Chinese hospital ship arrives at Venezuela amid health crisis
The maritime visit comes at a time when the oil-producing nation is going through a grave economic crisis characterized by hyperinflation as well as shortages of medicines and medical supplies.
The Chinese hospital ship Ark of Peace docked Saturday at La Guaira, Venezuela's largest port, for representatives of China to offer medical attention and discuss the situation with Venezuelan doctors amid the health crisis Venezuela is going through.
The Ark of Peace "has come to visit us...we went inside it and saw all it's capable of doing in terms of medical treatment," said Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez after welcoming the crew.
The ship arrived as part of a "strategic cooperation" between China and Venezuela, countries that last week signed 28 accords during the visit of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to that country.
The maritime visit comes at a time when the oil-producing nation is going through a grave economic crisis characterized by hyperinflation, shortages of medicines and medical supplies plus the exodus of health professionals who have long protested about their pay.
In the same protests doctors, NGOs, nurses and healthcare workers have complained about everything they need but don't have, while continually asking the Venezuelan government to allow other countries to provide humanitarian aid, specifically in the form of medicines.
According to the president of the Pharmaceutical Federation of Venezuela, Freddy Ceballos, the country has an "83 to 85 percent" shortage of medicines.
The ship that arrived Saturday was escorted by a patrol boat of the Venezuelan navy and K-8W fighter jets, and was received by the chief of the Strategic Operations Command of the Bolivarian armed forces, Remigio Ceballos, and by Vargas Gov. Jorge Luis Garcia Carneiro.
The defense minister said the hospital ship "has sailed to more than 40 countries" and that from Venezuela it will head for the Caribbean and South America.
The Ark of Peace has five main medical areas, eight hygienic operating rooms and 300 hospital beds, as well as 2,666 medical devices of 249 kinds.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro expressed on social networks his welcome to the Chinese ship, noting that he has the "goal of launching a combined strategic operation" of China and Venezuela.