A large hospital in Valencia gets the New Yorker treatment this week, at the start a long piece by William Finnegan that’s hard to do justice to with a quote or two.

It starts as what you think will be just another hospital exposé, in the tradition of Hannah Dreier’s scraped-knee-that-almost-killed-your-kid or Meredith Kohut and Nick Casey’s psychiatric hellscape. But then Finnegan does something interesting: instead of zeroing in on the brutal human toll of a collapsed hospital system, he treats the hospital as a kind of metaphor for the Venezuelan state writ-large.

We circled the hospital grounds, following a tin-roofed walkway. It was a dim, greasy day, raining lightly. We came upon a long, narrow encampment: families who had strung hammocks between the posts of the walkway or laid mattresses on the concrete, out of the rain. There were bags, baskets, baby strollers. People seemed to be camped long term.

José said that he had raised the forty dollars for the tests, partly by begging on buses, after losing his job.

A dark-skinned man in a hammock said that he had been there for three months. His four-year-old son was in the hospital with a low blood-platelet count. “Viral infection,” the medical student told me. “Maybe Zika, or dengue. If he gets the right meds, he’ll survive.” He asked the man, whose name was José, about blood tests. José said that he had raised the forty dollars for the tests, partly by begging on buses, after losing his job. Now he needed money for medicines, none of which the pharmacies had in stock. “We must buy from the mafia,” he said. He meant the black market, but not just the ubiquitous profiteers known as bacha­queros. The medical student understood. Some of the security forces that were deployed, or self-­deployed, to the hospital were in the medical-­supply business.

The overstaffed entrances—all the military and police uniforms and firepower—began to make more sense. Cops and soldiers, militares, were notoriously underpaid. There was money to be made here. We talked to other families camped on the walkway, and on concrete benches under an awning closer to the hospital buildings. Some people were surprisingly outspoken. They denounced the prices charged for examinations (in a system of supposedly free health care), the corruption, the intimidation, the outrageous prices for sterile gauze, saline, food (when there was food), and medications. Some militares had the nerve to accuse the families of profiteering, and to seize their hard-won supplies when they tried to enter the hospital. These were items that, often, they had bought from other militares, who had looted them from pharmacies, or from shipments meant for hospitals. The worst actors were the colectivos, gangs of barrio toughs armed by the government and deputized as “defenders of the revolution.” Their main activity, as runaway inflation and food rationing gripped the country, was shaking down and monitoring their neighborhoods, but they found opportunities around hospitals and seemingly answered to no one. (Some colectivos could trace their descent to urban guerrillas from the sixties who had never disarmed.)

The long piece then broadens out into a more conventional, though very well executed, #TropicalMierda update. But that bit from the hospital in Valencia…man!

26 COMMENTS

  1. The persisting view that these are the effects of a conspiracy of elites and the gringos, that he documents, is dismaying. The monopoly over information by the regime has evidently had a powerful effect. And it has turned the sole remaining producers into the next target.

  2. Added to our repository of knowledge, a doctoral dissertation by former Democrat Congressperson Cynthia McKinney:“El No Murio, El Se Multiplico!” Hugo Chávez : The Leadership and the Legacy on Race. Dr. McKinney was a member of the US House of Representatives for 12 years, as a Democrat from Georgia.

    Partial abstract:
    “Chávez, Chávez, Chávez: Chávez no murio, se multiplico!” was the chant outside the National Assembly building after several days of mourning the death of the first President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. This study investigates the leadership of Hugo Chávez and his legacy on race as seen through the eyes and experiences of selected interviewees and his legacy on race. The interviewees were selected based on familiarity with the person and policies of the leadership of Hugo Chávez and his legacy on race. Unfortunately, not much has been written about this aspect of Hugo Chávez despite the myriad attempts to explain his popularity with the Venezuelan people up to the time of his death. It is expected that, as a result of this research, a clearer picture of Hugo Chávez will emerge. The resulting profile of Hugo Chávez focuses on him as a person of power as well as of color—of African and Indigenous descent—who was able to free himself from a colonial mindset (and its oftentimes accompanying internalized racism) and thereby gain the attention of oppressed peoples across the planet who sided with him as he used his power to challenge neoliberalism, the U.S. government, and those who wield power on neoliberalism’s behalf inside Venezuela. This research serves as important infrastructure for understanding Hugo’s race-conscious leadership in resistance to internalized racism and European domination.

