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Brazilian soldiers organize sacks of powdered milk that are part of the humanitarian aid for Venezuela, at Ala 7 air base in Boa Vista, Brazil, on Feb. 22, 2019. Photo: Nelson Almeida/AFP via Getty Images

The Maduro regime is using every tactic at its disposal to block humanitarian aid from coming into the country, effectively shutting its land and maritime borders.

Why it matters: Venezuelans desperately need food and medicine. A December 2018 report noted that from 2016 to 2017, 64% of Venezuelans reported losing nearly 25 pounds. Over 9 in 10 Venezuelans, and even 6 in 10 who identify as pro-Maduro, say the food supply is bad or very bad.

Where it stands: Aid convoys are lined up at the Colombian and Brazilian borders with humanitarian assistance requested by the interim government of Juan Guaidó. Thousands of Venezuelan volunteers who have traveled to the border are ready to deliver tens of millions of dollars’ worth of food and medicine provided by the U.S. and others. Interim President Guaidó and National Assembly members and volunteers have maneuvered around roadblocks on their way to the border.

Between the lines: The Maduro regime has historically refused to recognize that there’s a humanitarian crisis for fear of looking weak and losing one of its primary mechanisms of social control. Aid also means international community involvement, which Maduro rejects, with the exception of Russia’s.

  • One of the first mandates of the Guaidó government is to help alleviate suffering. Maduro is attempting to stop the interim leader from delivering on this key promise.

Yes, but: The UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross have declined to collaborate with the international aid efforts, citing concerns about the use of humanitarian intervention as a means to a political end.

  • Critics also note that the U.S.’ $20 million aid package pales in comparison to the estimated $11 billion in revenue that U.S. sanctions will cost Venezuela in 2019, but there's reason to believe that much of that money would have redounded only to Maduro.

What to watch: The presidents of Colombia, Chile and Paraguay, along with delegations from the U.S. and other countries, are currently in the Colombian border town of Cucutá, with the goal of sending a message of international support for the entry of humanitarian supplies. Some aid is bound to come in, especially along the porous border with Colombia, which could precipitate either a domino effect or further backlash.

Jason Marczak is director of the Atlantic Council’s Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center.

Go deeper

Updated 54 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Congressional leaders clinch support for crucial defense bill, debt limit votes

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer passes waiting reporters on Tuesday. Photo: Eric Lee/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Congress has found a shortcut to pass its annual defense funding bill and raise the debt limit.

Driving the news: The House voted Tuesday night on two major bills — one creating a one-time, fast-track process for the Senate to raise the debt ceiling with just 51 votes, and another passing its annual defense bill.

House passes annual defense bill

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The House voted to pass the annual defense bill 363-70 on Tuesday night, authorizing nearly $770 billion in funding for defenses and national security programs.

Why it matters: The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) still has to clear the Senate, but the House passage greatly increases the chances that the must-pass defense bill will move through both chambers of Congress before the end of the year.

Women politicians are under siege

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photos: Kevin Dietsch, Stefani Reynolds, and Alex Wong/Getty Images

Women in Congress feel besieged and singled-out amid surging threats against lawmakers at all levels, with some frustrated more hasn't been done to halt the trend.

Why it matters: As record numbers of American women are being elected to public office, their growing political power is being met with death and rape threats, sexist and racist abuse and online disinformation. Collectively, it's discouraged women from running for office.