Venezuela seizes medicines sent for charity

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Nov 25 2016 09:22 AM

An opposition supporter holds a placard that reads "There are no medicines", during a protest against shortage of medicines and to demand a referendum to remove President Nicolas Maduro. Reuters

CARACAS - Venezuelan customs officers confiscated a shipment of medicine that a charity said Thursday was a donation for poor citizens suffering shortages in the country's economic crisis.

Authorities said the cargo was an unauthorized import. The Catholic charity Caritas said it was a donation from Chile and claimed authorities had not responded to requests for permission to distribute it.

The cargo contains 75,000 packets of medicine as well as food supplements, the customs department said.

"The merchandise arrived without a permit. It does not fulfill the requirements to be distributed in this country," the department said on Twitter.

Caritas Venezuela president Janeth Marquez said the medicine arrived in the country in August.

Customs said that since the right papers had still not been filed, the cargo had been declared abandoned and the medicine handed over to the national social security service.

Opposition deputy Jose Manuel Olivares in congress on Thursday accused the government of "stealing" the medicine.

Marquez said her organization had contacted the health ministry to request a permit to distribute the medicine but had received no response.

"We are very upset," she told AFP on Thursday. "We hope the medicine will be given to those who most need it. That is what our Chilean friends wanted."

International NGO Human Rights Watch has described the situation in Venezuela as a "humanitarian crisis."

Economic turmoil has been aggravated over the past two years by the fall in prices for the country's crucial oil exports.

Shortages of food and basic supplies have sparked riots and looting.

The Pharmaceutical Federation says 85 percent of medicines are running short.

President Nicolas Maduro is resisting the opposition's efforts to remove him from power. His socialist government and the center right opposition have been holding fractious crisis talks.

President dances salsa while Venezuela churns

"We want the arrival of food and medicine to be a priority at the talks," said Marquez.

"We have been promised more donations, but we are waiting to receive a permit."

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