Against the weaponization of food aid in Venezuela

An open letter regarding the situation in Venezuela and the use of food aid as a political weapon against the people

To international public opinion:

As members of the international community concerned about the right to food and food sovereignty, including advocates, practitioners and scholars, we denounce the use of food aid as a political weapon against the Venezuelan people and government at present while standing in solidarity with efforts on the ground in Venezuela focused on feeding communities and supporting communities’ capacity to feed themselves.

At the time of writing, shipments of food provided by USAID are sitting across the Venezuelan border in Colombia, as the US government threatens to force these shipments into the country without authorization of the Venezuelan government, amidst mounting threats of military intervention. Such actions have been     criticized by a number of internationally recognized development and aid organizations, including the International Red Cross and the United Nations, both of which are already working in partnership with the Venezuelan government and both of which have refused to collaborate with USAID on this attempted aid delivery due to its overtly political nature.

Venezuela has well-established domestic food distribution networks, as recognized by the United Nations     Food and Agriculture Organization as recently as 2015. Any aid coming into the country should serve to complement - and in no way undermine - already existing national food distribution efforts. That this most basic norm of humanitarian aid is being compromised concerns us not only for the impacts upon the Venezuelan population, but also for the dangerous precedent this could set globally.

While there are multiple factors at play in the challenges facing Venezuela at present, the issue of aid cannot be decoupled from the sanctions imposed upon Venezuela by the US government and its allies. According to US National Security Adviser John Bolton, the latest round of sanctions imposed by the Trump administration represent an     estimated loss of 11 billion dollars worth of revenue for the Venezuelan government via its state-owned oil company PDVSA over 2019, while blocking access to an additional 7 billion dollars worth of assets. These illegal sanctions, part of a broader financial blockade,     directly hamper imports of food, medicines and other necessities into Venezuela, with disastrous effects upon the population, particularly those most vulnerable. Meanwhile, the aid in question pledged by USAID is in the amount of      20 million dollars. This amount of aid, even if it were to be increased, pales in comparison to the estimated 30 million dollars daily lost in oil revenue due to the sanctions. The sanctions and financial blockade are also making it increasingly difficult for grassroots movements throughout the country to carry out critical food sovereignty efforts, including distributions of food and agricultural supplies such as seeds, although these efforts continue as possible under adverse circumstances. For instance, this past February 23, which had been the designated deadline for the entry of the USAID aid into Venezuela, the Pueblo a Pueblo grassroots food sovereignty effort delivered 30 metric tonnes of fresh produce from small-scale farmers of the Venezuelan countryside to families in need in Caracas.

While we the undersigned may have differing personal opinions regarding the internal politics of Venezuela and how Venezuelans might best resolve their differences, we are united in our concern over the weaponization of food aid and threats to the national sovereignty of Venezuela, as well as united in our solidarity with movements on the ground who continue to work toward food sovereignty against increasingly difficult odds. We call upon the US government and its allies to lift the deadly sanctions as the most immediate and necessary first step toward addressing humanitarian concerns and to stop using food aid as a tool of political maneuvering. We also call to international and regional organizations such as the Organization of American States to monitor the support of their member states in order to ensure their measures are in line with the American Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man.

Signatories:

1.    ActionAid USA
2.    Actuar
3.    Agroecology Research-Action Collective
4.    Biowatch South Africa
5.    Bolivarian Circle New York City
6.    Campaña Guatemala Sin Hambre
7.    Centro de Documentación en Derechos Humanos
8.    Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism
9.    Colectivo de Derechos Humanos
10.    Centro Internazionale Crocevia
11.    International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN)
12.    La Fundación de Estudios para la Aplicación del Derecho (FESPAD)
13.    FIAN Austria
14.    FIAN Brasil
15.    FIAN Colombia
16.    FIAN Honduras
17.    FIAN International
18.    FIAN Mexico
19.    FIAN Portugal
20.    FIAN Uganda
21.    Geneva Infant Feeding Association (GIFA)
22.    Grassroots Global Justice Alliance
23.    Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP)
24.    International Committee for Peace, Justice and Dignity
25.    Justicia Alimentaria
26.    Massachusetts Peace Action
27.    National Fisheries Solidarity Movement of Sri Lanka
28.    Nicaragua Center for Community Action (NICCA)
29.    People’s Health Movement
30.    Popular Resistance
31.    Portland Central America Solidarity Committee (PCASC)
32.    POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (Anti-POSCO Movement-PPSS)
33.    African Network on the Right to Food (RAPDA)
34.    Right to Food Network Malawi
35.    Task Force on the Americas
36.    The MOVE Organization
37.    Terra Nuova
38.    The international Action Center
39.    THEATER OF THE OPPRESSED LABORATORY (TOPLAB)
40.    Unidad de la Fuerza Indígena y Campesina (UFiC)
41.    United Steelworkers Local 8751, the Boston school bus drivers' union
42.    World Fisher Forum (WFF)
43.    World Forum of Fisher Peoples (WFFP)
44.    WhyHunger
45.    Women’s UN Report Network (WUNRN)
46.    The Oakland Institute