Trump Prepares Economic Relief Package for Venezuela in Case Maduro Government Falls

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration is preparing an economic relief package for Venezuela that would put United States dollars directly into the hands of Venezuelans in the event that the government of President Nicolás Maduro falls.

Larry Kudlow, the director of the White House’s National Economic Council, disclosed the outlines of the plan on Wednesday as he called on Mr. Maduro to step aside and allow Juan Guaidó, the opposition leader who the United States recognizes as Venezuela’s interim president, to take office.

Plans for a comprehensive aid package for Venezuela come as President Trump is cutting aid to other countries, including Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, out of frustration over the way those nations have handled their migration policies. Mr. Trump has also threatened to cut funding to Puerto Rico, a United States territory, over its handling of federal hurricane relief funds.

“We have a lot of plans to revitalize the Venezuelan economy and to move very rapidly,” Mr. Kudlow said at an event sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor. “It would be a rescue plan. It would be a restructuring plan.”

Venezuela has been crippled for years by hyperinflation and a failing economy that has led millions to flee for Colombia and other countries. The nation has been further disrupted since January, when opposition political leaders refused to acknowledge as legitimate the re-election of Mr. Maduro. The United States has thrown its support behind Mr. Guaidó, who declared himself interim president in January.

The administration is coordinating with regional banks in South America and the International Monetary Fund on a plan to stabilize Venezuela’s teetering economy, Mr. Kudlow said. The Treasury Department, the National Economic Council and the National Security Council, he said, intend to utilize technology such as smartphones and apps to get American dollars to the Venezuelan people.

“There’s many clever ways to get cash in there,” Mr. Kudlow said. “And the cash will not be bolívars, it will be dollars.”

The White House did not offer a timetable for the economic package or details about its scale. The administration has imposed economic sanctions on Venezuela in recent months as part of a pressure campaign to topple the Maduro government, which has been receiving support from Moscow.

In March, Mr. Trump warned that Russia must “get out” of Venezuela after two Russian airplanes that were transporting military personnel arrived in Caracas, the capital of Venezuela. Russia has offered to send the Maduro government shipments of food and medicine as it struggles to confront soaring prices and widespread blackouts.

Mr. Kudlow said on Wednesday that more sanctions could be coming as the Trump administration seeks to ratchet up pressure on Mr. Maduro.

Venezuelans have been bearing the brunt of the political and economic turmoil in the country. Last month, the Red Cross received permission from Venezuela’s government and its opposition leaders to roll out a global relief campaign that could help ease the humanitarian crisis.

Republicans and Democrats in Congress have expressed support for efforts to help revive Venezuela’s economy. Senator Robert Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey, and Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, on Wednesday unveiled the Venezuela Emergency Relief, Democracy Assistance and Development Act of 2019, or the VERDAD Act of 2019, to help bolster support for Mr. Guaidó.

The legislation would provide $200 million in aid for Venezuela and $200 million for neighboring countries to absorb refugees. It would also bolster sanctions against the Maduro regime.

“We need to expand humanitarian assistance, address kleptocracy & formally support Guaidó’s efforts to restore democracy,” Mr. Menendez wrote on Twitter.