It’s 4:00 am, still dark. She stands in line, about 50 people in front of her. Old, middle aged, housewives, even children with their mothers: standard deal. Some brought blankets, some shiver in the cold air, others sleep on the floor. A few places behind her, a man pukes on the sidewalk.

For three days, that was Marianyelys’ life: waiting at the National Guard Regional Command 8 (CORE-8)’s health care center in Puerto Ordaz, from 4 am to 5 pm —hoping to get the malaria treatment she needed after a trip to La Gran Sabana.

The days when Venezuela spearheaded the global war against malaria are gone. In 2015, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), Venezuela had 30% of all malaria cases registered in the Americas. The situation in 2016 was much worse, with 240,613 registered cases, a 76% increase over the previous year. Unofficial sources calculate that Venezuela might have up to 48% of all cases in the Americas in 2016. Back in 2000, that figure was 2%.

This year, the Health Ministry revealed that 17 of Venezuela’s 24 states registered autochthonous (locally mosquito-transmitted) malaria in 2016. The hardest hit region is Guayana, with 177,619 registered cases, of which 102,499 (42,6% of the national total) come from the Sifontes municipality, in the southern part of the state. That’s almost 20% of cases in the whole American continent. Guayaneses like Marianyelys are standing in lines for days on end, while suffering from the disease.

Unofficial sources calculate that Venezuela might have up to 48% of all cases in the Americas in 2016. Back in 2000, that figure was 2%.

And she only got part of her treatment.

By finding someone on facebook with the pills (6 hours away by car), she bought the rest through the friend of a friend. Sending medicine through regular couriers is illegal now, so she had to pay someone to make the trip, and she’s hardly alone in that hell; according to the 2011 census, Sifontes had a population of 50,082 inhabitants. There’s more malaria than people there, with folks getting infected more than twice a year.

That’s just an average. Some people in mosquito-infested areas fare much worse, as José Grifon, a 22 year-old miner, can tell you. He’s contracted malaria 40 times by now.

Because, see, the role that illegal mining plays is dramatically important: Sifontes has more than 100 gold mines that, with the general collapse of the country’s economy and the increasing price of gold, have attracted more than 50,000 people from all over Venezuela. “All of the patients here are from the mines,” a nurse of Puerto Ordaz’ Guaiparo Hospital tells us.

Illegal mining is as lawless as it sounds. Anyone can go and start mining, as long as you give the armed gangs running the show their cut. With no protection or rules to follow, the miners work surrounded by disease-carrying mosquitoes, and their primitive system leaves puddles where vectors actively reproduce. Here’s what an abandoned mine looks like after the pranes are done with it.

Last year, 28 miners were killed in Tumeremo by gangsters but, with the crisis, nothing discourages them. The whole economy in this area revolves around illegal mining; the pills that Maryanyelis got with so much difficulty are easily found here, yet unaffordable for anyone who doesn’t earn in gold. People sell the free, Panamerican Health Organization (PAHO)-subsidized, treatment for up to $150.

“All of the patients here are from the mines,” a nurse of Puerto Ordaz’ Guaiparo Hospital tells us.

And when people go back to where they came from, they sometimes take the parasites with them, spreading the disease anywhere an Anopheles mosquito can reproduce.

We are seeing the results of this phenomenon today.

Last year, Merida was one of the few states that officially registered no cases of malaria, but a few days ago we met Alicia. She’s a 31 year-old mother from El Vigía, 90 km west of Mérida, where she sells pasteles. She has never visited Bolívar. When we met her, she was in the 17th week of her third pregnancy and, as her skin turned yellow, she got a real bad fever. Doctors told her it must be the flu, and sent her home.

Alicia felt better and her fever disappeared. The next day, she had uncontrollable shivers, blood out of her vagina and fever, mystifying doctors from Merida’s University Hospital, until one of them noticed a pattern. She had fever one day, the next felt better and the third day fever again. Cyclic fever is a key feature of malaria.

They ordered a blood test and voila: She was infected with Plasmodium vivax.

Unlike Maryanyelis, Alicia was “lucky”; the local Malariology Department got her the drugs she needed for free. By the time we talked to her, she was doing well, but we later found out she had lost her baby. Although we can’t guarantee that it was due to her disease, malaria is known to cause abortions (and as we wrote this piece, another confirmed case arrived to Merida’s hospital, with a third one suspected; they both came from the Zulia state).

Not even doctors escape this reality: Midgin Mujica, a pregnant, recently graduated doctor, died in Puerto Ordaz after contracting malaria while working in Caicara del Orinoco. She couldn’t find the drugs in time. Her death forced several universities to suspend the deployment of medical students to the zone, as part of their rural training.

