The formaldehyde revolution - sans formaldehyde

When writing about Venezuela, one has to juggle with an embarassment of riches – there is so much crap going on, that sometimes it’s hard to select the right story that...

No rest for the weary.
No rest for the weary.

When writing about Venezuela, one has to juggle with an embarassment of riches – there is so much crap going on, that sometimes it’s hard to select the right story that brings to life the collapsing Venezuelan economy.

I think this one does an excellent job.

Fusion’s Manuel Rueda went to Mérida to talk to students at the revered Universidad de los Andes. One of the things he highlighted was how cadavers in the medical school – an essential pedagogical tool for future doctors – are rotting due to a lack of formaldehyde.

The value added (make sure you’re not eating while you read):

“How can we learn from this?” medical student Mina D’Ambrosio says as she gives me a tour of her school.

She points to a dirty sink that contains a barely recognizable foot, and a brown lump of human tissue that could have been a liver. The rapidly decomposing body parts make it harder for students to identify vessels, small ligaments and other parts of the body as they would appear on a living patient. It makes learning difficult, and poses a health risk to students.

The piece provides a tour of campus. Everything from striking dental students (no bibs for patients) to frustrated administrators are given fair billing. He even has a shot of university dean José Anderes with the pile of forms he needs to sign, forms that belong to the students looking for a way, any way, to ditch Venezuela and start anew somewhere else.

Here’s another notable piece:

“Not everyone wants to leave. Mina D’Ambrosio, the medical student who took me on a tour of the anatomy lab, says she’ll stay in Venezuela as long as she can afford to. But it’s a struggle. Her rent costs nearly the equivalent of a monthly minimum wage, and at the medical school supplies like alcohol and cotton are becoming increasingly scarce. Even exam booklets are hard to come by.

“In anatomy classes, professors have switched us from written to oral tests because there’s not enough paper for everyone,” D’Ambrosio says.

Still, D’Ambrosio wants to do her part to make Venezuela a better place. And she thinks it would be an “injustice” for her to get free medical training in Venezuela and then go work for another country’s health system.”

Like everything else in Venezuela, our universities are dying, rotting. The only things that aren’t rotting are the ideas pushing this debacle.

Formaldehyde was first produced for commercial purposes by a Russian chemist some 150 years ago. Many of the biggest vendors of the thing are US firms. I’m sure none of them want to deal with Venezuela’s crazy foreign exchange system, so we’ll have to live (die) without formaldehyde. People like to say that chavismo has taken us back to the XIXth Century, but in the XIXth Century they had formaldehyde. It’s more like the middle ages.

Many of us think that chavismo’s ideas and policies are a resurrection of failed experiments we long thought dead. As it turns out, they were just being preserved in formaldehyde, ready to be plucked into life again by our useless kleptocrats.

Ironically, the lack of formaldehyde is yet another sign that the bottom has fallen out. The revolution is in power, seemingly alive and well. But it is a walking political corpse, and there is no way they can hide the stench.