CARACAS, May 12 (Xinhua) -- U.S. sanctions against the state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) have caused the suspension of health programs and affected patients in vulnerable situations, according to executive secretary of Venezuela's National Council of Human Rights.
In an interview with Xinhua, Larry Devoe, who is also the state agent for the International Human Rights System, said that the health programs, supported by PDVSA in conjunction with institutions in Italy and Argentina, have been blocked by the sanction measures taken by the U.S. government.
"In recent weeks, we have presented evidence of how this economic and financial blockade is impacting the most vulnerable sectors of our population, and in this case, patients, sick people," Devoe said.
The U.S. government has "essentially robbed our country of" PDVSA's U.S.-based subsidiary Citgo, Devoe said. "It was through Citgo that all these health assistance programs were channeled."
"Currently, we have about 24 patients there in Italy. They are receiving treatment, but their situation is at risk, because the international financial system refused to process bank transfers solicited by PDVSA," he said.
In addition to the 24 patients already in Italy, there are another 12 on the waiting list to travel there for treatment.
According to Devoe, PDVSA has an agreement with the Bone Marrow Transplantation Association in Italy, which has allowed for the care of more than 500 patients throughout its history.
Devoe said that the program treats people with leukemia who were in initial phases and require surgical intervention, and PDVSA "covers all necessary costs for the interventions, the treatments, and the maintenance of relatives."
Devoe said that "with the de facto suspension of the program," the patients' human rights "are going to be affected."
Facing the U.S. sanctions, PDVSA has to use other resources, and through the Simon Bolivar Foundation, it has another agreement with the Italian Hospital of Buenos Aires in Argentina. More than 109 children and adults have gone there to undergo liver transplants through this program, according to the official.
"The reality is that we have, today, six patients, boys and girls, some of them very young, Isabella is one of them, she's 18 months old (...), they're there in Argentina in the post-operative period, in the follow-up to their liver transplants," he said.
The patients "are also being affected because PDVSA is unable to continue providing the resources for their treatment as a result of these measures," he said.
Devoe said that the Venezuelan government has denounced the situation and that "we have addressed all channels from the juridical point of view to confront this aggression that is being undertaken against Venezuela."
He added that concrete evidence of this impact on human rights has been delivered to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.