Special Report

Shutdown: The Coronavirus

Venezuela has another obstacle: the pandemic

Nicolas Maduro taking the oath of office as president of Venezuela on April, 19, 2013. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

How does a government with no transparency, lack of basic needs and facing strong sanctions deal with the coronavirus crisis? In Venezuela you politicize it.

“The current regime tries to politicize the virus to stay in power and form common enemies,” said a journalist based in Caracas  who did not want to be identified for safety reasons. “Moreover, this is the perfect excuse to mask the gasoline shortage. If we are under quarantine, people don’t really use cars that often.” 

Venezuela’s government, historically responsible for jailing journalists, concentrating power, rejecting human rights scrutiny, was already struggling economically even before President Nicolas Maduro took power. Basic needs, like access to food and health resources became scarce and led millions of Venezuelans to flee from their homes.

The president imposed a nationwide quarantine on March 17 after the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in the country. But because of the extreme poverty, Venezuelans continue to leave their houses to search for food and water. 

According to the World Food Program, 9.3 million Venezuelans,  nearly a third of the country’s population, are considered food insecure and 1 in 3 are not getting enough to eat. The same study found that 74%of families have adopted coping strategies to deal with the lack of food, such as reducing quality and variety of what they eat. 

 Maduro recently declared that the mandatory use of masks and quarantine measures are working. On May 30 Venezuela had 1,370 confirmed cases with 14 deaths. But these numbers were called “absurd” by the Human Rights Watch and John Hopkins University.

Dr. Kathleen Page, an associate medicine professor at John Hopkins told France 24 that Venezuela is “a country where doctors don’t have water to even wash their hands” and end up using water coming from the air conditioner to do it, and where “the health system is totally collapsing.”

She believes the true number of COVID-19 deaths is closer to 30,000. 

The Caracas journalist said that Venezuela suffered from serious consequences of the precarious public health even before the arrival of the coronavirus. 

“It is certainly difficult to believe that the numbers are that good,” the journalist said. “There is no transparency on the numbers coming from the government. Hospitals had already collapsed before the pandemic started and this is a risk for hospital staff too.” 

The first COVID-19 case was registered on  March 14, according to ABC News. 

A report from the Associated Press showed that despite the coronavirus threats, Venezuela’s elite still partied in Los Roques, a Venezuelan archipelago. On March 20, Maduro said on state television that, “practically everyone at the party is testing positive.”

“The first cases are believed to be imported by Spanish prostitutes after a party in Los Roques,” the journalist said

As a result , Colombian president, Iván Duque, closed the country’s border with Venezuela to stop the spread in Colombia. But Colombians could still enter Venezuela.

Just like in China, where xenophobia is on the rise,  Maduro is also blaming refugees that are coming back from Colombia for bringing the virus into Venezuela because he knows that people who fled are not his supporters, the journalist said.

Federico Sor,   a historian of modern Latin America, said Venezuela and China are allies. 

“The difference is that China had the resources, it built hospitals and tested the people, Maduro, however does not have the resources to do the same,” Sor said. “In Venezuela, just like in China, people who were contesting the numbers or threatening to expose it were being arrested.” 

In China, Li Wenliang, a doctor who sent the message to fellow doctors in Wuhan about the spread of a new virus was silenced by the police and later on investigated. The same has happened to journalists and doctors in Venezuela who claimed that health facilities were not ready to receive patients with COVID-19. Melquiades Avila is one of them. Now in hiding, he was accused of being a “criminal” by Lizeta Hernandez, a member of the ruling Socialist party. 

The economic situation is specifically critical now that oil prices are collapsing. Sor said the crisis is so big that he believes that it precedes the sanctions imposed by countries, such as the US. 

“Any country that relies on imports particularly suffers more,” he said. “The oil prices are low and the economy is contracting almost by half. Therefore, the options to stay in the country are not the best offer for most of the people who have left.”

