WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump’s administration said Friday it would sell ventilators to at least four developing countries to fight the coronavirus, saying US needs were being met.
Trump said he spoke by telephone to the presidents of Indonesia, Ecuador, El Salvador and Honduras and promised that the United States would send the vital medical equipment.
“We will be sending them desperately needed ventilators, of which we have recently manufactured many, and helping them in other ways,” Trump wrote on Twitter of his call to President Lenin Moreno of Ecuador, which has seen a spike in coronavirus cases.
Michael Kozak, the top US diplomat for Latin America, confirmed the United States was selling the ventilators.
“We’re seeing our own needs met; we can become an exporter again,” Kozak told reporters.
“I think in many of these cases that the countries just want to buy them. They aren’t asking us for financing,” he said.
But Kozak said some countries may use assistance from the United States to make the purchases.
Governors led by New York’s Andrew Cuomo said they were seriously short of ventilators at the start of the pandemic and had faulted the federal government.
But Cuomo last week said New York would send ventilators to Michigan and Maryland as the situation had stabilised in his own state – the worst-hit by the pandemic that has killed more than 50,000 people in the United States.
With companies such as Ford and General Motors switching to ventilator production, Trump has boasted that the country as a whole is in good shape and said foreign leaders were asking him for supplies.
“No country is equipped like we are. We have 11 different places making ventilators,” Trump told reporters Thursday.
“Our country, as you know, doesn’t need them now. Our governors are very happy,” Trump said.
In his tweets, Trump praised Honduras and El Salvador for helping curb emigration to the United States – a signature issue for the mogul-turned-president.
Guatemala is also a major source of migrants but has temporarily stopped accepting deported citizens from the United States due to coronavirus infections.
Kozak said that Guatemala – not mentioned in Trump’s tweets on ventilators – was not being punished.
“There isn’t some hard linkage here between cooperation on removals and ventilators. We’re trying to get medicine and medical supplies to anybody who needs them”.