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Maduro: US Seeks to Destroy Venezuela’s Food Aid Program

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro Thursday accused the United States of seeking to destroy a food aid program

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Maduro, US, Venezuela's Food Aid Program
Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro speaks during his visit to a packing center of the CLAP (Local Committees of Supply and Production) program, a Venezuelan government handout of basic food supplies, in Caracas, Venezuela, April 17, 2019. VOA

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro Thursday accused the United States of seeking to destroy a food aid program that the government of the crisis-stricken OPEC nation says feeds 6 million families.

Washington is preparing sanctions and criminal charges against Venezuelan officials and others suspected of using the food program to launder money for the Maduro government, sources familiar with the matter said Tuesday.

The measures against the program, known in Venezuela by its Spanish acronym CLAP, are expected to be enacted within the next 90 days, according to the sources, who asked not to be identified.

“(The U.S.) is preparing sanctions to destroy the CLAP system,” Maduro said in televised broadcast, accompanied by the military high command.

Maduro, US, Venezuela's Food Aid Program
The contents of a CLAP box, a Venezuelan government handout of basic food supplies, is pictured at Viviana Colmenares’ house in the slum of Petare in Caracas, Venezuela, Feb. 23, 2018. VOA

“Do what you want to do, Venezuela will continue with the Local Supply and Production Committees,” he said, referencing the full name of the CLAP program.

The State Department did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

Subsidized food

The program sells at subsidized prices boxes of food that include products such as rice, pasta, oil and powdered milk.

Some of the products are imported from countries such as Turkey, Mexico, Colombia and Brazil.

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Maduro launched the plan in 2016 in response to chronic food shortages and spiraling prices, as Venezuela struggled under hyperinflation and a severe economic contraction. Critics call the program a form of social control that is used to pressure its recipients to support the ruling Socialist Party.

Crisis deepening

Venezuela’s political crisis has deepened since opposition leader Juan Guaido invoked the constitution to assume an interim presidency in January, arguing that socialist Maduro’s 2018 re-election was illegitimate.

The United States as well as most European and Latin American countries have recognized Guaido as Venezuela’s rightful leader.

But Maduro retains control of state functions and the support of the military’s top brass, as well the support of allies such as Russia, Cuba and China. He says the country’s economic problems are the result of an “economic war” led by his political adversaries with the help of Washington. (VOA)

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US: Infections from Three Sexually Transmitted Diseases Hit New Highs for Fifth Consecutive Year

The infection rate rose 3 percent from 2017

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US, Infections, Sexually
FILE - A billboard above a gas station, April 1, 2016, promotes testing for sexually transmitted diseases. VOA

U.S. infections from three sexually transmitted diseases have risen for the fifth consecutive year. US.

More than 1.7 million cases of chlamydia (kluh-MID’-ee-uh) were reported last year. The infection rate rose 3 percent from 2017.

It’s the most ever reported in a year, though the trend is mainly attributed to increased testing.

About 580,000 gonorrhea (gah-nuh-REE’-uh) cases were reported. That’s the highest number since 1991. The rate rose 5 percent. Scientists worry antibiotic resistance may be a factor.

US, Infections, Sexually
More than 1.7 million cases of chlamydia (kluh-MID’-ee-uh) were reported last year. Pixabay

And the syphilis rate rose 15 percent. About 35,000 cases of the most contagious forms of the disease were reported — also the most since 1991.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released the numbers Tuesday.

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The increases coincided with public health funding cuts and clinic closures. (VOA)