    The complete dissertation is free for the downloading.

      • CC has postings debating whether Trump is like Chavez or is Trump like Maduro, and a Democrat who was in Congress for 12 years writes a doctoral dissertation informing us what a great Revo Hugo had brought to Venezuela. Just sayin.’

        • I guess by that logic, Trump really is indistinguishable for Joseph McCarthy, Republican Senator from Wisconsin for 10 years, after whom the term “McCarthysim” was coined, meaning a demagogue who engages in throwing around unsubstantiated accusations and engages in a practice of assigning guilt by association.

          • I guess by that logic…
            My logic:
            CC writers post arguments trying to unearth evidence of hidden Chavismo in Donald Trump’s acts or utterances. It’s definitely hidden, because I doubt that anywhere Trump has made a statement praising Maduro or Chavez. Trump as the Chavista under the bed.
            Yet CC pays no attention to outright Hugo worship from a former Democrat congressperson.

            Contrary to what you claim about my logic, my statement @ 12:03 a.m. made no judgment on the validity or lack of validity of the CC claims, or anyone’s claims associating Trump with Chavez or with Maduro or with anyone else, for that matter. I am not wasting my time on that.

            My point was about missing the outright Chavez worship.
            Ciao.

          • Canucklehead, you are going to have to help me to understand then. Clinton’s vapid political machine, in cahoots with much of the international media, is screeching about the evil Russians influencing our election, how the “wikileaks” which expose their corruption and lies is Russian propaganda, how Trump has been co-opted by the Russians and how he is their candidate. Please tell me that you didn’t fail to notice this neo-McCarthyism on a grand scale. Could you really be on the lookout for McCarthyism everywhere but fail to see such a massive and obvious example of it from your own preferred candidate? It’s almost as if you are willfully ignorant.

        • She was far left. She ran for president as Green Party, if I recall. Hardly representative of democrats.

          She lost her seat to a moderate democrat in primary. (Often primaries favor more extreme candidate, so that tells you something)

          • Hardly representative of democrats.

            Yes, Dr. McKinney is far left. She was a 9/11 truther. BTW, her successor is hardly a paragon of straight thinking- think Guam. Regarding Dr. McKinney being “hardly representative of Democrats,” please bear in mind that she represented the Democrats in the House of Representative for 12 years. That is representative enough by my standards. If you bother to look, you will find out that McKinney is far from the only current or former Democrat Congresscritter who has suffered an attack of Hugo-love.

            Consider Bernie Sanders. He has been prudent enough to keep his mouth pretty well shut regarding Venezuela. However, for a half century Sanders has had himself a serious case of caudillo-love with Fidel and later on the Sandinistas when they arrived on the scene. While one may consider Sanders to be “hardly representative of Democrats,” he won a substantial amount of the Democrat vote in the primaries these years. Representative enough, I would say.

          • What about Mary Landrieu? The woman who was basically a Chavista mouthpiece in the senate. Hardly representative of democrats too?

            That woman was so immoral that even Caracas Chronicles, a blog known for being extremely naive (supported the Bolivarian candidate in the last Peruvian elections, for example) was against her.

            Venezuelans supporting democrats = Stockholm syndrome.

    • Deja que le peguen un secuestro express en Caracas a la becerra ésta para que vean como se le pasa la mariquera esa de que el galáctico ahora es la versión tropical de Luke Cage. How can you even call this crap research? #nomejodas

    • I could probably find you a former Republican congressperson who wrote something crazy in their university years, but I am not sure it is a pressing issue deserving of our immediate attention.

      • I could probably find you a former Republican congressperson who wrote something crazy in their university years…
        Dr. McKinney earned her Ph.D. in 2015, at the youthful and immature age of 60. Ah yes, the crazy university years of a 60 year old. After all, it is absurd to think that anything a person writes at age 60 is evidence of that person’s mature thought. 🙂

        …but I am not sure it is a pressing issue deserving of our immediate attention.
        Your having posted three times so far on the McKinney dissertation thread is evidence that you consider it to be “deserving of our immediate attention.”

        • Ok. Let me put it another way. I could probably find you a sixty year old Republican who wrote something crazy. That does not make all Republicans crazy. Get it?

          (Now Benjamín is going to think I’m Republican so I will just leave it at that)

        • Ok. I will try again: I could probably find you a 60 year old Republican who wrote something crazy. That does not make all Republicans crazy.

