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Morales says Trump's attacks on Venezuela a bid to distract from his own poor Covid-19 responses

BOLIVIA’S ousted socialist president Evo Morales has denounced US aggression against Venezuela, saying the Donald Trump administration was seeking to distract attention from its poor handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Venezuela would continue to “stand firm” against attacks, Mr Morales said, referring to the US’s demand for the arrest of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro last week on charges of “narco-terrorism.”

The charges were rubbished at the weekend by former UN Office on Drugs & Crime executive director Pino Arlacchi, who said Venezuela had never been part of “the main cocaine-trafficking circuits” between the world’s biggest producer, US ally Colombia, and main consumer, the US itself.

“There is no illegal drug trade between Venezuela and the United States except in the fantasy of Trump and his associates,” he said.

“I have been dealing with the issue of drugs for 40 years and I have never encountered Venezuela,” Mr Arlacchi told Italian news site L’Antidiplomatico.

Venezuela, like Cuba and China, provided lists of doctors who would be able to assist Italy when the Covid-19 epidemic began to take off in the European country.

Its health sector has been severely hit by US sanctions over recent years — the US-based Centre for Economic & Policy Research estimated last year that sanctions had been responsible for 40,000 deaths in the country.

It was also denied an emergency loan to assist with containing the coronavirus pandemic by the International Monetary Fund, which claimed that it could not work with Mr Maduro while his status was unclear – a reference to the recognition by the United States and many EU countries of unelected pretender Juan Guaido as Venezuelan president.

However, the country has performed better than neighbouring Latin American countries in containing the virus, with Mr Maduro ordering rapid measures to prohibit crowds and limit travel from March 12, before it began to spread in the country.

Venezuela has also benefited from Chinese supplies of testing kits for 320,000 people and doctors, and supplies of interferon alpha-2b, a Cuba-developed protein that has proven effective in treating Covid-19, from Havana.

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