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Red Cross expands Venezuela operations as crisis grows

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has doubled its resources for Venezuela to help cope with humanitarian needs generated by the country’s crisis, its president said on Wednesday.

Under President Nicolas Maduro, oil-wealthy Venezuela has plunged into economic crisis, suffering from hyperinflation and shortages of food and medicine that have helped push 2.3 million people to flee since 2015.

Maduro is under pressure after the United States, European nations and Latin American governments recognised an opposition leader as interim president until new elections.

ICRC President Peter Maurer told reporters in Geneva the organisation’s Venezuela budget had doubled to 15.8 million euros (US$17.9 million) to help deal with the “huge needs” of the population.

“Our focus is really to, on the one side increase our response to Venezuelans, and on the other hand to keep away from the political controversy and political divisions which are characteristic to the crisis in Venezuela,” Maurer said.

The announcement came after opposition leader Juan Guaido, who more than 40 countries have recognised as Venezuela’s president, said he had organised the arrival of US and Canadian humanitarian aid.

Maduro, who is supported by Russia, China, Turkey, Cuba and Iran, has refused all international humanitarian aid shipments to Venezuela, which he says would open the way to allow a US military invasion.

In Geneva, Maurer said humanitarian aid should remain “neutral and impartial”, saying the ICRC would not get involved with any humanitarian activities carried out by the government or the opposition.

The ICRC is present in neighbouring countries to help displaced Venezuelans who have fled across borders, and also on delivering health services to Venezuelans.

“Our clear focus is to really in favour or enlarging the humanitarian space in Venezuela because we do believe that there are huge needs,” Maurer said.

“We have to step up our work, otherwise we wouldn’t have doubled our resources on Venezuela in the last couple of weeks and I fear that it might not be the end of it.”



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