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Venezuela blasts US over ‘theft’ of $5 billion allocated for medicine

VENEZUELAN President Nicolas Maduro accused the United States of “theft” yesterday, saying that Washington is withholding $5 billion (£3.8bn) urgently needed for medical supplies.

He was speaking at the official relaunch of Venezuela’s national pharmaceutical industry, which is one of the central components of the government’s Bolivarian Economic Agenda.

Mr Maduro blasted the US for its “criminal measures,” explaining: “The government of US President Donald Trump stole from us $5bn allocated for medicines and the purchase of the main substances for the production of medicines in Venezuela and their deliveries to hospital networks, pharmacies and ambulance networks.

“A tremendous effort is made so that free and quality healthcare reaches all the people, to be able to bypass all the aggression of Donald Trump’s government,” he said at the ceremony at the Jipana Robotic Warehouse in the state of Miranda.

It is the largest of five warehouses built with the support of China and intended to improve the distribution of medical supplies for the country’s National Public Health System.

Mr Maduro announced that a delivery of several tonnes of medicine and other materials from Russia is expected next week.

A plan will be launched in conjunction with the World Health Organisation (WHO) for the production, distribution and import of medicines.

The withholding of funding for medicines comes as the US-led coup attempt against Mr Maduro appears to be faltering, losing support both internally and externally.

Juan Guaido, president of the defunct National Assembly who illegitimately declared himself the country’s interim leader in January, began a nationwide tour called “Operation Freedom” earlier this week.

He plans to speak in towns and cities across Venezuela before arriving in Caracas to “take office” at the presidential palace.

“Very soon, when we have visited and organised every inch [of Venezuela], we will go to Miraflores [the presidential palace] and reclaim what belongs to the Venezuelan people,” Mr Guaido told small crowds at a rally in the city of Valencia.

Describing the tour as “a new phase” in his attempt to oust Mr Maduro, he told his dwindling band of supporters to “talk nicely” to public officials and members of the armed forces in a bid to win them over.

Talk of a “phased strike” in the public sector announced last week remains vague and the majority of the country’s trade unions remain loyal to Mr Maduro, as do the armed forces.


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