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Venezuela receives vows of financial aid

by REGINA GARCIA CANO The Associated Press | March 18, 2023 at 4:53 a.m.
Cinderblock homes cover a poor neighborhood, known as a "barrio," in Caracas, Venezuela, Wednesday, March 1, 2023. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

CARACAS, Venezuela -- Governments and financial institutions pledged millions of dollars Friday for humanitarian and development projects to address the urgent needs of Venezuelans at home and abroad affected by a crisis that diplomats acknowledged requires renewed attention.

The funding promises came during a conference in Brussels designed to raise awareness of Venezuela's protracted economic, social and political crisis, which has pushed millions into poverty and driven more than 7 million others to migrate, mostly within Latin America.

"We need to take heed to make sure that the world is aware of this massive challenge facing the Americas," said Harjit S. Sajjan, Canada's minister of international development.

Once one of the most prosperous countries in Latin America, Venezuela plunged into a crisis in the last decade as a result of mismanagement by its socialist-led government and a decline in oil prices. Today, three-quarters of Venezuela's residents live on less than $1.90 a day -- the international benchmark of extreme poverty.

Most homes do not have reliable running water, and many experience regular power outages. The health care system crumbled long before the pandemic began.

The minimum wage paid in Venezuelan bolivars is the equivalent of $5 a month, down from $30 in April 2022. The cost of a basic basket of goods for a family of four was estimated at $372 in December.

Funding pledges by the end of the conference amounted to $855 million.

The U.S. government offered more than $171 million, part of which will go for food, water and sanitation efforts within the crisis-wracked country. That money will also cover emergency shelter, health care and other services for Venezuelans who have migrated to other South American nations.

"We must continue to provide critical assistance to Venezuelan refugees, migrants, their host communities and those still in Venezuela," Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said via livestream from New York. "The work we are doing together will save lives and will change lives."

Part of the funding from the U.S. will go to U.N. agencies and nongovernmental groups already operating in Venezuela.

Like other diplomats, Thomas-Greenfield urged conference attendees to work together to "advance a peaceful political solution in Venezuela."

A U.N. report published in September estimated that it would cost $795 million to help about 5.2 million people in Venezuela through health, education, water and sanitation, food and other projects, while a coalition of organizations assisting Venezuelans outside their home country in November estimated the needs of migrants at $1.7 billion.

Venezuelan diplomats did not participate in the conference organized by the European Union and Canada.

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