Venezuela says an Iranian flight carrying humanitarian aid for use in the fight against the coronavirus has arrived in the South American country, as Tehran and Caracas move to forge closer ties to blunt the impact of the US sanctions targeting the two nations.
The plane carrying emergency equipment, including medicines and test kits, landed at Venezuela’s Maiquetia airport on Monday to help the country combat the COVID-19 outbreak, Venezuela’s Planning Minister Ricardo Menendez said.
“Right now, what we are receiving is different types of testing kits,” Menendez said on state television, standing on a runway at Maiquetia airport near what appeared to be boxes piled on pallets.
Commenting on the aid delivery, Iran’s Ambassador to Venezuela Hojjatollah Soltani said, “Today we are seeing the arrival of these materials to strengthen Venezuela in its fight against coronavirus.”
Iran — one of the worst-hit states by the coronavirus — has been under a series of draconian American sanctions that are hampering its access to imports of medicine and vital medical equipment.
However, the Middle Eastern state has been successful in its efforts to contain the outbreak mainly through reliance on home-grown products in the treatment and diagnosis of the disease.
Venezuela — also subjected to crippling US sanctions — has so far reported over 2,470 COVID-19 cases and 22 deaths, but health experts have warned that the country’s healthcare system remains vulnerable to the outbreak due to the American embargo.
International aid bodies, including Human Rights Watch and the Johns Hopkins University’s Centers for Public Health and Human Rights, have warned that the virus outbreak jeopardizes the health of Venezuelans and threatens to accelerate the regional spread of the disease.
In a statement in May, the two humanitarian institutions said “it is critically important for foreign governments to depoliticize aid and for the US government to ensure that existing sanctions do not contribute to the crisis or hinder humanitarian efforts.”
Iran’s aid delivery is the latest sign of growing ties between Iran and Venezuela.
Recently, Iran dispatched five tankers carrying fuel to Venezuela despite threats by the administration of US President Donald Trump to take action against them.
The fuel shipments helped revive oil refineries in the South American country, drawing the ire of the US, which has long been attempting to cripple the oil sectors of the two countries.