Venezuela has blasted U.S.' ongoing air blockade amid coronavirus pandemic, saying 800 Venezuelans who want to return homeland "stranded" in the U.S.
"We denounce that the US insists on its air blockade of Venezuela and still refuses to authorize direct humanitarian flights of [Venezuelan] Conviasa Airline or other lines, to bring back the more than 800 compatriots stranded in the U.S. and registered in the system of our Chancellery," Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza tweeted Tuesday.
Washington suspended flights to and from Venezuela in May 2019 because conditions exist in the South American country threaten "the safety or security of passengers, aircraft, or crew traveling," as President Nicolas Maduro and opposition leader Juan Guaido engaged in a power battle in January. Since then, U.S. recognizes Guaido as the legitimate ruler instead of elected Maduro.
On Thursday, the U.S. voiced a similar concern about five U.S. citizens and a resident in prison in Caracas.
"With the Maduro regime now acknowledging that COVID-19 cases are appearing in Venezuela, we are extremely concerned about the risk for the five U.S. citizens and one U.S. resident from Citgo who are currently languishing in the notorious Helicoide prison in Caracas," State Secretary Mike Pompeo said in a statement.
Pompeo said these "wrongfully detained men all have weakened immune systems due to cumulative health problems and face a grave health risk if they become infected."
Pompeo said 17 hearings have been canceled and they have already spent more than two years in jail "without an ounce of evidence" being brought against them, adding that "it is time to release them on humanitarian grounds."
In Venezuela, over 90 coronavirus cases have been reported without fatalities, while in the U.S., a total of 802 people have died from the disease so far with more than 55,200 cases confirmed, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University in Maryland.
After first appearing in Wuhan, China last December, the novel coronavirus has spread to at least 171 countries and territories. The World Health Organization has declared the outbreak a pandemic.
The number of confirmed cases worldwide has now surpassed 435,000 while the death toll is over 19,500 and more than 111,500 have recovered.
Despite the rising number of cases, most who contract the virus suffer only mild symptoms before making a recovery.