Malaria is back for good, and unless something is done to stop the socioeconomic factors currently in motion, sooner than later the scenes we see in Bolívar will expand throughout the nation. All it takes is a single mosquito, if you’re in the wrong place, at the wrong time.

And nobody is doing anything to stop it.

17 COMMENTS

  1. Denying humanitarian aid allows the regime to weaponize food and medicine.
    Keeping people sick and starving limits the power of the opposition to resist this criminal cadre with anything stronger than words.
    The finite amount of imported food and medical supplies will go to the regime’s supporters and military members.
    The Leaders throughout Latin America and the Caribbean that were so quick to condemn Trump’s remarks about military intervention, have produced no solutions to this crisis. These condemnations served to empower the Castro / Maduro narco-criminals. US military intervention is the only thing that can put fear into them. Without this possibility they operate with impunity.
    People can vent their frustrations on CC and other blogs all they want. Nothing is going to change until there is resolve on the part of the men of Venezuela to destroy this regime.
    Attacking and destroying every single piece of this tyrannical cadre that is holding Venezuela hostage is the only way that freedom and democracy is going to be restored.
    The people that I have spoken to in Venezuela that are suffering under this regime would happily embrace US intervention. The people that are living in this man made Hell do not see military intervention as a negative.
    Every negative possibility from military intervention, has already occurred or will eventually occur in Venezuela. Human suffering, unintended casualties, destruction of infrastructure and lack of access to food and medicine are the realities of combat.
    The one difference is that without foreign intervention, there is no hope for the future.
    The leaders of the region should open their military bases to US cooperation and training. This simple activity would instill a very real paranoia within the regime and the Venezuelan military.
    The politicians should be saying that they hope to solve this crisis without military intervention and state that it is an option.
    The regime will default. The regime will still be able to garner enough income from exports to a few countries to keep their supporters fed while the rest of the country deteriorates. This will become the long term reality of an isolated country that maintains enough international support to keep the dictator in power.

    • John, there will never ever be a military intervention from the US in Venezuela. There will never be enough support, not in South America nor within the UN. Its up to the people in Venezuela to tumble this dictatorship but the people in Venezuela aren’t willing to do so. Cubazuela is here to stay unfortunately.

      • The american intervention is in full force, freezing the enchufados’ assets is dealing a massive damage to the regime and their honchos.

        Also, freezing the narcoenchufados’ assets means less tear gas bombs, less tanks and less dollars to pay the colectivos to slaughter the people.

        The people was more than willing to oust the regime, the last four months are more than enough proof of that, it’s the MUD leadership the ones who aren’t that willing to get rid of the regime.

        The MUD has some kind of phobia to getting into power because they don’t want to “burn their political capital” by taking any unpopular economic measure as any transition government will be obligated to do, and are content with simply picking the crumbs that fall from the enchufados’ table.

        • The is no need at this point for a military action. The opposition has already surrendered.

          At this point, sanctions are useless and help no one.

          The people of VZ prefer CLAP bags over freedom.

          Trump will not risk gringo lives for these people. Would you?

          • Mitchell,
            I share your opinion. The idea that non-Venezuelans should jeopardize themselves fighting for something that the men of Venezuela won’t is a valid point.
            I have vented my frustrations in other posts and there is no need to repeat them. The men allowing their children to fight and die without their support is something I can’t wrap my head around.
            I admit that I have a very hard time understanding the Latino culture and values. There has never been a day in my adult life that I wouldn’t give my life for my family or my country.
            Should the US and possibly military members from other OAS countries, begin have drills and war games on Venezuela’s borders, it is possible that would be enough pressure to cause the crack in the military that is needed.
            Or again maybe not.
            Rather than condemning Trump, the other regional leaders should have expressed their desire for a political solution without ruling out military intervention.
            They have emboldened this regime by guaranteeing that there will be no military intervention.
            I can only see the possibility of a bankrupt country that eventually can’t pay the military or a pandemic that can not be brought under control and threatens neighboring countries as the only other ways this regime will fall sans military options.
            Any scenario other than military intervention does not bode well for the people. As long as there is food, medicine and money for the regime supporters, the people will continue to suffer and die.

          • Welp, if every single person in Venezuela thought as you do, then the country certainly would be doomed.

            I have already proven you why you’re wrong in that regard, so you can refer to any of my other comments for the reply to your post.

