A planeload of truth lands in Venezuela

A dictator finally admits his regime has a humanitarian crisis and lets in foreign aid from the Red Cross. His reversal will help expose other lies and bring back democracy.

Reuters
Workers of the Venezuelan Red Cross distribute humanitarian aid in Caracas April 16.

In a display of truth triumphing over a lie, an airplane from the Red Cross flew 24 tons of emergency aid to Venezuela on Tuesday. Its arrival in Caracas marked an end to years of denial by President Nicolás Maduro that his country is in a humanitarian crisis and that it doesn’t need such foreign aid. Just last February the embattled leader said reports of a health and food crisis were simply a “show” sponsored by the United States. “We aren’t beggars,” Mr. Maduro said.

Such lies about Venezuela’s crisis were obvious to the rest of the world as well as Venezuelans, millions of whom are malnourished or have fled the country. Yet until now, Mr. Maduro has been reluctant to admit his socialist ideology has failed in a country once flush with oil wealth. He also did not want neutral groups like the Red Cross delivering aid directly to the people. He controls the poor by doling out basic necessities to ensure their loyalty.

His about-face could be explained by the expectation that the economy will shrink a further 25% this year, a result of mismanagement that has led to hyperinflation and massive blackouts. And the dire circumstances could mean more members of the military might defect to the opposition led by Juan Guaidó, who was declared president two months ago by the National Assembly. Mr. Guaidó, whose legitimacy is recognized by most Western governments, has campaigned to bring aid into Venezuela.

In recent weeks, the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross were able to persuade Maduro that aid groups must be allowed to operate independently in delivering supplies. The U.N. estimates a quarter of the population needs urgent aid while other observers say the health system has “utterly collapsed.”

This first shipment from the Red Cross will be a test of the regime’s willingness to let aid be provided based on the humanitarian principle of political neutrality. Yet just as important as the aid is that Venezuelans now have seen their leader exposed in a lie.

The power of truth-telling against dictatorships is well recorded in history. The late Soviet dissident Alexander Solzhenitsyn, author of books that depicted unpleasant truths about communist rule, asked people to never knowingly support official lies. “One word of truth outweighs the whole world,” he said, while adding that truth is based on “an unchanging Higher Power above us.”

The truth about Venezuela’s needs, combined with the humanitarian impulse of the international community, has finally caught up with the Maduro regime. It arrived Tuesday on an airport tarmac.

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