Yesterday Venezuela became the first country to eliminate visa requirements for Palestinian citizens.
The accord was signed in Caracas by foreign affairs ministers Riad al-Maliki of the Palestinian National Authority and Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela, along with other documents outlining mutual collaboration between the two nations.
Under the new law, Palestinian citizens holding diplomatic or ordinary passports will not require a visa in order to enter Venezuela.
“We are sending a very important message to the world”, al-Maliki said, adding “from Caracas begins a new era for Palestine”. The foreign affairs minister also expressed gratitude to Venezuelan authorities for being among the United Nations member states that voted to upgrade Palestine’s status from “Observer Entity” to “non-member Observer State” on 29 November, in a meeting of the U.N. General Assembly.
Al-Maliki also confirmed that, as per the new accords, Venezuela had agreed to construct a hospital in the Palestinian territories.
In other regional news, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez returned to Caracas early this morning after undergoing medical treatment in Cuba. Authorities say the head of state travelled to receive hyperbaric oxygenation treatment, a procedure meant to alleviate symptoms associated with radiation therapy.
In July Chávez claimed to be completely free of the cancer he was diagnosed with in 2011, however this latest trip to Havana and his decision not to attend the Mercosur summit beginning today in the capital of Brazil have raised renewed suspicions regarding the true state of his health.