Venezuela crisis: Portugal “prepared to act” to help embattled emigrés

With the crisis in Venezuela now well broadcast by international media, Portugal’s minister for foreign affairs has said Portugal is prepared to act to airlift embattled emigrés to safety, if the need arises.

Augusto Santos Silva was talking in Cascais as the Secretary of State for the Communities José Luís Carneiro was on his way to Venezuela to “guarantee the safety and wellbeing” of Portuguese and their families.

A “permanent channel of communication” is in place with Venezuelan authorities, Santos Silva told reporters, stressing that for the time being he believes the situation is “far from” any point where Portugal would have to get involved.

Needless to say, that is not saying things are calm. More than 51 people have been reported to have died since thousands began demonstrating, either for or against the country’s president Nicolas Maduro – and today national media is reporting mounting confusion over what Portugal actually means by being “prepared to act”.

Said councillor for the Portuguese communities Fernando Campos: “We have to demystify this ‘evacuation plan’ a bit.

“There won’t be 500 or 1000 planes and/ or boats arriving tomorrow to get people out. It is important that the community understands this. We cannot create different expectations”, he told Lusa – which explains there are close to half a million Portuguese in Venezuela, 80% of them from the islands of the Azores.

Campos appeared to be at pains to stress that a “commando group is not on its way to get people out” of the country, even if they do want to leave – which he told the news agency is not always the case.

Issues of hunger, which have raised concerns from Catholic charity Cáritas are not affecting countrymen, women and children as much as the problem of medicine shortages, he added.

“The large majority of Portuguese are bringing in medicines from outside at significant cost”, he told Lusa. “People’s health is starting to be affected”.

The latest problems in Venezuela began in earnest in April and have been prompted by the fall in oil revenue that used to fund social programmes, and the perennial battle between political forces in the country.

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