Venezuelan boy's death sparks anger over health care crisis

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Oliver Sanchez, diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, holds a sign with a message that reads in Spanish;

Oliver Sanchez, diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, holds a sign with a message that reads in Spanish; "I want to be cured, peace, health" during a protest against the growing shortage of medicines and medical supplies, in Caracas, Venezuela. (Photo: AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos, File)

Venezuelans are expressing dismay over the death of an 8-year-old boy with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma who had become a symbol of the crisis-wracked nation's collapsed health care system.

Oliver Sanchez gained fame in February when he appeared with his mother at a demonstration to protest medicine shortages wearing a mask and holding up a homemade sign reading, "I want a cure, peace and health."

Sanchez died Tuesday, sparking outrage on social media and in congress. Opposition lawmakers in the National Assembly held up pictures of the second-grader to denounce what they called an avoidable death. A popular cartoonist dedicated a drawing to him dressed as an angel with a white dove in his hands.

The boy's mother, Mitzaida Berroteran, told local newspaper El Nacional that in the absence of readily-available and affordable drugs she had to scour social media for donations.

"Each time they prescribed us something we had to run," said Berroteran, who thinks her son contracted a deadly bacteria while interned in a public hospital in western Caracas.

Low oil prices and a deep recession are causing widespread shortages in the South American nation, with everything from prescription medicines to basic foodstuffs going scarce.

-AP

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