The Trump administration may divert $40 million in aid from Central America to support Venezuela’s beleaguered opposition, according to an internal memo Reuters claimed to have obtained on Tuesday.
The alleged memorandum, dated July 11, revealed a U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) plan to divert $40 million initially intended for Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras to deal with their respective migration crises. The memo redirects the money to fund the “salaries, travel, communications equipment, technical assistance and training for the management of a government budget and other needs for the Venezuelan opposition.”
The Venezuelan “opposition” is actually the nation’s legitimate government, kept from administering the nation by socialist dictator Nicolás Maduro, who controls the military and has refused to vacate the presidential office despite his term ending in January. President Juan Guaidó, sworn in as an interim in January, is recognized by the United States and most other Western democracies as the country’s rightful leader. Since assuming office in January, he has failed in principal objective of ousting the regime from power and instigating a genuine transition to democracy.
The memo, according to Reuters, states that the funds are necessary for “a significant, exigent event in the U.S. national interest, specifically the rapidly evolving crisis in Venezuela,” which is currently experiencing the worst economic and humanitarian crisis in its history.
The U.S. has led efforts to try to remove Maduro from power by providing support to Guaidó, imposing a range of economic sanctions against the regime, and sending humanitarian aid packages for migrants fleeing the country. Maduro still retains the crucial backing of the military high-brass, many of whom were appointed on the grounds of their loyalty to the socialist cause.
The decision, if true, comes a month after the State Department announced that it would slash $185 million in foreign aid El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras until the three countries take “concrete actions to reduce the number of illegal migrants coming to the U.S. border.”
State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus confirmed on Tuesday that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will travel to Latin America this week “to further strengthen our partnerships with like-minded countries and to keep all of our citizens safe and prosperous.”
“From July 19th to the 21st, the Secretary will visit Buenos Aires, Argentina; Ecuador, Mexico City, San Salvador, where he will expand cooperation on security issues; reinforce U.S. commitment to human rights and democracy, particularly support for the people of Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela, and their struggle for freedom; and to enhance economic partnerships and to expand economic opportunities for our citizens,” she said at a press briefing.