Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro has requested US$5 billion from the International Monetary Fund to improve the country’s ability to detect and respond to the coronavirus pandemic.
Maduro ordered a nationwide quarantine starting Tuesday after the number of people infected with the virus nearly doubled to 33 on Monday. While the country has suspended schools, ordered commuters to wear face masks and limited almost all air traffic, there’s much uncertainty about how Venezuela would cope with the spread of the virus.
“This is a crucial moment, and knowing the aggressive and highly contagious levels of this disease, we will take quick and forcible measures to stop its propagation,” Maduro said in a letter to IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva signed on March 15, shared by the country’s Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza today.
The IMF said it’s ready to mobilise its US$1 trillion lending capacity to help nations counter the coronavirus outbreak, with Georgieva calling for global coordination on monetary, fiscal and regulatory support.
Georgieva reiterated in a blog post Monday that the fund has US$50 billion in flexible and rapid-disbursing emergency funds for developing nations, with as much as US$10 billion available at zero interest rates.
Venezuela’s relationship with the IMF has long been contentious. In 2007, late President Hugo Chavez pledged to cut ties with the fund, considering it a body that serves the interests of the US.
"The day the courts of the Republic order Juan Guaido's detention for the crimes he has committed, he will go to jail, rest assured," Maduro said.
Last year, the IMF suspended Maduro’s access to almost US$400 million of special drawing rights, citing political chaos since opposition leader Juan Guaidó was backed by almost 60 countries as the rightful leader.
Venezuela’s health system, depleted by seven-year recession, is ranked among the worst in the world in its capacity to detect, quickly respond and mitigate a pandemic. The country’s hospitals suffer from vast shortages of anything from antibiotics and protective equipment to soap and water.