Venezuela to donate US$5 million to victims of Hurricane Harvey

Venezuela has offered $5 million to victims of Hurricane Harvey in the United States despite a major economic crisis in the country that has caused food and medicine shortages.

“Let’s not allow war or threats to be imposed, but instead let’s impose solidarity. We will always be with the people of the United States and the peoples of the world in difficult times,” Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza said.

He explained that President Nicolas Maduro has approved a special program to help the victims in the states of Louisiana and Texas.

Arreaza indicated that a percentage of the sales of gas from Citgo, a subsidiary of the Venezuelan state oil company, PDVSA, based in Houston, will be destined for the construction of houses for the people affected and Citgo will cooperate with local authorities in Houston to distribute the funds.

Venezuela’s government has in the past given subsidized heating oil to poor Americans and sent aid to victims of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Venezuela’s already strained relations with the United States took a nosedive this year with the U.S. imposing various sanctions against President Nicolas Maduro’s cash-strapped government.

In an announcement Friday, U.S. President Donald Trump signed a decree imposing new economic sanctions on Venezuela. The latest U.S. sanctions ban trades of Venezuelan debt and prevent PDVSA from selling new bonds to U.S. citizens or financial groups. Trades of existing bonds commissioned by Caracas will also be barred.

Venezuela is suffering a fourth year of brutal recession, and has been rocked by political turmoil and mass street protests against Maduro.

Harvey, now downgraded to a tropical storm, bore down on eastern Texas and Louisiana on Wednesday, bringing the kind of catastrophic downpours that paralyzed the oil hub of Houston with record rainfall and drove tens of thousands of people from their homes.