PARIS (Reuters) – Venezuela’s opposition-led congress leaders on Monday met with French President Emmanuel Macron, pressing for humanitarian aid to get to their country, in the first leg of a tour of European capitals in search of support against President Nicolas Maduro.
Maduro’s government has been criticized by the United Nations, Washington and other governments for failing to allow the entry of foreign humanitarian aid to ease a severe economic crisis, for overriding Venezuela’s opposition-led Congress and jailing hundreds of opponents.
“I stressed the urgency of opening up the door to humanitarian aid in Venezuela,” Congress President Julio Borges said, adding that Macron had said he was eager to help and that sending aid was an option.
“We want the government of Maduro to open the door to this humanitarian help,” Borges said.
The opposition won control of congress in 2015. But Maduro’s loyalist Supreme Court has tossed out every law it has passed as the oil-rich country slips deeper into a recession exacerbated by triple-digit inflation and acute shortages of food and medicines.
Maduro has said he is facing an “armed insurrection” designed to end socialism in Latin America and let a U.S.-backed business elite get its hands on the OPEC nation’s massive crude reserves.
Macron last week said that Maduro’s administration was “a dictatorship trying to survive at the cost of unprecedented humanitarian distress.”
Macron, who did not speak to reporters after the meeting, last week also criticized the government after human rights activist Lilian Tintori, the wife of Venezuela’s best-known detained political leader was barred from flying out of the country to go to Paris, Madrid, Berlin and London.
“Although they did not let me leave the country, they cannot silence the voice of 30 million Venezuelans,” Tintori said on her Twitter account, adding that Congress Vice President Freddy Guevara had given Macron a letter from her.
The situation in Venezuela has a particular resonance in France, where the far-left France Unbowed party, currently Macron’s most vocal opponent, backs Maduro.
Maduro is expected to address the opening day of a three-week U.N. Human Rights Council session on Sept. 11.
Reporting by Ingrid Melander, Jean-Baptiste Vey and Marine Pennetier; editing by Ralph Boultoh