Venezuela's Supreme Court blocks foreign help amid scarcity

Venezuela’s Supreme Court ruled Monday that a law to accept humanitarian medical aid violates the constitution, as the health crisis in the oil-rich country keeps on worsening.

Medication for high blood pressure and other frequent ailments in Venezuela (hypertension is one of the leading causes of death here) have become impossible to locate in a country also suffering from high inflation and extremely high murder rates.

However, rejecting humanitarian help for fear of intervention is nothing new in Venezuela. It already happened in 1999.

For the “humanitarian aid corridor" -- a plan that read like the current equivalent of the Berlin airlift during the Cold War -- it was a bad Monday: not only it was rejected it at the Supreme Court, but also before the Organization of American States.

Speaking during an OAS event, the Venezuelan ambassador before the organization, Bernardo Alvarez, explained that the Nicolas Maduro government not is only worried about legal matters when it comes to humanitarian aid, but that it also fears that the aid would entail foreign intervention.

“We believe in humanitarian aid but in a different one,” said Alvarez. “Not using it in the framework that (the Venezuelan opposition) wants to use it, which hides an unacceptable desire for (foreign) intervention”.

During the OAS event, held in Santo Domingo, Secretary General Luis Almagro reiterated that the organization will discuss, again, the Venezuelan situation at a Permanent Council meeting scheduled for June 23rd.

The Supreme Court’s Constitutional Hall struck down the aid law after a public request by President Nicolas Maduro, a familiar pattern when it comes to bills approved by the opposition-dominated National Assembly -- all of which have been struck down by the partisan governing body court.

The highest court in the land ruled that the law “usurps” matters that are the exclusive domain of the executive power and that it also violates ten articles in the Venezuelan Constitution.

SHADOW OF CHAVEZ

On December 15, 1999, Venezuela suffered its biggest natural tragedy to date. Only months after Hugo Chavez took over as President for the first time, heavy rains caused tragic mudslides in Vargas state, washing entire towns such as Carmen de Urea off the coast and into the sea. According to then Vice President Jose Vicente Rangel, some 60,000 Venezuelans were killed in a state that was home to less than half a million people.

Chavez not only did not declare a state of emergency immediately (there was an election going on, which he won) but rejected an offer of crucial help from the US: specialized X-ray machines to locate bodies beneath water, debris and mud, a futuristic innovation at the time, but now something that can be seen even in TV series such as CSI. “I told them to send the machines, but not the operators,” Chavez said at the time.

By Carlos Camacho

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