Caracas, Apr 11 (AFP) President Nicolas Maduro has announced an agreement with the International Committee of the Red Cross to bring humanitarian aid into Venezuela.

The oil-rich country is enduring acute shortages of food, medicine and other basics, and Maduro is locked in a power struggle with the increasingly popular leader of the opposition, national assembly speaker Juan Guaido.

In an about-face, Maduro said on national TV and radio that his government and the Red Cross had agreed "to work together with UN agencies to bring into Venezuela all the humanitarian aid that can be brought." Maduro denies that Venezuela is suffering from a humanitarian crisis and blames US sanctions for its economic woes.

In January Guaido tried to lead a drive to bring in donated food and medicine from Colombia and Brazil but the effort failed as the army, which is loyal to Maduro, blocked shipments at the border.

Maduro argued that letting in such assistance, much of it provided by the US, would be the first step towards a US intervention.

On Wednesday he said this new aid campaign should be "managed without political maneuvering, without farcical politicization and through the channels of legality and respect." The UN says a quarter of Venezuela's 30 million people are in urgent need of humanitarian aid.

A United Nations agency says 3.7 million Venezuelans are malnourished and 22 percent of children younger than age five suffer from chronic malnourishment.

Besides the shortages of food and medicine, Venezuela is saddled with hyperinflation that is running at an estimated 10 million percent this year. That leaves people's wages all but worthless. (AFP)

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