The UN and Red Cross Keep Criticizing the Trump/Rubio Group's Moves on Venezuela

The UN and Red Cross Keep Criticizing the Trump/Rubio Group's Moves on Venezuela
Gage Skidmore / Flickr
President Donald Trump has effectively deputized Florida Sen. Marco Rubio to lead the administration's regime-change efforts in Venezuela. Despite the involvement of warmongering National Security Advisor John Bolton and genocide abetter Elliott Abrams, even most mainstream Democrats are praising Rubio's push to oust Venezuelan strongman Nicolás Maduro.

Two groups that aren't just signing off on Rubio's plans: the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross. Both recently warned the United States that its attempts to foment a coup or possible civil war in Venezuela will almost certainly make the situation worse rather than better.

The UN has actually criticized Rubio's coalition at least twice. Last month, the international body warned the United States not to issue new sanctions against Venezuela's state-run oil company, Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PDVSA). Rubio and his team argue that the Maduro regime is using PDVSA as a piggy bank instead of using that money to help the Venezuelan people. There's solid evidence this claim is true. But the UN warned that the sanctions the U.S. proposed were unlikely to actually harm the Maduro regime and would all but certainly hurt everyday Venezuelans.

A UN special rapporteur to Venezuela, Idriss Jaziary, said the following January 31 in a media release:

Sanctions which can lead to starvation and medical shortages are not the answer to the crisis in Venezuela... Precipitating an economic and humanitarian crisis... is not a foundation for the peaceful settlement of disputes — I am especially concerned to hear reports that these sanctions are aimed at changing the government of Venezuela [and at] the growing risk of violence and implicit threats of international violence.
Rubio's critics are worried that the sanctions appear designed to foment a greater crisis in Venezuela in order to force Maduro's ouster. (For what it's worth, Jaziary has been criticizing America's economic sanctions against Venezuela for the past few years.)

A former UN rapporteur to Venezuela, Alfred de Zayas, last month told the Independent that the latest round of Venezuela sanctions could amount to "crimes against humanity."

The New York Times this past Friday spoke to multiple Venezuelan workers and economists, who warned it appears Maduro — a demonstrably corrupt and bad leader who has violently cracked down on dissidents — is digging in his heels and clinging harder to power in response to the United States' overt efforts to push him from office. Multiple people who spoke with the Times warned the latest round of American sanctions could actually starve everyday people even further.

"I’m not sure the U.S. has a Plan B if this doesn’t work in getting rid of Maduro,” Francisco Rodríguez, a Venezuelan economist at the brokerage firm Torino Capital, told the Times. “I’m afraid that if these sanctions are implemented in their current form, we’re looking at starvation.”

Of course, Rubio basically called the latest Times piece fake news:
But this isn't the only time international human-rights and aid groups have taken a swing at the Trump/Rubio coalition. Last week, the U.S. attempted to ship aid from Colombia to Venezuela using a defunct bridge that spans the border between the two nations. Maduro's administration responded by blocking the span with shipping containers and tractor-trailers. Maduro stated he would not accept aid if he thought it was also aimed at toppling his regime.

It's obviously horrid that the Venezuelans blocked aid moving into the country — the nation's people are hungry, and hyperinflation has made basic goods impossible for the poor to obtain. The Miami Herald reported today that many of Venezuela's impoverished children are waiting for medicine that is otherwise unavailable.

But the UN and Red Cross explicitly warned that, given the situation between the two countries, a gigantic shipment of American aid might increase tension. Reuters this past Friday reported the UN told American officials not to use "aid as a pawn" during the crisis.

"Humanitarian action needs to be independent of political, military, or other objectives,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric reportedly said last week. “When we see the present stand-off, it becomes even more clear that serious political negotiations between the parties are necessary to find a solution leading to lasting peace for the people of Venezuela.” Dujarric later added that what is "important is that humanitarian aid be depoliticized and that the needs of the people should lead in terms of when and how humanitarian aid is used."

Notably, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is one of the few outside aid groups operating in the country. (The Switzerland-based ICRC provides services at six hospitals in Venezuela.) The Red Cross also warned the U.S. last week that its plan carried "risks" and actually makes the Red Cross' job harder.

"It is obviously a very difficult conversation to have with the U.S.,” Alexandra Boivin, ICRC delegation head for the United States and Canada, told reporters last week. “We are there also to make clear the risks of the path being taken, the limits of our ability to operate in such an environment.”

Other media critics last week were blunter. Some have referred to the attempted aid delivery as a "PR stunt." Left-leaning media critic Adam Johnson last week pointed out that Elliott Abrams, the 1980s death-squad backer, convicted liar, and so-called U.S.-Venezuela envoy, used aid shipments in the '80s to fund government opposition groups and guerrilla fighters.

There's no evidence yet that the latest shipment included any aid for violent opposition groups. But the Maduro regime said last week it had intercepted an airplane that took off from Miami International Airport carrying assault rifles and ammunition. Though everyone involved on the Americans' side claims the Maduro regime is making the whole thing up, the Miami Herald reported Friday that at least one of the employees allegedly involved in shipping the weapons has prior ties to the CIA.

But Rubio has not dialed back his rhetoric. Instead, he's plowing forward. This past Saturday, he said Maduro had committed "crimes against humanity" for rejecting the Americans' aid shipment.

Rubio's critics worry his rhetoric is pushing Venezuela closer to the brink of violence or war instead of nudging the country toward a peaceful — and democratic — transition.

The European Union has convened a "contact group" that aims to push for new, credible elections in Venezuela "as soon as possible." But American officials appear unwilling to play ball. Just four days ago, Abrams told reporters that the time to negotiate peacefully with the Maduro regime "has long passed."
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Jerry Iannelli is a staff writer for Miami New Times. He graduated with honors from Temple University. He then earned a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University. He moved to South Florida in 2015.
Contact: Jerry Iannelli