Venezuela OKs accepting foreign help for medicine shortage

By Andrew V. Pestano Follow @AVPLive9 Contact the Author   |   Updated May 4, 2016 at 1:39 PM

CARACAS, Venezuela, May 4 (UPI) -- Venezuela's National Assembly approved a bill to declare a national humanitarian health crisis that would force the ruling government of President Nicolas Maduro to accept foreign medicinal aid.

The main objective of the law is to "develop the priority obligation of the state, through the national public health system, to guarantee the right to health."

Venezuela continues to experience shortages of medicine, food for the sick and infant formula, and increased maternal mortality rates and loss of transplant organs due to power failures.

The law -- officially titled the Special Law attending to the National Humanitarian Health Crisis -- will permit the declaration of an emergency, which allow Venezuela to receive medications as a form of aid from other countries, specifically in Latin America and Europe. Venezuela would also be allowed to request assistance from the World Health Organization.

José Olivares, president of Venezuela's Commission of Health and member of the Democratic Unity Roundtable, or MUD, opposition coalition, has been a vocal critic of the Maduro administration in regards to its response to Venezuela's health woes amid a crippling economic deterioration.

"What good are you sitting there and having power, if you do not care about the lives of Venezuelans?" Olivares said in a criticism to Maduro's coalition.

The MUD blames government inaction for exacerbating the country's health crisis, whereas Maduro's ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela, or PSUV, argues the crisis is a symptom of an economic problem.

A shortage of radioactive materials in Venezuela is also threatening medical services as cancer treatments and diagnoses for patients are frozen. At the Dr. Carlos Arvelo Military Hospital in Caracas, no patients who have been diagnosed with thyroid cancer at his hospital in 2016 have received treatment.

Loengri Matheus, member of a party aligned with PSUV, said the opposition lawmakers want to "usurp power of the president by requesting help from other countries."

Carmen Meléndez, another Maduro parliamentary ally, said the government is willing to receive donations of medicines "but with dignity, not receiving pity from the world."

MUD member Virgilio Ferrer previously condemned PSUV's inaction amid the health crisis, stating Maduro's government was "committing the largest genocide in the country."

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