CARACAS, Venezuela, Friday September 1, 2017 – Venezuela’s cash crunch and the bad blood between that South American country and the United States has not stopped it from offering $5 million in aid to hurricane victims in Houston, Texas.
Less than a month after the US announced its latest round of sanctions against senior officials, and President Donald Trump went as far as threatening military action, Venezuela’s Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza announced the aid offer.
The money, which would go towards building homes and shelters in Houston, wouldn’t come directly from Venezuela, however. Arreaza explained that it would come through Citgo Petroleum, the Venezuela government-run oil company with a refinery in Corpus Christi, Texas. Under US sanctions, Citgo cannot send money back to Caracas in any case, so the Nicolás Maduro administration won’t be losing out on funds it had access to.
“We express our solidarity with the Americans affected by the hurricane,” Arreaza was quoted by Reuters as saying. “When an American fills his tank at a Citgo gas station, he’ll be contributing to the rebuilding of the affected communities.”
However, it is unclear whether the US government will take up the offer.
Harvey caused catastrophic flooding in southeastern Texas, damaging or destroyed tens of thousands of homes. Up to this morning the death toll had risen to at least 40, with officials fearful that with the floodwaters finally receding, that number will rise dramatically.
Harvey made landfall in Texas as a Category 4 hurricane on August 25, and over a four-day period, many areas received more than 40 inches of rain as the system meandered over eastern Texas and adjacent waters.
This is not the first time that Venezuela has offered aid to hurricane victims in the US. In 2005, Citgo offered US$1 million in disaster relief for victims of Hurricane Katrina, as well as food, water, fuel and other assistance, but the then George W Bush administration rejected it.
In that same year, former President Hugo Chavez established a programme to supply subsidized heating oil to lower-income Americans via Citgo. That initiative served more than 1.7 million people across the country.