One of the C-17s used to transport humanitarian aid from Miami, Fla., to Colombia is shown at Homestead ARB, Fla., on Feb. 16, 2019. US Southern Command photo.
Three USAF C-17s flew aid intended for Venezuela from Florida to Colombia on Saturday, in response to a request from the US-recognized leader of the country.
The C-17s, from JB Charleston, S.C, and JB McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., flew 200 tons of palletized aid, including food, infant formula, and hygiene kits from Homestead ARB, Fla., to Cucuta, Colombia, according to Southern Command. The military regularly flies humanitarian missions like this, and these C-17s were tasked because of their “responsiveness,” Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said Saturday.
“It’s really purely that simple,” Shanahan told reporters while traveling back from the Munich Security Conference in Germany. “It’s a demonstration of our commitment to address some of these humanitarian needs. … We can move those goods down there more cheaply, but this is about urgency and demonstrating our support.”
The aid is augmenting other supplies already positioned near the border, the State Department said in a Friday release.
“This humanitarian mission underscores the United States’ firm commitment and readiness to respond to the man-made political, economic, and humanitarian crisis in Venezuela,” the release said.
Guaido, the leader of the Venezuelan congress, has declared himself the interim leader of the country and, with international support from the US and European allies, is seeking to replace Nicolas Maduro.
Vice President Mike Pence, speaking Saturday at the Munich Security Conference, urged the European Union to recognize Guaido as the “only legitimate president” of the country.
At Guaido’s request, the US and Colombian government planned to position aid near the border so it can be delivered to “Venezuelan people who are in dire need,” acting USAID Spokesperson Tom Babington said in a Friday release.
“These critical relief supplies include ready-to-use supplemental food for moderately malnourished infants; medical supplies; hygiene kits; high-protein and high-energy nutritional supplements; and locally purchased food,” Babington said.
Also Friday, the Treasury Department’s announced sanctions against five of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s associates, including both the Venezuelan National Intelligence Service (or SEBIN)’s chief and first comissioner.