President Chávez laments the death of Kim Jong Il
Trade between the two countries plunged since 2007
Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez sent condolences to North Korean authorities expressing the "most sincere sorrow" for the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il, on behalf of "all Venezuelans," after learning about the death of his "comrade."
President Chávez said that he has full confidence that North Koreans will move "toward a prosperous and peaceful future," according to a Venezuelan foreign ministry statement.
In the text, the government expressed its willingness to "keep walking along with sovereign nations for the auto-determination of countries and world peace."
Trade between Caracas and Pyongyang significantly increased when President Chávez took office in 1999, but it has dwindled since 2007, according to data from the National Institute of Statistics (INE).
The news marked an ominous beginning, health-wise, of the year 2015: the Cardiovascular Surgery Unit at Hospital Clínico Universitario, one of the country's largest teaching hospitals, was to close completely on January 5 due to lack of medicines and surgical supplies. All patients who were waiting to be operated on were sent home. More than 10 patients waiting for surgery reportedly died there from lack of basic medical supplies in the two months prior to the closure.