Two representatives of Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido have been accused of misappropriation of funds said to be intended for humanitarian aid, according to a report by VenezuelaAnalysis.com, citing Miami-based Panampost.
The report says that Rossana Barrera and Kevin Rojas, members of Guaido’s Popular Will party, were tasked by their leader to supervise humanitarian aid operations in the Colombian border town of Cucuta. The town’s hotels house Venezuelan servicemen who desert the Venezuelan Armed Forces which has remained loyal to President Nicolás Maduro.
Recently, military deserters made headlines after Cucuta began evicting them for unpaid bills worth up to $20,000, VenezuelaAnalysis noted. Barrera and Rojas are accused of engaging in an elaborate extortion scheme that solicited money from the Colombian government and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).
The two are also accused of inflating the number of soldiers in their care by a factor of two, acquiring tens of thousands of dollars and spending the money on private dining, shopping and hotels.
The two are also accused of attempting to organize a fundraising dinner for the deserters at an exclusive restaurant in Colombia’s capital of Bogota, by impersonating Guaido’s ‘ambassador’ to Colombia, Humberto Calderon Berti. The event was cancelled after Guaido’s diplomatic mission warned Bogota that the opposition leader and his associates had nothing to do with the event.
According to the report, Colombian authorities caught wind of Barrera’s and Rojas’s wrongdoings and alerted the Guaido headquarters, but reportedly received no response. Barrera later reportedly submitted an expense report to Guaido, but her $100,000 is said to still have fallen short.
Thanks to the duo’s actions, an estimated 60 percent of foodstuffs donated by Guaido-supporting countries has gone rotten, the report claims. The two reportedly shared their aid oversight responsibilities with Miguel Sabal, a businessman who runs a foundation used to hire anti-government activists.
Guaido reportedly reacted to the allegations by stating that he would not “tolerate corruption” and promising that his “envoys” will answer for the misuse of money. He also ordered his envoy to Bogota Calderon to lead an investigation into the situation.
However, it is unlikely these moves will help to bolster Guaido’s popularity. A June poll conducted by DatinCorp, referred to as “opposition aligned” by VenezuelaAnalysis, found that the opposition leader enjoys a 36 percent rating, down from 49 percent in February.
The elected President Nicolás Maduro, on the other hand, whom Guaido vowed to depose, has seen his popularity increase, from 34 percent in February to 41 percent in May, remaining stable at that figure, according to sources.
In January, Guaido proclaimed himself the ‘interim president’ of Venezuela and demanded that Maduro step down. Despite his efforts, however, including a "humanitarian aid" operation, his 30 April coup d’etat attempt failed.
Russia, China, Turkey and a number of other countries recognize Maduro as the country’s legitimate leader. The US and its allies recognize Guaido as Venezuela’s leader.