UN tells Venezuela's Guaido that government must agree to aid

Opposition leader and self-proclaimed "acting president" Juan Guaido talks to the press as he holds his daughter Miranda, next to his wife Fabiana Rosales outside his home in Santa Fe, Caracas on January 31, 2019 (AFP Photo/Federico Parra )

United Nations (United States) (AFP) - The United Nations has told Venezuela's Juan Guaido that it is willing to step up humanitarian aid to his country but requires consent from the government led by Nicolas Maduro, a spokesman said Thursday.

Guaido, Venezuela's self-proclaimed acting president, had sent a letter to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Saturday, requesting humanitarian aid for "millions" deprived of health care and basic food.

"The United Nations is ready to increase its activities in Venezuela in the area of humanitarian assistance and development," Guterres wrote in response, according to UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric.

"For this, it needs the consent and the cooperation of the government," he added.

Guaido has won backing from the United States and a dozen Latin American countries to take over the leadership, but Russia and China continue to support Maduro.

Guterres said he did not have the authority to recognize governments but added that he "respects the decisions taken by the General Assembly and the Security Council," which are divided on who leads Venezuela.

The United Nations is planning to hold talks in the coming days with Mexico and Uruguay, which have announced plans to hold a conference in Montevideo on February 7 on the political crisis in Venezuela.

Mexico and Uruguay have not recognized Guaido, the head of the National Assembly, as the acting president.

"We are aware of the initiative taken by Mexico and Uruguay," said Dujarric. "Obviously the international community can play a key role in facilitating inclusive agreements."

Dujarric said the UN was "awaiting details" on the planned conference and that meetings would be held at UN headquarters to discuss the proposal.

Venezuela has suffered an economic meltdown marked by hyperinflation and shortages of basic necessities that the opposition blames on the Maduro government.

Millions have been left in poverty, while 2.3 million more have fled the country, unleashing a migration crisis in South America.