OAS Hosts Conference on Venezuela

David Smolansky speaks at an opposition rally in Venezuela in 2014. (Wikimedia Commons)

David Smolansky speaks at an opposition rally in Venezuela in 2014. (Wikimedia Commons)

The Organization of American States (OAS) in Washington, D.C. hosted Venezuela’s Interim President Juan Guaidó’s Ambassador to the United States, Carlos Vecchio, for the Conference on Emergency Humanitarian Assistance for the Venezuelan People on February 14. Representatives from over 60 countries were invited to the conference, including those who had shown support for Guaidó’s transitional presidency, as well as the need for humanitarian aid for the Venezuelan population.

On February 6, a shipment of humanitarian aid was sent by USAID to Cúcuta, a Colombian city on the Venezuelan-Colombian border that is a destination for many Venezuelan migrants and refugees. The humanitarian aid, which included emergency food and health supplies, was prohibited from entering Venezuela by President Nicolás Maduro, who claimed the aid shipment was the beginning of military intervention led by the United States. Maduro barricaded the entrance to Venezuela, blocking the resources from the Venezuelan volunteers prepared to collect and distribute the aid.

In response to this obstruction of humanitarian aid for the Venezuelan people, who suffer a lack proper nourishment, medicines, and working hospital facilities, Guaidó announced a Conference on Emergency Humanitarian Assistance for the Venezuelan People to be held on February 14. Guaidó called this conference to garner more support from the international community for the Venezuelan population.

Speakers at the Conference included, among others, Ambassador Vecchio; Gustavo Tarre, the newly appointed Venezuelan Ambassador to the OAS; David Smolansky, an exiled Venezuelan mayor and the Coordinator of the OAS Working Group to Address the Venezuelan Refugee and Migrant Crisis; and Lester Toledo, the International Coordinator of the Humanitarian Aid Office of the Venezuelan Interim Government. Everyone who spoke at the Conference discussed the importance of humanitarian aid for the Venezuelan population.

Mr. Smolansky, one of the chief coordinators of the conference, proudly announced that over $100 million has been donated to humanitarian aid for the Venezuelan people. Representatives of several of the governments donating to this cause were present and spoke at the Conference, including representatives from the United States, Canada, Germany, Taiwan, and the Netherlands.

Luis Almagro, the Secretary General of the OAS, also spoke at the conference. His message was one that pointed directly at the cause of the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela: the dictatorship of Nicolás Maduro. “[Maduro’s exit] is the main humanitarian aid we can give to Venezuela,” he said,

Interim President Guaidó announced that February 23 will be the day that humanitarian aid will reach Venezuelans through various entrance points. On this day, there will be marches and protests to assist in the delivery of humanitarian aid into the country. These volunteers will be from the interim government’s Volunteers for Venezuela movement, which is a group of thousands of Venezuelans around the world that will assist in the distribution of this aid in a peaceful manner.

Mr. Smolansky added a message of hope for Venezuelans around the world: “The transition in Venezuela has already started and there is no going back.”