The effects of Hurricane Harvey, which was the largest storm to make landfall in the U.S. in over a decade, will be felt for some time across the Gulf Coast. The Trump Administration has borne the brunt of unsurprising criticism for the president’s longstanding proposals to cut funding for federal disaster relief programs. However, the president has stood by his proposed cuts, insisting — beyond reason — that they will not affect Harvey relief efforts.
Still, the question remains — how far is the Trump Administration willing to go in Harvey relief efforts?
In connection with that question, the back and forth between the Trump team and Venezuelan leadership is continuing this week, with the Venezuelan government having now revealed an offer of $5 million in assistance to the victims of Hurricane Harvey.
The money is intended to be delivered to local mayors from a cut of the profits from the Venezuelan state oil company, Citgo. There is a Citgo refinery in Corpus Christi, Texas, which is near the area affected by the hurricane.
The Trump Administration declined a request for comment from The Washington Post on the offer.
Venezuela’s offer comes just a short time after Mexico made a somewhat similar offer both to the federal government and the Texas state government of help in recovering from Harvey. Although the State Department has stated that they will get back to Mexico — a country which the president obviously isn’t very fond of — Texas Governor Greg Abbott has said that he has accepted Mexico’s offer of assistance.
With Venezuela, it’s different. Trump has been able to be much more belligerent in his attitude towards the Venezuelan nation than he has been with Mexico — four rounds of sanctions have been imposed on various components of the Venezuelan government since Trump took office.
How the Trump Administration responds to Venezuela’s offer remains to be seen.
There is an easy explanation to point to for why, in the face of what The Washington Post accurately described as “bad blood” between the U.S. and Venezuela, the South American country has made such an offer.
A component of the newest U.S. sanctions against Venezuela forbids Citgo profits from being sent to Venezuela from the U.S. — thus, the money is basically stuck in the United States. Venezuelan leadership has long been keen on seizing opportunities to make positive PR inroads with segments of the American population, so their offer of aid to Harvey victims makes sense.
Following Hurricane Katrina, the Venezuelan government offered assistance, but President George W. Bush turned it down, saying it would be “counterproductive.” Even still, Venezuelan leaders have been able to pull off PR stunts apart from that, through, for example, offering subsidized heating oil to poor U.S. families. (That program fizzled out following the death of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez.)
Besides that program, the now deceased President Chavez also poured significant sums of money into the South Bronx, in yet another attempt by the Venezuelans to gain positive inroads with America’s poor.
Thus, there are the personal machinations of two totalitarian regimes at work here — the Venezuelans and the Trump Administration.
Featured Image via Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.