A few weeks before Christmas, Venezuela’s president Nicolås Maduro made a major announcement about his plans to tackle coronavirus. His vice-president, Delcy Rodriguez, had just arrived back from Moscow bearing seasonal tidings of comfort and joy regarding Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine.
“We have guaranteed more than 10m doses of vaccines for the first quarter of next year,” Maduro assured the nation. “Our aim is that in January, February, March, April or May — at least 10m vaccines.”
Reality has proved somewhat different, as Maduro’s government struggles to secure enough doses to cover even the most vulnerable of its people.
There is no sign that Beijing or Moscow are giving preferential treatment to their socialist ally. Venezuela has received 380,000 of those Russian doses — just 3.8 percent of what the president promised — and 500,000 doses of the Sinopharm vaccine from China.
It has vaccinated just 1 percent of its population, the lowest share of any nation in South America. At that rate, it will need over a decade to reach herd immunity.
“Neither Russia nor China are offering Maduro the help he would like at this difficult moment because they have other priorities,” said Dimitris Pantoulas, a political analyst in Caracas. “And also, Maduro simply doesn’t have the money to pay them. It’s a big problem for both Venezuela and Maduro. The country is becoming a secondary priority for the Russians