New Zealand gives $500K in humanitarian aid to Venezuela crisis

Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters has announced $500,000 in humanitarian assistance to support Venezuelan citizens fleeing the country amid political unrest.

The money will go towards the UN Refugee Agency to provide shelter and access to basic services for refugees and migrants. 

"New Zealand is concerned for the people of Venezuela and the deteriorating situation they face. More than three million Venezuelans have fled to neighbouring countries, putting a major strain on the region," Mr Peters says.

This money is in addition to the $145,000 New Zealand provided to support healthcare facilities, equipment and medical care for Venezuelans in Colombia and Brazil in 2018.

Venezuela is in the midst of a dire humanitarian crisis under President Nicolás Maduro's government. Any aid provided is meant to relieve a severe shortage of basic goods that has fuelled malnutrition and disease.

"New Zealand has registered our objection to the human rights abuses being perpetrated by the Maduro administration," Mr Peters says. 

"The people of Venezuela are asking for change. We support the efforts of all Venezuelans who are seeking to hold free and fair elections and call on Nicolás Maduro to respect the will of the people."

United States military planes are continuing to provide aid to the Colombia-Venezuelan border despite Venezuelan military blocking the United States from moving any aid into Venezuela. President Maduro says the move is a pretext for intervention in the crisis-stricken country. 

In January, opposition leader Juan Guaidó declared himself Venezuela's interim president in an intense acceleration of efforts to force out Mr Maduro, who has overseen the country's fall into economic crisis.

Mr Guaidó quickly gained the support of the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and even Australia. Many American officials have been outspoken about the fact they want Mr Maduro out of power and pushing aid into the country makes it one step closer to achieving that outcome. 

Some major aid organisations have refused to participate in such activity, objecting to the use of humanitarian aid for political means. 

Mr Maduro is backed by Russia, China, Cuba, Bolivia and Turkey, and he retains the support of Venezuela's military. 

Venezuela is oil-rich, but hyperinflation has rendered the country's currency, the bolivar, practically worthless.