          (Benjamin is going to think I am a Republican now, so I will leave it at that)

          Great piece in the New Yorker on Venezuela.

    • And it’s one of the reasons the U.S. Second Amendment reads:

      A well regulated Militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.

      The guys didn’t have just owning a gun for self-defense in mind when they agreed on that. They had in mind that a good leader does not want to use arms against his own citizens; he wants his citizens to have arms to use against him, should it ever come to that point where he messed up so badly they wanted him gone.

      It’s law in Switzerland that every household must have a fully operational machine gun, with ammunition. Swiss history is instructive. The Swiss used to be mercenary soldiers and European wars ended up being Swiss fighting Swiss (because they were the best soldiers around). So they decided to cut that out, and organized into cantons and a single nationality. You get the idea that the whole country called Switzerland is more like a truce among warriors living in proximate geographic regions. The whole philosophy of the Swiss is interesting, their philosophy on wars, their philosophy on drugs – I haven’t made a study of it.

      Trump is more like the Swiss, he wants true freedom for citizens, himself included. Myself included. And of course the socialists who want slavery for all get rabid about anyone who preaches freedom, call them names, liken them to their own dictators, and so on. Clinton’s policies and plans and methods are the ones that are questionable, and on the broad spectrum, she is a lot more like Chavez than Trump. Trump is polar opposite of Chavez.

      Did Chavez want citizens to own guns to defend themselves?
      Does Clinton want citizens to on guns to defend themselves?
      Does Trump want citizens to own guns to defend themselves?

      The Second Amendment is just one example. There are many, many more.

      Life isn’t perfect at all, not even remotely close. There are people who want to reduce you to nothing, even kill you (and me). It’s a hatred and envy of the good and the strong. And they get together and call themselves socialists and communists. It’s a disease of the soul, and Marx is the virus origin that has killed over a hundred million, leaving many hundreds of millions more in misery.

      I look at what I just wrote, and wonder if it’s relevant to the topic here. Unfortunately, it is. If Maduro & Co. are stalling for time, it is time for the country to turn on itself. Don’t let that happen.

      It’s a world-wide fight. The irony is that the two leading countries who espoused communism have turned away from it. They still have to recuperate from its devastation. Cuba will be next.

      Do not look at the personal characteristics of the individual, look at the policy and economics and the plan. Trump’s policy is for each individual to have the freedom to carry on with their own plan, Clinton’s plan is to make a plan for each individual. Decentralized v. centralized. Capitalism v. socialism.

      • P.S. To be respectful, which is what I intend: each country, or culture, really, will have its own solutions, just as each individual has his own solutions. Being American, I look at things through American eyes. You guys, as Venezuelans, will have your own solutions. I just try to offer a point of view, not “the best” one or anything like that. In the galaxy, there must be civilizations far better than the USA and Switzerland and Sweden and Finland and Monaco, individuals far better and far richer, populations without complaint, etc.. I just hope you Venezuelans come up with a solution that improves your quality of life and offers better opportunities for enduring stability and some happiness better than what you managed to get yourselves into.

  3. I was born in the public hospital of Valencia (there is up to this day only one general public hospital in a one-million city).

    I was born in Valencia, Venezuela. It was another country. It got the worst form of socio-political and economic cancer I could imagine.

  4. The best part is at the end “…I asked if they ever went swimming here… “Yes” she said… but there is too much oil. We come out looking like Dalmatians”. That’s indeed Venezuela and not only Maracaibo, a place with too much oil on which millions of human beings are forced to have a dog life and inevitably end up looking like them.

  5. [It’s understandable that angry Venezuelans talk about “the dictatorship.” Their rights are under siege. But real dictatorships impose order.]

    They aren’t even good at being dictators!

    • Well, “order” is relative, all the enchufados have their lives in perfect order: They earn millions of dollars each month, they travel to wherever they want to, they buy whatever they want to buy and so on.

      They even can completely fuck up the lives of those they dislike on a whim, and are subjected to zero accountability.

      For them, they are living their dream, they are in a perfect order.

      And counterexample of “dictatorship that brings order”: Camboya’s Pol Pot, hell, we can take ANY dictatorship if you see it from the side of those who are in the bad side of the coin, dictatorships thrive on making their “internal enemy”‘s lives a hell in the earth.

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