Life-saving help needed for Venezuela cancer patients hit by US sanctions

“The lives of Venezuelan transplant recipients stranded in foreign countries, as well as those waiting to travel abroad for rescue operations are at risk,” experts said. “A trip abroad for treatment has become the only hope for hundreds of critically ill patients.”

The group of special rapporteurs said it alerted the US government, as well as other countries and entities affected by the situation, calling on them to “mitigate the unintended consequences of the sanctions, and restore treatment for people whose lives are now in danger. “

Take responsability

“They must take full responsibility for the effect their actions have on the basic rights to life and health of every individual in the world.”

Experts say third countries, regional groupings, banks and private companies have been overly cautious in their dealings with Venezuela, fearing they may unintentionally violate US sanctions imposed on some Venezuelans and government assets in 2015 and 2019 .

As a result, the money cannot be transferred out of Venezuela, and some patients have been stranded or rendered destitute in countries where they have gone for treatment, experts said.

Under the 2019 sanctions, all assets of the Venezuelan state were frozen in the United States and all transactions with American citizens and businesses were banned.

Charity case

Experts said the main concern was with a program run by the Simon Bolivar Foundation, the charitable arm of U.S.-based Citgo Petroleum Corporation, which has helped cancer patients, including many children, travel abroad to transplants and other life-saving treatments.

Hundreds of these patients were previously linked to a national transplant program with the government of Venezuela, independent UN experts said, but their treatment was halted when the United States refused the government further control of Citgo.

‘Devastating consequences’

“Targeting” the state-owned oil and gas company, “as a means of controlling Venezuela’s political agenda, has had devastating consequences for hundreds of people undergoing treatment for transplant rejection, both in Venezuela and abroad.” , said the experts.

People on a state transplant waiting list have also been told their treatments will not continue. “

There are around 190 cancer patients on a waiting list for foreign treatment, and some 14 children, including three toddlers, died between 2017 and 2020 awaiting treatment under the program, experts say. .

The primordial protection

These cases illustrate the need for full protection of basic human rights, experts said: “States have an obligation to respect, protect and fulfill the human rights of everyone affected by direct international action, even those who escape direct international action. to their jurisdiction or effective control, none whatever their original intention.

“While the right to health and the right to life are fundamental for every individual in the world, we call on all states, banks and private companies to take full responsibility for the effects of their actions on individuals, and to withdraw sanctions, zero risk and over-compliance policies affecting fundamental human rights ”.

Special rapporteurs are part of what is called the Special procedures of Human Rights Council and work on a voluntary basis. They are not UN staff and do not receive a salary. They are independent of any government or organization and serve only in an individual capacity.

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