CARACAS, Venezuela, April 6 (UPI) -- Venezuela is closer to declaring a national humanitarian health crisis that would force the ruling government of President Nicolas Maduro to accept foreign medicinal aid.
The Bill to Address the Humanitarian Health Crisis passed the first of two votes in Venezuela's unicameral National Assembly on Tuesday. After a health crisis is declared, Venezuela can then 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, introduced the bill during debate and warned that Venezuelans living with HIV and cancer are particularly at risk, also criticizing Maduro and his health minister, Luisana Melo.
"In Venezuela the problem is not with pharmacies, the problem of Venezuela is that there are no medications," Olivares said. "I hope you can sleep peacefully, as hundreds of Venezuelans do not sleep peacefully because they can't find their medicines."
Venezuela continues to experience shortages of medicine, lack of food for the sick, shortages of infant formula, increased maternal mortality rates and loss of transplant organs due to power failures.
Parliament members belonging to or allied with Maduro's ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela, or PSUV, abstained from voting. They said they disagree with what the opposition views is the cause of Venezuela's health crisis.
The Democratic Unity Roundtable, or MUD, opposition coalition blames government inaction for exacerbating the country's health crisis, whereas the PSUV argues the crisis is a symptom of an economic problem.
"This humanitarian crisis is an economic emergency you rejected," PSUV's Carmen Meléndez said, referring to an earlier economic emergency decree Maduro established that the MUD-controlled National Assembly rejected. "The deaths hurt us, it hurts us that there are no medicines, but we are going to work together."
Loengri Matheus, member of a party allied to Maduro's PSUV, rejected the bill, stating it "seeks only to bring foreign intervention to Venezuela."
"Countries in which there has been a humanitarian crisis declared are those who have lived pandemics such as Ebola," Matheus said. "There must be an extraordinary situation."
MUD member Virgilio Ferrer condemned the PSUV's inaction as attempting to "defend the indefensible."
"You are committing the largest genocide in the country. Give answers to the people," Ferrer said.