule in Venezuela is widely considered illegitimate by the international community as well as his domestic opposition.
“The Maduro regime,” Haley told the Washington Post, “is doing this to the Venezuelan people…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.”
She continued with even stronger words, saying that it was time for a leadership change in the oil-rich. “I have long said that it’s time for Maduro to go,” Haley told the Post.
Colombian/Venezuelan relations have been deeply strained for years, with Santos often criticizing Maduro’s regime and failing to recognize the results of elections that most foreign organizations say have been rife with bias and fraud.
Another incident in the dysfunctional cross-border relationship came last week. After Maduro came away unscathed from what was seemingly an assassination attempt, the socialist Venezuelan strongman accused Santos of participating in a plot that saw drones exploded before they were able to reach the stage during an administration event celebrating the military.
“It is clear and there is enough proof of the involvement of outgoing Colombian government of Juan Manuel Santos,” said Maduro in a televised address. He further claimed that “Colombians trained the assassins” who operated the drones.
Santos, who was days away from exiting office before Duque’s inauguration on August 7, said the accusations were baseless, adding on Twitter that he “was doing more important things” on the day of the apparent attack. Santos had attended the baptism of his granddaughter earlier in the day.