China Provides Venezuela with Free Health Care for a Week
A Chinese naval ship, known as the Peace Ark, arrived at Venezuela over the weekend to provide free healthcare to Venezuelan patients for a week. This friendly visit also serves as an opportunity for Chinese officials to meet with the Venezuelan military and political leaders and inspect their military and medical facilities.
The Peace Ark is equipped with 300 beds, eight operating theatres, and a medical helicopter. Since its commission in 2008, this ship has provided free medical services to approximately 180,000 individuals in over 40 countries, including some in Latin America.
The arrival of any medical assistance is crucial to Venezuela, which is now experiencing a shortage over 80 percent of medicines, according to the Venezuelan Pharmaceutical Association.
President Nicolás Maduro welcomed the Peace Ark via Twitter, stating, “We receive in our beloved Country the Hospital Ship from the Chinese Army, the ‘Peace Ark’ with the objective of initiating a Comprehensive Combined Strategic Operation between both countries.”
The arrival of the ship to Venezuela comes after President Maduro’s meeting with President Xi Jinping last week to discuss the economic relationship between Venezuela and China.
President Maduro signed 28 trade and investment deals with China and said that Venezuela would increase its oil exports to China to one million barrels a day. China pledged to help Venezuela in its struggling state of hyperinflation, but the exact details are yet to be announced publicly.
Venezuelan Defense Minister, Vladimir Padrino López, greeted the Chinese at the port of La Guaira, stating, “It is a pleasure to have this ship in Venezuela, which has arrived here after travelling to more than 40 countries. This is how true diplomacy is done: with concrete cooperative actions and not stoking the false voices of those who beat the drum of war.”
The arrival of the Peace Ark from China to Venezuela is highly politicized. Earlier this year, the United States sent a Navy Hospital Ship, the USNS Comfort, to Colombia to provide medical attention for the thousands of Venezuelan immigrants currently living in the neighboring country.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis commented on the deployment of the USNS Comfort to Colombia, “It is absolutely a humanitarian mission. We’re not sending soldiers; we’re sending doctors. And it’s an effort to deal with the human cost of Maduro, and his increasingly isolated regime.”
China’s geopolitical strategy of increasing its influence and presence in Latin America has been seen as a threat by the United States, who continues to compete with China for hegemonic power.