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US military aircraft to deliver aid for Venezuela

Members of the 320th Special Tactics Squadron unload ten pallets of humanitarian relief supplies here March 20. The supplies were delivered by the first C-17 Globemaster III aircraft to land at the airport. (Osakabe Yasuo/U.S. Air Force)

U.S. military aircraft are being used to transport humanitarian aid for Venezuela to a city in Colombia near the border of the two countries, a defense official confirmed Friday.

More than 200 tons of humanitarian aid, including food, medical supplies, and hygiene kits, from the State Department’s U.S. Agency for International Development will begin to arrive Saturday to a city in Colombia that is close to the Venezuelan border, according to a defense official who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The aircraft used could be C-17 Globemasters, used to move cargo and troops, the official said, but he did not know how many would be used to deliver the aid. The U.S. military will be assisting with sending the aid to Colombia over an unspecified period of time, he said.

The official said the military’s only role is to help drop off the aid and then leave. The only military personnel will be the air crews of the C-17s, which consists of two pilots and one loadmaster, according to an Air Force fact sheet. No troops are being sent there to hand out the supplies or move them across the border.

“We are supporting our federal partners,” he said.

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USAID has already staged supplies such as food and hygiene kits in Cúcuta, Colombia, according to a Feb. 8 agency news release. The defense official would not say to which city the aid will be delivered, however The Associated Press reported it is Cúcuta.

Venezuela is experiencing economic turmoil and a mass migration in response to dictator Nicolas Maduro’s government, according to the State Department. In January, the United States recognized opposition leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s interim president over Maduro, calling his win in last year’s elections illegitimate.

In response to a request by Guaido for international aid, the United States delivered humanitarian aid to Colombia last week, Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Jamie Davis said Friday in a statement.

The United States “will continue to coordinate with President Guaido and his team of experts, governments in the region, and our humanitarian partners to mobilize aid for the Venezuelan people,” he said.

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© 2019 the Stars and Stripes

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.