Aníbal Chávez, mayor of Arvelo Torrealba municipality, died in Caracas’s Hospital Militar, like his brother did. According to the government, this country has no humanitarian crisis in the healthcare sector, a normal supply of medicines and great basic services — like drinking water. And yet a mayor can die of Salmonella; a disease that, according to the World Health Organization, is more common than we imagine, but is also completely treatable, so much so that it hardly ever causes fatalities. The Governor’s Office of Barinas state decreed three days of statewide mourning.
The government’s shown the Chávez Frías family all the solidarity they’ve not shown for the families of the 166 children who have died in the Concepción Palacios Maternity Hospital during the first half of 2016, a tragedy decried by doctors and patients during this Monday’s protest. Dr. Gladys Zambrano, head of the hospital’s epidemiology department, explained: “90% of these deaths were cases of children weighing less than 2,500 grams, but this wouldn’t happen in other countries,” denouncing that, up until June, there’s been 155 cases of women with infections because the hospital’s working at 30% capacity and they haven’t received any solutions for their tremendous operational issues.
This Monday, several activists and NGOs presented a document before the Supreme Tribunal of Justice to demand the Venezuelan government to provide solutions for the severe healthcare crisis, which violates essential rights like the right to life, to health; the right not to die of causes associated with pregnancy and childbirth; the right to get information in terms of family planning, to access contraceptive methods; the right to reproductive autonomy and the right not to die of causes related to HIV/AIDS. This is the latest of a series of previous demands still unanswered by the TSJ. Life is secondary when power’s at stake.
According to pollster Venebarómetro’s latest study, performed between June 11th and 22nd in more than 1,200 homes across the country, 58% of Venezuelans are willing to sign to activate the recall referendum. That’s 11,426,000 voters, seven million above the 20% requirement. If the referendum were to take place next Sunday, 88.4% of citizens would vote Nicolás out, while 11.1% would keep him in. Support for the recall increased four percentage points compared to April’s results. The people support the referendum for 2016: 61.8% of respondents are sure to vote, while 16.7% are against it. If the referendum doesn’t take place this year, 34.3% would support defying Nicolás’ mandate and demand his resignation, a clear indication of how much worse our political climate can get.
This Monday, the National Electoral Council -finally!- began the fingerprint authentication process for the 1% signatures for the referendum. Marea Socialista and some of el finado’s former ministers picked Clìver Alcalá Cordones as messenger before the CNE to deliver a document where they demand the activation of the recall referendum. They read the letter during a press conference, stating that people all over Venezuela only talk about the issues we suffer, and that’s why they ratify the referendum as a constitutional right and remark that “it would be a misconduct” for the CNE to “prevent citizens from exercising their right to evaluate and revoke a mandate,” demanding speed and transparency. According to former Environment minister, Ana Elisa Osorio, shutting down the referendum would multiply conflicts and promote violence.
Meanwhile, Juan Barreto, former mayor of Libertador, said that his party (Redes) hasn’t met with Nicolás since January. The Venezuelan Communist party and Vanguardia Bicentenaria clearly broke relations with the government as well. That’s why he thinks that the Polo Patriótico should be reconfigured and stop being a purely electoral alliance, that critics shouldn’t be suspects, and that dissolving the National Assembly would be disregarding people’s choice. He offered their support to both presidents, Nicolás and Padrino López, trusting in the achievements of this new form of shared mandate.
The Foreign Affairs minister, Delcy Rodríguez, said that the world’s right wing is ready to act against Nicolás in a context ruled by the class racism of a tremendously powerful media network, just as she deals with the statement of the Office of the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, cautioning Nicolás about the obligation to report other countries on the states of emergency he’s decreed and notifying the potential visit of Amerigo Incalcaterra, regional representative for South America, to lend technical support on Human Rights.
In local matters, Tareck El Aissami, governor of Aragua, said that the PSUV won’t allow Amazona’s challenged legislators to rejoin Parliament because they’re prevented from doing so due to a TSJ decision, that they don’t have parliamentary immunity, so once they commit the crime of rejoining and they’re arrested, they can’t say they’re political prisoners. He invited all government branches to reach a decision about the hundreds of claims presented by the PSUV against the signature collection for the recall referendum, urging them to acknowledge that it’s “a massive fraud by the right.” The messenger is himself a message.
The glimpse of hope in the crisis
Almost 130,000 Venezuelans crossed the border with Colombia during the weekend. Sales in Cúcuta tripled, according to Gladys Navarro, executive director of the National Federation of Traders. She estimates that each buyer made purchases for about 40,000 pesos, so she calculates that the commercial sector made sales close to 5,000 million pesos, which is over Bs. 12,000,000. Which products were sold off? Sugar, flours of all kinds, beans and oil. This Monday morning, María Ángela Holguín, Colombia’s Foreign Affairs minister, arrived at Cúcuta and held meetings to monitor progress on the roadmap they’re designing for the border’s eventual reopening.
Two National Guard officers and 12 officials of the Prisons ministry, including the prison’s assistant director, were taken hostage by inmates. By doing this, the inmates hoped to be transferred to Tocorón prison. Once everything was settled, Iris Varela, Prisons minister, tweeted: “Bad news for the opposition: this [Monday] morning’s situation in one of Carabobo’s prisons has been solved,” and attributed the incident -through hashtags- to non-conventional warfare. Minutes later, she said that she’ll meet with the AN’s Cults and Prisons Committee with these words. “Don’t start a show because I set the beat in here,” remarking that the deputies will have a chance to watch the Technological System for Prison Security. The joke tells itself. The meeting is set for Thursday.
A salute to Mandela. In his day, let’s remember his words: “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”