Feature: Venezuelans suffer from U.S. sanctions

Source: Xinhua| 2019-05-10 15:04:33|Editor: xuxin
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by Willey Penuela

CARACAS, May 9 (Xinhua) -- With a prescription in his hand, Francisco Gonzalez, a night watchman whose wife was suffering from cancer, walked out of a private pharmacy in the Venezuelan capital of Caracas.

With the composure of someone who has become accustomed to the difficulties of finding medications, Gonzalez told Xinhua the medicines he needs "haven't been found for now."

Gonzalez is just one of the millions of Venezuelans who have found themselves impacted by the economic sanctions imposed by the United States on the country since 2014, which have been intensified recently.

"It is very difficult to find some of the medications ... It looks like the companies don't want to sell them to the country because if they do, the United States will punish them," he said.

He added that "previously the most important anti-cancer medications were given to us at the Social Security's high-cost pharmacies, but since the sanctions against the country intensified, the supply has been difficult to come by through this route."

West of Caracas, near the metro station Propatria, Lourdes Zapata stood in a long line to buy corn flour at a lower price than in the other stores.

The retired professor told Xinhua that she doesn't live in Caracas, but in Charallave, in the state of Miranda. But she travels regularly by train to run errands and buy a few food items that can be found at better prices in the capital.

She recounted her family's experience with the government's food supply program via the Local Supply and Production Committees (CLAP), which was created to provide food at subsidized prices to the Venezuelan people.

"At my home, CLAP arrives sometimes every three months, sometimes every two months. In the last few months it's been hard to get that box of food," said Zapata, referring to the supply which, according to the government, is supposed to be delivered every 15 days.

The cause of the delay, according to the retired professor, is that the country "still has not been able to develop with strength a productive economic system."

"To be clear, the country has not been allowed to freely purchase foodstuffs from any international provider, and the sanctions against the country prevent Venezuela from being able to freely buy the foodstuffs for CLAP," she added.

Her thoughts echoed the declarations made on May 7 by the national head of CLAP, Freddy Bernal, who said it is "very difficult" to deliver food every 15 days due to the economic blockade the United States imposed on the country.

"The criminal war has also affected the CLAP distribution by the shipping companies that brought food from Mexico. Of ten shipping companies ... eight have been sanctioned," Bernal said.

He added that payment for the food can no longer be made directly in U.S. dollars to Mexico, but has to be done through a third country, which makes the process difficult.

However, the difficulties seem to stimulate the creativity of Venezuelans, who have seen the need to look for new sources of supply of goods for businesses.

Guilmen Diaz of the state-run aluminum processing company Alucasa in Guacara told Xinhua that the company has gone through "difficulties as a result of the blockade and sanctions," but that hasn't stopped them from moving forward.

"60 percent of supplies we use in the process of transforming aluminum are imported, and the majority of the companies that supplied us are from the United States," the worker said. "The U.S. companies have not sent any more supplies, so we had to turn to the Asian market and develop new products."

He added that during a certain process, they need an oil supplied by the U.S. corporation ExxonMobil, which had also stopped providing them.

"We had to develop a substitution for imports ... With a by-product of PDVSA's oil refining process and a small local company, they studied the oil and were able to make one identical to the one supplied by Exxon," Guilmen said.

He lauded the fact that the situation has awoken the workers' creativity. However, he said that with the sanctions imposed on Venezuela, time and resources have been lost, which has affected the development of companies.