          • John, this isn’t about “saving the totthless marginal from their own stupidity”, chavismo has turned Venezuela in a base of operations for terrorists and drug dealers that have all the intent to attack USA, as Ren & Stimpy’s case has shown where they were using diplomatic credentials to smuggle a ton of drugs in the country.

            Venezuela has been turned by chavismo in a threat to all the region and the hemisphere, if you can’t get past the “I don’t want to risk my life for some stupid mestizos” then you don’t get the point, which is “I have to stop Hezbollah and AlQaeda from having a base from where they can slip into USA and kill american citizens”

  2. Don’t worry, the next election will solve everything.

    Unless it doesn’t, so in that case, we’ll just have to “grow up” and continue waiting for the next election over and over again as we’ve done for the last 18 years.

    • Fine, don’t vote in the next elections. If your intention is to make the government happy, then, congratulations, you will have succeeded.

      • Getshrink, fine, go and vote in the regionals and DO ABSOLUTELY NOTHING MORE (That is, simply wait for the next election and NOTHING ELSE), that is what the dictatorship has wanted during the last 18 years and believe me when I tell you that makes them ecstasic.

        • I’m not claiming that’s all we should do, only that it definitely should be part of what we do. In any case, If having people vote caused such an ecstasy to the ones in power, they wouldn’t have postponed these elections for so long.

          I have one basic rule: If the government wants me to do something, I’ll do the opposite. And it is pretty clear the government wants people not to vote for the opposition. Notice how hard they are trying to promote abstention among us.

          Let me ask you something, if these were presidential elections, would you go to vote or not?

          • “I’m not claiming that’s all we should do, only that it definitely should be part of what we do.”

            Then you finally start seeing my point, and the cause of why many people are furious with the MUD. Voting and NOTHING ELSE has been MUD’s plan since april 11, when they made the atrocious mistake of sending people home to watch globovisión while the enchufados were trying to cut the country apart.

            “In any case, If having people vote caused such an ecstasy to the ones in power, they wouldn’t have postponed these elections for so long.”

            They were simply trying to figure how to carry out the fraud, simple as that, besides, yes, voting makes chavismo feel fucking ecstasic, as it is the “undeniable proof” that they’ll wag to the international community that Venezuela is a “free, open and law-abidding democracy because there are elections”

            ” And it is pretty clear the government wants people not to vote for the opposition.”

            No, what they want is to people to stop protesting and shut up, that way they don’t have to pay the colectivos to slaughter people, they don’t have to waste dollars in tear gas bombs to crack skulls open nor in tanks to crush people in the streets either, so they can steal more dollars, it’s their ideal scenario.

            “Notice how hard they are trying to promote abstention among us.”

            Abstention doesn’t matter when “máquina mata voto” (Machine kills vote, go and check the elections law, it’s there”, and it also doesn’t matter when they can simply go and claim that “chavismo won all the states, so go and f**k yourselves and yourselvas f****t and f****ta fascists, they’ve been rigging elections since 2004.

            “Let me ask you something, if these were presidential elections, would you go to vote or not?”

            If MUD simply wants people to vote and do nothing else, then no, because that won’t amount to anything to alter the status quo; now if they want to use the election (which chavismo will cheat) as a trigger to jumpstart another wave of protests then I would vote.

            My problem with the MUD is, that they will go to the elections and then they will shut up about the fraud and will revert to their useless and completely failed tactic of telling people to “go home and dance salsa to drain the anger” while whimpering “oh, well, we didn’t manage to win this time, all because we didn’t work hard enough to convinced the chavistas (in spite they were brainwashed to hate us with every fiber of their being) so the only thing to do is to wait six more years until the next election! It’s out of our hands! ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ ”

            MUD has done that during more than 15 years and has been a dismal failure, while four months of protests where people was completely pacific and didn’t have a sliver of organization at all put the regime in the most compromised position it has been in all its existence, forcing the desertion of an important chunk of chavistas who had actual power to disturb the regime, yet inexplicably the MUD decides to suddenly abandon the protests and swiftly revert to their imbecilic position of “anybody who dares to do something without our blessing is a tarifado chavista infiltrator” (As the infamous chúo torrealba was barking recently)

  3. Sadly, some people must suffer in order for the Glorious Revolution to proceed. Sacrifices must be made. Curiously, it is the people who Chavismo purports to help that suffer the most.

    But no suffering by those who hold power. They must be healthy and steadfast for the battles ahead! Where would Venezuela be without such powerful leadership?

    Does Maduro get His medicine? Fresh food, three times each day? Potable water? ¡Sí! You can’t expect the Supreme Leader to go on His own “Maduro Diet”.

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