Venezuela asks UN help in boosting medicine supplies

AP News
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Posted: Mar 24, 2017 7:16 PM
Venezuela asks UN help in boosting medicine supplies

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro has asked the United Nations for "help" boosting medicine supplies as he struggles to combat crippling shortages.

"I've asked for support from the U.N. to help treat economic and social injuries that have hit our people caused by the economic war and the sharp fall in petroleum prices," Maduro said in a televised appearance Friday.

He didn't provide any details about the request except to say that the U.N. has the expertise to normalize the supply and distribution of pharmaceutical drugs in the country.

But just acknowledging that Venezuela needs outside help is a telling sign of how far the nation sitting atop the world's largest petroleum reserves has fallen under Maduro.

Maduro's socialist administration prides itself on being a provider of humanitarian aid to poor nations around the world. Even as he called Friday for the U.N.'s assistance, his aides were hosting a business forum called "Venezuelan Powerhouse" and the military was dispatching two cargo planes of emergency supplies, including some medicine, for victims in Peru of that nation's worst flooding in two decades.

Opponents say such generosity should be reserved for Venezuelans, who have been suffering from widespread shortages and triple-digit inflation since Maduro was elected in 2013 following the death from cancer of former President Hugo Chavez.

There was no immediate response to a request for comment from the U.N. about the Venezuelan request.

On Friday, the Washington-based Organization of American States, OAS, announced that it would hold an extraordinary meeting on Tuesday to address the situation in Venezuela.

The announcement came a day after the United States and group of 13 other nations in the region called on Venezuela's government to hold elections and immediately free political prisoners.

OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro is pushing to expel Maduro's government from the group for breaking the country's democratic order and violating human rights.

Maduro's government disavowed a landslide loss to the opposition in legislative elections in 2015, and then suspended a recall campaign seeking to force him from office before the 2018 election.

Venezuela's government has accused the OAS leader was overstepping his authority in an effort to pave the way for an "international intervention" in Venezuela.

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Associated Press writer Luis Alonso Lugo in Washington contributed to this report.