On Tuesday, the Venezuelan national customs agency – SENIAT – declared that a shipment of medical aid sent from Chile that has been caught in a bureaucratic net at the La Guaira port was “legally abandoned” by both its sender and recipient, given the fact that the government claims that the shipment was not accompanied by the proper documentation. As legally abandoned property, the shipment of over 600 boxes of medical and nutritional aid have been confiscated by the government.
The shipment was collected through charity drives in Chile, and was made up of 525 boxes of medical supplies and 92 boxes of nutritional supplements destined for the care of Caritas Venezuela, a charity associated with the Catholic Church in Venezuela.
In a series of tweets, SENIAT explained the situation along with the reason for the confiscation:
A shipment of 600 boxes of medicine arrived at the La Guaira port on August 23 2016. It has been declared legally abandoned.
[The declaration of legal abandonment] is in accordance with the Ley Organica de Aduana [Customs Law]. The 30-day period to present documentation has expired.
The shipment, which was consigned to Caritas Venezuela, is made up of 525 boxes of medicine and 92 boxes of nutritional supplements.
This merchandise arrived without any permission. It does not comply with the requirements for nationalization , which is why it has become legally abandoned.
La Guaira Customs has confiscated the merchandise, and handed it over to IVSS [the government ministry in charge of social security].
This is not the first time that the Venezuelan government has refused to allow humanitarian aid to enter Venezuela. Aside from its official position that there is no humanitarian crisis in the country and therefore no aid is needed, the government has outright refused to accept aid in the past. This August, Brazilian soccer sensation Dani Alves donated hepatitis C medicine to a Venezuelan NGO, but the Ministry of Health refused to accept the donation.
Caritas: We Complied With Every Requirement
Caritas Venezuela issued an official response to the SENIAT’s seizing of its aid shipment today, saying that it had in fact met with every single legal requirement necessary to allow the aid to enter Venezuela.
Below, my translation of the Caritas statement from today, which you can read here in Spanish:
Caracas, November 25 2016
“To ignore man’s suffering is to ignore God” – Pope Francis
The Justice and Peace Commission at the Venezuelan Episcopal Conference and Caritas Venezuela, in reaction to then news in reference to the medication donated by Chile, wish to express the following:
The Justice and Peace Commission at the Venezuelan Episcopal Conference has the goal of promoting and defending human rights. With this motivation, we accompanied Caritas Venezuela and began to monitor all of the pertinent actions and permissions needed to claim any received donations from customs starting in July 2016. We have adhered to the law, accepting regulations and listening to different recommendations and so we can certify the following:
1. We carried out the required paperwork process as indicated to us by the authorities that we consulted.
2. We notified the SENIAT on August 5 2016 that the shipment was arriving, and asked for their permission and service.
3. We participated in meetings with different [government] ministries, including the Ministry of Health, with the goal of asking for permission to accept the donated medicine.
Knowing the following, we ask you the following:
To all citizens, the faithful, men and women of good will, officials, observers and NGOs: to continue to ask the government to allow the entrance of medicine and food that have arrived due to the solidary work of our brothers in other countries.
To all national actors: to depoliticize this topic and truly work towards the good of those who suffer today without party or colour distinction.
To the government: to search for solutions to the difficulties affecting the people, and to undertake visible gestures of togetherness and work with social actors to find swift solutions to the food and medicine problems.
To the [IVSS}, to properly use and distribute the medicine that was donated according to the fundamental goal of that institution, trusting in its good service.
To the [dialogue process], to add the topic of solidarity to the scheduled meetings happening on December 6.
At the same time, we invite all Venezuelans to join us in prayer to the Almighty, so that spaces and concrete gestures may be opened for the aid of those who suffer today.
We place ourselves in the hands of Mother Mary, giver of life, happiness and hope, so that she may console the afflicted and aid us in our mission to make her son, Jesus Christ, reign in the Mundo de la Salud [literally, “World of Health”, but I’m not sure what the context of that is here].
Monseigneur Luckert Leon (President of the Justice and Peace Commission)
Father Saul Ron Braasch (Vicar General, Commission of Justice and Peace)
Soc. Janeth Marquez (National Director, Caritas de Venezuela)
Venezuelan Ambassador to OAS Dies
Bernardo Alvarez, the Venezuelan ambassador to the Organization of American States, died earlier today. While his death was confirmed by the Venezuelan Ministry of Communication and Information, neither the time of the event nor the cause are known.
New York Times Publishes Article on Venezuelan Boat Refugees
The New York Times published an article today titled “Hungry Venezuelans Flee in Boats to Escape Economic Collapse”.
The article contains pictures, as well as testimony from Venezuelans who were forced to flee the country on boats to neighbouring islands like Curacao and Aruba in search for food and a better life.
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