This week, as we’re gearing up for end-of-the-year posts at Caracas Chronicles, I noticed that right around May of 2016, we reached a zenith in what we would eventually coin as Misery Porn: posts that described in lurid detail the spelunking-beyond-rock-bottom that had become life in Venezuela: starvation, dead babies, eating out of trash cans, medicine shortage-stricken cancer patient suicides…We were quickly running out of superlatives with which to qualify the FUBARness of Venezuelan daily struggles.
Things haven’t gotten better since, we’ve just become accustomed to the quotidian tragedy. Leave it to Nick Casey and photographer Meridith Kohut at the New York Times to jolt us out of the Misery Porn Stupor and bitch-slap us back into our appalling and deplorable and unacceptable reality.
He tells the story of Kevin, a Maturin-born high school student who dies on his 16th birthday because he was forced to forage —yes, forage—for food and ate a toxic manioc root. He died hours later, before he could taste the slice of birthday cake his unemployed mother had desperately bartered a neighbor for. Casey does a phenomenal job in painting the heart-wrenching account of a life lost to the economic crisis, and the world of pain that rains upon loved ones. But not before reviewing, one by one, the reports he’s filed on Venezuela since his arrival early this year, as a lead up to this most harrowing of stories. In his words, a summation of “everything that ha[s] gone wrong in Venezuela.”
Venezuela has suffered from so many ailments this year. Inflation has driven office workers to abandon the cities and head to illegal pit mines in the jungle, willing to subject themselves to armed gangs and multiple bouts of malaria for the chance to earn a living.
Doctors have prepared to operate on bloody tables because they did not have enough water to clean them. Psychiatric patients have had to be tied to chairs in mental hospitals because there was no medication left to treat their delusions.
But it was the story of a boy with no food, who had gone searching for wild roots to eat but ended up poisoning himself instead, that seemed to embody everything that had gone wrong in Venezuela.
How many anonymous Kevins are out there, and how many more have to die before this senseless affront on Venezuelans stops? What more proof is needed of the medievally sadist nature of the Venezuelan government? How many days before some other Dickensian nightmare makes headlines and Kevin’s story is tossed into the growing pile at the landfill of Venezuelan agony tales?
“This boy dies this way for no reason at all,” Kevin’s aunt is quoted saying in the piece. Please read it. If for no other reason, so that Kevin’s life may have another few minutes of significance.