I know about Nick Casey’s story about the scene at El Pampero Psychiatric Hospital in Barquisimeto. Of course I do. Along with Meredith Kohut’s amazing photos, it was on the front page of the New York Times. It’s not missable.

But I haven’t read it. I’m too scared to.

I wrote that on Facebook earlier, and I was amazed by how many “me too” comments I got. It keeps popping up on our Facebook feeds. We know we have to read it. But we can’t.

The whole idea of a mental hospital without psychiatric drugs…it’s too much. A dark stain on our collective consciousness. A truth we can’t handle.

So, no money-quote this time. I’m not going there. There’s so much heartache as it is, I don’t know that I can afford any more.

But if you’re stronger than me, well…the piece is here. 

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  1. During Gomez’s time, the Caracas mental hospital had no modern psychiatric drugs, but they did have a big, fat controller who quieted any signs of suffering/discontent with a blow from the big rubber “verga” hanging from his belt. Venezuela is simply regressing to the pre-oil bonanza poverty/ignorance/misery stage, from which it was emerging in the 50’s/60’s/70’s, but to which it has been,falling back to since, slowly in the 80’s/90’s, acceleratedly in the 2000’s, and now to the worst of all Communist worlds–personal/economic/medical hardship/disaster, coupled with virtually unparalleled corruption and criminal threats at all levels of daily existence.

  2. I can’t help but keep thinking that Jorge Rodriguez is trained a psychiatrist.He knows the needs for these medications to treat the disorders that he studied. Yet he appears not to give a shit. Just how evil can this man and chavismo be?

    • Why did Mao starve his people with the Leap Forward?

      Stalin’s collectivization of the grain farms producing famine of 1932-1933?

      Pol Pot’s Kampuchea’s?

      Shall I continue?

      Orthodox communism.

  3. I started to read it and stopped mid of the article. The worst part, and I know from the friends that I have there that are hard-core chaviztas, is that they will deny it in some cases or in other I know, I KNOW, they will tell “well those medicines produce brain cancer, those medicines do more harm that good,etc” or they could even tell me that there are some other medicines (homeopathic) that could be use. I remember before leaving the country one of them telling me about a common friend suffering cancer that “she should seek other treatments, chemotherapy will kill her”. Having know first hand what is like to have a relative with schizophrenia I just can’t, I can’t imagine the amount of desperation, the suffering of both parties ….

  4. Even in normal countries, the plight of the mentally ill is a subject most of us don’t want to know about. The very idea that it is possible for us to lose our mental capacity to navigate the real world or even lose our very identity is frighting. The lack of what care is medically possible makes the the situation even more horrific.

    In my neighborhood, there is a beggar that is clearly schizophrenic. You can watch him walking down the sidewalk having heated conversations with non-existent companions. He can be aggressive, but has thus far avoided physically assaulting anyone, so he is largely ignored. In a normal country, he could probably be stabilized with medication, and might be able to work and live normally. Here, he is merely walking human flotsam. Sad.

  5. When I saw this article I did not immediately read it. It is profoundly distressing. I encourage people who have not read it to not forget this, but set aside some time, probably not at a work break or before going to bed, and read it. Make yourselves read it.

    Why? Three reasons: (1) it does an excellent job of humanizing people we often dismiss as “locos” and the circumstances of their families- they are us, through and through; (2) it exposes the abject lack of concern from this regime towards the most vulnerable. It exposes the emptiness and the very heart of all those slogans about el pueblo, chavismo as love, and making the world a better place through the “revolution”.

    Where is the revolution for the most vulnerable? Why are they last? Why do they rot in hell? Venezuela is not some sort of war-ravaged country with no capacity to treat people. It has the largest proven oil reserves, etc etc. This is the result of decisions and priorities. What sort of morality drives that decision-making?

    These are among the most vulnerable in Venezuelan society and they have no defenses. Many cannot speak on their own behalf. Nicolas Maduro is refusing aid that could help these people. He and his government are the authors of this living hell.

    Third: this is journalism at its best. Journalism at its best is fucking rare to see these days, and when you see it, hard to read, for all the right reasons. These two journalists did what Dante did, but only in his imagination. They went down into hell and they came back and told us about it.

    Turns out that the lowest rung in hell in Venezuela is the health care system. Unbelievable.

    • What they did is much harder than what Dante imagined. His narrator visited Hell, and saw the spirits of the wicked being tormented, which was not especially disturbing. (He paid off some of his political grudges by placing those he disliked in particularly horrible position.)

      The people reported on in this article are suffering innocents.

  6. This is one more aspect of Venezuelan life were we are experiencing not a revolution but a devolution or involution taking us back in time to when we were a much more backward and primitive country , lacking all those things which protected us from lifes deepest wants and miseries ……!!

    Not too many years ago we counted ourselves a Republic with the free institutions of a modern state , now Maduro is acting as if Venezuela was a monarchy , worse : an autocracy and he an absolute monarch , above all laws , accountable to no one , absolutely sovereign and arbitrary in the exercise of his powers….!!

    In everything we are become a retrograde state , moving back to a time in which we lacked all that made a country modern and civilized ……soon we will begin seeing the times of General Gomez as times of progress and enlightment …!!

    What sort of public speeches are we exposed to, speeches which glorify brutality and savagery, weve fallen behind almost all countries on earth …..in every thing which measure progress and development in the life of nations…… !!

    • That’s why people that bring La Cuarta as a way to relativize the current problems saying that: “Well, Venezuela wasn’t quite a Switzerland before Chávez either” is dishonest. Venezuela was no Switzerland, right, but it wasn’t a Somalia like it is becoming now either.

      With the exception of Argentina, Venezuela seems to be the closest thing from a developed country in South America we have ever had. It was a really cosmopolitan place with a great economy, some sort of Miami. And now it’s the closest thing from a failed country we have since Colombia in the 80’s/90’s.

      • One of the many points I thought was really great about this piece was that it was abundantly clear that Venezuela has the medical expertise to address metal illness. It is not, as you indicate, some war torn third world mess requiring the creation of an entire health care system (or at least, not until chavismo took hold). Venezuela has excellent doctors. It has excellent medical schools. It has laboratories. It has had Ministers of Health with Ivy League credentials. It has no shortage- no shortage- of students who could graduate and have the skills to work anywhere.

        The problem is, the medical professionals on the ground right now who are eminently qualified to do life saving work have nothing to fucking work, with simply because the “revolutionaries” in power do not want to acknowledge there is a problem.

  7. People, it gets tiring to say, but it has nothing to do with missed opportunities or failed achievements.. We are suffering a very systematic destruction by design. First take control by corrupting everyone and everything with our own money, then place in control yes men way above their peter levels, and lastly embezzle and loot until there is nothing left.
    Leave the country in such turmoil and devastation, no one is left with the force to go back after the criminal horde….

  8. I have a NYT online subscription, I think I’ve read every piece from Nick Casey. I saw this article when it was posted a few days ago, but decided not to read on


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