U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., now a key leader in the U.S. House with Democrats in control of the chamber, is pushing the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) for answers on how it is handling humanitarian aid in Venezuela.
Hastings, who was named senior whip by U.S. House Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-SC, last week, reached out to USAID Administrator Mark Green on the matter.
“As you know, the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela grows more fraught by the hour. Indeed, even before the most recent political and humanitarian turmoil of this year, Venezuelans were already facing stark shortages of food and medicine. A lack of access to social services has only exacerbated the situation,” Hastings wrote Green on Thursday.
“There is no doubt that the Venezuelan people deserve new leadership and aid in addressing the ongoing humanitarian crisis now occurring in the country, as well as assistance once they are able to start the work of rebuilding their country into the heralded nation it once was,” Hastings added. “To that end, I acknowledge your recent efforts, along with those of the Department of Defense, to ensure that the aid the United States is providing to the Venezuelan people is staged in the most strategically sound way so as to be ready for its disbursement to the Venezuelan people.
“The critical supplies now at the Columbia-Venezuela border include supplemental food to assist malnourished infants, medical supplies, high protein supplements, and hygiene kits. These supplies sit idle as we quickly approach President Trump’s February 23, 2019 deadline for Venezuela’s illegitimate president, Nicolas Maduro, to allow these supplies to cross into Venezuela so that they may be distributed to the Venezuelan people who are so desperately in need of their palliative effects,” Hastings wrote.
“Finally, Mr. Maduro, and his illegitimate Vice President, Delcy Rodriguez, have, and continue to, engage in a grotesque disinformation campaign erroneously claiming that the aid the United States is providing is cover for a U.S. military operation and that the supplies are contaminated, poisoned, and carcinogenic,” Hastings continued.
“Given the above, I respectfully ask for answers to the following questions,” Hastings wrote.
“Does USAID have a contingency plan(s) for distributing the aid at the Columbia-Venezuela border should the February 23, 2019 pass? What steps are currently being taken to ensure that U.S. aid now waiting at the Columbia-Venezuela border is protected from bad actors? What ability, if any, does the USAID currently have to monitor humanitarian developments inside Venezuela should Mr. Maduro refuse to allow the United States’ critical aid to reach the Venezuelan people? What steps is USAID taking to counter the Maduro regime’s disinformation campaign concerning the quality of U.S. aid?
“I thank you for your attention to these questions and look forward to your prompt reply,” Hastings concluded.
First elected to Congress in 1992, Hastings is one of the cochairmen of the Florida delegation. He is the vice chairman of the U.S. House Rules Committee and the chairman of the U.S. Helsinki Commission.
Kevin Derby can be reached at Kevin.Derby@floridadaily.com.