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Keeping up Momentum in Venezuela Hinges on Getting Humanitarian Aid in on Saturday

February 22, 2019

Saturday is Venezuela’s next watershed moment.

Juan Guaidó says international humanitarian aid will get into the country by land, air or sea. The Trump administration is stockpiling aid on the Colombian border and lawmakers like U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio are billing February 23 as the day when the Venezuelan military, which is currently under Nicolás Maduro’s control, must decide whether or not to allow aid to flow into the hands of needy Venezuelans. They say any violence on Saturday will disqualify Venezuelan military leaders from relief from U.S. sanctions.

But none of Venezuela’s top military leaders have publicly backed Guaidó’s interim government. Russia and China continue to recognize Maduro. India is buying more Venezuelan oil. Both supporters and critics of the decision to recognize Guaidó are worried about losing momentum for elections if Saturday comes and goes without a change in the status quo, as the full effect of U.S. oil sanctions on Maduro’s inner circle will take months, not weeks.

“Based on the rollout of the sanctions and the supply already loaded on ships and existing contracts, you’re looking at a June-July timeframe,” said Eric Farnsworth, a former State Department official who is now a vice president of the Council of the Americas in Washington, D.C. “I think stalemate is a good word. Certainly, Saturday is going to be another inflection point.”...