CARACAS, Venezuela, Aug. 15 (UPI) -- Venezuela's ambassador to the United Nations has denied U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's comments that there is a humanitarian crisis occurring in the country.
Last week, the secretary-general said he was "very worried" about Venezuela during a visit to Argentina where he met with Argentinian President Mauricio Macri.
"I'm very worried about the current situation, in which basic goods and services such as food, water, health care and clothes aren't available," Ban said. "This triggers a humanitarian crisis in Venezuela which is created by political instability."
Ambassador Rafael Ramirez called Ban's comments "wrong" and "strange," and questioned where the head of the United Nations received his information.
"We have problems here, but it's nowhere near a humanitarian crisis," Ramirez said during an interview with Venezuelan broadcaster Televen, adding that Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro will speak to Ban in September during a summit in Caracas.
"I do not know where he gets these figures and assertions," Ramirez said.
Venezuela is facing a deepening economic crisis in which basic goods, such as food, medicines and toiletries, are in short supply or unaffordable. Tens of thousands have traveled outside the country, mainly to Colombia, to restock supplies as store shelves and kitchen cupboards are nearly empty.
Maduro, who is facing efforts by the Venezuelan opposition to oust him, has blamed the country's financial woes on a U.S.-backed "economic war" carried out by political enemies and corporations. To combat the alleged "economic war," Maduro has taken steps including ordering the military to seize five ports as part of "war strategies" to more effectively distribute food and medicine.
A recent labor decree signed by Maduro could draft Venezuelans in the public and private sectors who have the physical or technical capabilities into a government effort to work in the agriculture sector for up to 120 days to increase food production.