 


Tags


Other Stories in Special Report: Shutdown: The Coronavirus

No Actors, But the Show Goes On

James Pothen December 5, 2020

New York City, a place of refuge 

Edith Rousselot December 4, 2020

Commuting in a pandemic world

Michelle Diaz December 3, 2020

Battling food insecurities during a pandemic

Courtney Guarino December 3, 2020

Adaptation

Justin McGown December 3, 2020

Honk!: Cars earn a special spot in 2020

Luana Harumi December 3, 2020

Working out looks very different during a pandemic

Chuyan Jiang December 2, 2020

One kitchen’s transformation in the age of isolation

Isabel Beer December 2, 2020

Nursing homes are filled with sadness and loss during pandemic shut down

Inga Parkel December 1, 2020

The show goes on

Norah Hogan December 1, 2020

Loyal members help keep independent cinemas afloat

Courtney Guarino December 1, 2020

Musicians deal with the reality of no live shows as covid takes center stage

Paola Michelle Ortiz December 1, 2020

 Black Friday’s Aftermath

Sughnen Yongo-Okochi November 30, 2020

The Spirit of Little Haiti

Savannah Daniels October 14, 2020

Small business owners hope for future relief

Courtney Guarino October 2, 2020

Brooklyn Book Festival held virtually

Chuyan Jiang September 28, 2020

NYC Restaurant owners worry about maintaining business during winter 

Isabel Beer September 27, 2020

The pandemic is causing mental health struggles for many Latinos

Paola Michelle Ortiz September 24, 2020

Politically divided family can agree on one thing, rallies are bad during a pandemic

Michelle Diaz September 23, 2020

New Yorkers are vulnerable to mental issues due to pandemic

Sughnen Yongo-Okochi September 23, 2020

Healthcare professionals struggle with Trump’s decisions during pandemic

Tori Luecking September 23, 2020

Some Americans Say “Not So Fast” on Operation Warp Speed

James Pothen September 23, 2020

Trump voters unfazed by morality of Trump’s Covid response

Norah Hogan September 22, 2020

Trump rallies continue, despite the rising Covid-19 death toll

Isabel Beer September 22, 2020

Latinos weigh in on President Trump’s management of the pandemic

Paola Michelle Ortiz September 21, 2020

Fast track vaccine causes fear

Kaity Assaf September 21, 2020

It’s business as usual at McSorley’s Old Ale House

Tori Luecking September 20, 2020

Trump defiance to hold indoor rallies amidst COVID-19 sparks polarized responses 

Courtney Guarino September 20, 2020

NYC Cafes and restaurants try and survive the pandemic

Isabel Beer September 19, 2020

A typical afternoon at Shade Bar NYC

Kaity Assaf September 19, 2020

West Village staple, Caffe Reggio, remains open for outdoor dining in the wake of coronavirus restrictions 

Norah Hogan September 19, 2020

Fort Greene’s Dino adds outdoor dining to keep business flowing

Courtney Guarino September 19, 2020

COVID-19 hampers Fashion Week for photographers

Daniel Karel September 18, 2020

On the heels of revelation that Trump downplayed the covid threat, voters question rallies resuming

Sughnen Yongo-Okochi September 16, 2020

Overburdened mothers in Pakistan are relieved as schools reopens

Quratulain Tejani September 13, 2020

Students from different parts of the world struggle as schools reopen during a pandemic

Chuyan Jiang September 12, 2020

Special needs students face learning obstacles during Covid-19

Courtney Guarino September 12, 2020

Back to school – COVID-19 style 

Isabel Beer September 12, 2020

The new normal for school life is abnormal in Michigan

Sughnen Yongo-Okochi September 11, 2020

California School District Parents and Teachers Clash About Return to School

Norah Hogan September 10, 2020

A tribute to the mask pioneers

Bohao Liu July 11, 2020

Air pollution in China rebounds to pre-COVID level

Hannah Zhang July 11, 2020

ICE takes aim at international students

Maria Abreu July 10, 2020

Chinese students trapped by new ICE policy

Zishu Sherry Qin July 10, 2020

New ICE policy adds more turmoil to the lives of international students

Shiyu Xu July 10, 2020

Lawsuits follow ICE policy barring international students who are taking online classes

Joanna Lin Su July 10, 2020

Economists say the US needs a bold, generous fiscal response. Congress is likely to disappoint. 

Ahmed Mohamed July 9, 2020

Overseas Singaporeans have pandemic obstacles to voting

Yifan Yu July 9, 2020

Proximity sensors and hygiene stations are the “new normal”

Joanna Lin Su July 9, 2020

 Tour ticket vendors miss the hustle and bustle of Times Square

Narkwor Kwabla July 8, 2020