Snapshot of a Crisis

There’s a picture from Venezuela that has been all over the news this week. It shows how dire the situation is in our hospitals – and who the government really perceives as criminals. WARNING: Graphic content follows.


This weekend, a series of photographs showing women in labor inside the waiting room of Barquisimeto’s Pastor Oropeza Hospital, run by the government, under the banner of the Venezuelan Social Security Institute or IVSS, went viral at home and abroad.

The government’s response was immediate, focusing on what really matters: PR.

Information Minister Ernesto Villegas published a quick response on Twitter, and Health Vice-Minister Linda Amaro blamed the Lara State Government, regarding the state of Barquisimeto’s Central Hospital state Governor Henri Falcón told Amaro to take care of the Pastor Oropeza instead.

But the effect on public opinion was so overwhelming that the hegemony couldn’t beat it. Therefore, they sent the Venezuelan Intelligence Service (SEBIN) and the Criminal Investigations Police (CICPC) to find out who was responsible for taking the pictures.

According to El Estímulo’s Vanessa Arenas, sixteen people working in the hospital were interrogated. Miriam Valiño and María Brizuela, medical students from the local public university (UCLA), spent several hours detained by the SEBIN. They considered their detention as a retaliation against UCLA and the university suspended all their internships in the Pastor Oropeza.

The government eventually found out who took the photos administrative hospital worker Lenny Martínez González. She’s now under SEBIN’s custody and local NGO Funpaz made public what appears to be her mugshot. Martínez shared the pictures with a former hospital doctor now in Chile, but her main purpose was to denounce the situation to her boss.

Funpaz’s Andrés Colmenares told Efecto Cocuyo the reasoning behind this intimidation:

“(The government) doesn’t care about the integrity of the women portrayed or the health of the babies born. What it wants to avoid is the hospital’s precariousness going public.”

As the government prefers to show outrage about foreign crisis in Catalonia, and present themselves as moral paladins in the Calma Pueblo incident, cases like this one truly show the public what hides beneath the image they want to present of themselves.

And they’ll do anything so you don’t peek under their mask.