Washington on Tuesday pledged an additional $98 million in aid to Venezuela, saying the funds will be used to support civil society, human rights organizations and independent media.
The U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID, signed what it called a "historic bilateral agreement" with representatives of Venezuela's Juan Guaido administration.
Guaido, the head of Venezuela's congress, is recognized by the United States and more than 50 other nations as the country's legitimate interim president. But Nicolas Maduro still holds many of the levers of power in the country.
That's why Venezuela's Ambassador to the United States Carlos Vecchio said this fresh USAID funding would be distributed through international organizations and foundations, "because the dictatorship has destroyed and kidnapped the institutions in charge of the nation's treasury and comptroller."
"Our commitment is to guarantee the transparency on the use of public resources and, through legitimate institutions such as the National Assembly, we have already advanced in the process to appoint a Special Comptroller to ensure that transparency, something that Maduro's corrupt and criminal regime lacks," Vecchio said in a statement.
Tuesday's funding is in addition to the $470 million in humanitarian aid the United States has already committed to Venezuela.
USAID said the signing of the bilateral agreement "represents a key milestone between the two countries; it is the first step in formalizing USAID development support that will help the legitimate government of Venezuela lead the country forward."
In a video message, Guaido said the money would allow his administration "to generate a quantum leap in our strengths and capacities to fight for the freedom of Venezuela, and therefore for the freedom and security of our continent."
Guaido has been trying to unseat Maduro since January, and while he still has popular support and the backing of key players in the international community, his path to power remains far from clear. Maduro accuses Guaido of being a U.S. puppet and claims he has the right to lead the country through 2025.
In the meantime, more than 4 million people have left Venezuela in recent years amid the polarization and economic collapse.
In a statement, the U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary for Cuba and Venezuela in the State Department's Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, Carrie Filipetti, said "this is the first bilateral agreement with Venezuela in 65 years, the United States is here not only during the transition to democracy but also after, for the reconstruction of Venezuela."
Maduro and his predecessor, Hugo Chavez, have viewed USAID with suspicion. In 2012 the eight-nation ALBA bloc of left-leaning countries, led by Venezuela, voted to "immediately expel" USAID, accusing it of "destabilizing our legitimate governments."
Guaido said the agreement made Venezuela and the U.S. "allies for the permanent and definitive eradication of the dictatorships in our continent, as well as the narco-terrorist regimes that threaten the security of our people."
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