Venezuelan president fires health chief amid major crisis | News | DW | 12.05.2017
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Venezuelan president fires health chief amid major crisis

The Health Ministry under Antonieta Caporale's released data revealing soaring infant mortality rates this week. Multiple crises have plunged Venezuela into political chaos and conditions seen in war zones.

Venezuela's president, Nicolas Maduro, late on Thursday abruptly dismissed Health Minister Antonieta Caporale, just days after the government broke a two-year silence on statistics to reveal the extent of the country's deepening health crisis.

Ministry figures released this week revealed that there were just under 11,500 cases of child mortality in 2016 - a 30 percent climb on the previous year. Data also showed that cases of maternal deaths, or deaths while pregnant or within 42 days after giving birth, rose by over 65 percent last year to 756 cases. Malaria cases , also thought to have been eradicated in Venezuela, rose by more than 75 percent from the year before, affecting almost 250,000 people.

Read more: Venezuela sees a sharp rise in child mortalities

Meanwhile, the Venezuelan Medical Federation has warned that hospitals face extreme shortages, with some reporting that they have only 3-percent of the necessary supplies and medicines needed to run normally.

Motive for dismissal unknown

Caporale, a trained gynecologist, is to be replaced by Luis Lopez, a pharmacist.

Caporale only took over the role as health minister in January, although the data referred to 2016. Her dismissal was therefore widely thought to have been related to the health data being released to the public.

Announcing the ministerial switch, Vice President Tareck El Aissami declined to answer why Caporale had been dismissed. Later, on Twitter, he wrote that "President Nicolas Maduro is grateful to Doctor Antonieta Caporale for her work."

Francisco Valencia, director of the non-government Coalition of Organizations for the Right to Health and Life, tweeted on Thursday: "Yet another new health minister. What a disaster this government is! Replacing the health minister has become like changing your socks."

Once the region's most prosperous country, recession and currency controls have slashed Venezuela's supply of medicines and vaccines, as well as basic provisions such as food and hygiene products. Doctors have also emigrated in droves, leaving patients with second-rate health treatment, if any at all.

Venezuela also faces a major political crisis, with deadly anti-government protests having paralyzed most of the country for more than a month. The opposition blames Maduro and his government's economic mismanagement for the country's widespread crisis. Maduro, meanwhile, has pointed the finger at external forces seeking to unseat him when explaining the crisis.

dm/kms (Reuters, AFP)

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