Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro announced Thursday the arrival of 7.5 tons of medical supplies from Russia amid mounting pressure on him from the opposition to accept humanitarian aid from the United States and its allies.
"I must deeply thank the OPS (Pan American Health Organization) ... and President Vladimir Putin of Russia for this capability, this steadfastness in the moment of bringing these medications," Maduro said during a meeting with hospital directors.
"The medicines we need, they are arriving in Venezuela every week on a permanent basis," the leftist president said.
Maduro spoke hours after self-proclaimed acting president Juan Guaido, traveled to the Venezuela-Colombia border to coordinate the entry of aid shipments from the neighboring country.
Guaido, the speaker of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, declared himself acting head of state on Jan. 23 and subsequently requested assistance from the US and nearly 50 other countries that have recognized him as Venezuela's legitimate leader.
Oil-rich Venezuela is contending with shortages of basic goods as well as hyperinflation.
The medication, equipment and other supplies that arrived Thursday will be sent to hospitals in Caracas and in the southern state of Bolivar, Maduro said.
"Who pays for it? The Bolivarian government, the Venezuelan government. It's humanitarian assistance, humanitarian support because it is defeating a blockade. But we Venezuelans, I reaffirm, are not anyone's beggars. We Venezuelans pay all of our obligations," he said.
Maduro uses the term "blockade" to refer to Washington's sanctions on the Venezuelan government, which began under Barack Obama but have been sharply escalated by Donald Trump and now constitute a virtual financial quarantine of Caracas.
Days after recognizing Guaido as acting president, the Trump administration blocked the Maduro administration from receiving proceeds from the sale of Venezuelan oil to the US.
The United Kingdom, which likewise recognizes Guaido, has refused Maduro's request to repatriate Venezuelan gold reserves kept in London.
Three years ago, the National Assembly declared a state of emergency in response to chronic shortages of medical supplies and the deterioration of health-care infrastructure.
The latest results of the latest National Survey of Hospitals, released Thursday, show that 1,557 patients died due to a lack of medicines or other vital supplies.