Hospitals in Venezuela virtually closed for lack of materials

Hospitals all over Venezuela suffer from a critical shortage of basic medical materials, from saline to gloves and medications, causing a nationwide health crisis.

The president of the Venezuelan Medical Federation, Douglas León Natera, states that Venezuelan hospitals are "virtually closed" due to medical material shortages. In the group's estimate, 98 percent of the medical facilities have no way to operate.

"If they are open, it is because the health workers have decided to continue working at their own risk," he told the Agence France-Presse.

This oil-producing country imports 98 percent of its drugs and medical equipment, and the shortage of dollars and strict currency controls in the Venezuelan economy has severely affected all types of medical providers. The Pharmaceutical Federation estimates that drug shortages has reached 60 percent, while the Venezuelan Association of Distributors of Medical, Dental, Laboratory and Related Equipment (Avedem) reports there are "absolute deficiencies" in 85 percent of the products needed.

Monday, Venezuelan Health Minister Francisco Armada admitted there are medicine supply problems and some medicines cannot be found. However, he said that these flaws will be decided in a "very short term," following the recent granting of currency to companies in the medical sector for the purchase of medicines.

For the past year, the Venezuelan government has experienced a rapid decline in its foreign reserves despite the historical values ??of oil and $100 billion annually in oil sales. This led to a cut in the allocation of foreign exchange even for the health sector, considered a priority, which accumulated delays in payments to suppliers, generated the closure of external credit lines and drop import of products.

On several street protests throughout the past few months, doctors and nurses have declared a "health emergency."

Even in December 2013, President Nicolás Maduro himself called Venezuelan hospitals an "embarrassment," even though months earlier the government had allocated $47 million to address the problem.

Chavez daughter appointed as alternate UN ambassador

Venezuela's government named Maria Gabriela Chavez, the second daughter of the late President Hugo Chavez, as an alternate ambassador to the United Nations, a designation that sparked criticism from the opposition.

The second daughter of the first marriage of Hugo Chavez, who died in office in March 2013, will represent Venezuela at the UN as an alternate representative, along with the current Venezuelan Ambassador Samuel Moncada.

Although she had not held public office before, many believe the 34-year-old was the closest daughter to Hugo Chavez, who ruled Venezuela for 14 years. She often acted as first lady multiple times with her father at official events and international summits.

Opposition leaders accused Maria Gabriela Chavez in July before the public prosecutor for alleged corruption related to the importing of overpriced rice and corn from Argentina. These investigations are also being conducted in Buenos Aires.

She has denied the accusations, but the Venezuelan opposition has pointed out that this appointment could be a way to grant her diplomatic immunity.

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