Bogota, 22 May 2020 (dpa/MIA) – Venezuelan Defence Minister Vladimir Padrino on Wednesday said his country would welcome Iranian ships to enter its maritime and air territory to deliver aid amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“We have already spoken with the Iranian Defence Minister, when all those ships enter our exclusive economic zone, they will be escorted by [Bolivarian National Armed Forces] ships, tankers and planes, to welcome them,” Padrino said.
The minister added that Venezuela was facing difficulties due to the pandemic.
“If a country like the Islamic Republic of Iran … provides us with humanitarian aid, just as with the one we received from Russia, the People’s Republic of China and other countries of the world: It is welcome,” Padrino said.
The Venezuelan government said the Iranian fleet is composed of five gasoline tankers, according to news website Infobae.
The Covid-19 pandemic has dealt a new blow to Venezuela‘s crumbling health system, United Nations experts said earlier this month.
Caracas has so far confirmed just over 600 Covid-19 infections and 10 deaths, but Venezuelan scientists warned there could be at least 63 per cent more infected people than official statistics show in the South American country.
Even before the pandemic, oil-rich Venezuela, once one of the region’s wealthiest countries, was experiencing an economic meltdown which has sent millions of its citizens fleeing abroad.
Russia and neighbouring ally China have been Venezuela‘s two strongest backers, propping up the country’s crisis-laden economy with billions of dollars in loans and other assistance.