Photos: Gabriel Méndez

At 11:30 a.m. on that Monday, Maite tried to calm her baby’s cries, frantically alternating him between her two breasts. In her modest rancho in Caucagüita, Turumo, they’d only managed to eat some cassava, in a late breakfast that mixed with lunch, and they ate another portion later to quell the hunger before turning in. There was no food on Sunday in that kitchen. Maite, a mother of five, left her only daughter to her sister’s care, a small solace from the burden of being a single (and poor) mom. Her eldest son, 17-year-old Maikel, suffers from epilepsy and shows the development of an incipient teenager. Her work ironing clothes for people in the neighborhood is barely enough to buy cassava, yam or plantain, in the long periods between the deliveries of CLAP boxes with irregular and insufficient products. Maite’s defeated eyes, deep and dodgy, are fixed on the floor and subtly shaking her head, she blurts “We can stand hunger, children can’t.”

The same phrase comes from Julia’s lips days later, now from the San Blas neighborhood in Petare, while she breastfeeds her newborn son, drowned in the shrilling complaint of her second son, who’s not been allowed to benefit from her mother’s milk for the last fifteen days. “He’s hungry,” she says almost as an apology, her face twisted by the helplessness of a mother who can do nothing to ease his hunger. Adriana, her neighbor across the vereda, knows what she’s talking about. Her toddler was diagnosed with malnutrition. His muscles are weak and he suffers from a dermatitis all but worsened by cloth diapers. One case after another, right here in Caracas. The times when babies were born with an arepa beneath their arms is long gone.

That Monday, Karina, along with four mothers in the neighborhood, looked rejoiced and nervous. Vivacious 8-year-old Brayan, her only son, briskly strode from the kitchen to the porch where children were gathering around four makeshift wooden tables. After the local elections in 2017, the community kitchen managed by Fundación Propetare and their program Alimenta la Solidaridad in a public building taken over by chavismo, was cleared out. Karina knew her community’s growing need and she wasn’t willing to look away. With the support of the foundation and her neighbors, she served 45 meals. Maite was there, her face relieved, waiting for the first meal her kids were going to eat that week. By 1:00 p.m., all the kids had eaten. Brayan ran up and down the stairs with his friends. Toddlers were returning home in their mothers’ arms. Maikel would be attending school with a full belly.

In the very heart of the Revolution, one in every three people lives in absolute poverty. Half their children drop out of school for lack of food at home. Hunger is a death sentence. We could all give in to hopelessness or, like Alimenta La Solidaridad – Petare, we could save a kid at a time, a meal at a time.

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20 COMMENTS

  1. “In the very heart of the Revolution, one in every three people lives in absolute poverty. Half their children drop out of school for lack of food at home. Hunger is a death sentence.”

    But yesterday they were lined up by the hundreds at the local school to get their Carnet PSUV. Why, you might ask? The promise of a “linea blanca” from the government. For those in the States, a linea blanca is a fridge, stove, and washing machine.

    I know you guys don’t like hearing anyone say this, but as long as Venezuelans will sell their souls from a few trinkets, it’s hopeless.

      • John, your prayers are being answered. Crystal had surgery late Thursday PM to remove a part of her small intestine that had ceased to function. After the surgery the doctors told her parents that at one point her heart stopped beating and they had to use electric shock to get it going again. She’s still in ICU.

        Saturday morning her mother was allowed to see her. She found Crystal sitting in an inclined position in the bed, one leg up, bent at the knee, and the other leg crossed over it, watching comics on the TV. When the doctor came in and asked her how she was doing, she said, “sssssshhh, I’m trying to watch TV”.

        Today her mom sent us a pic of her lying in bed, the usual tubes running in and out of her body, most of her face bandaged (not sure why) and she was looking at the camera giving her mom a big thumbs-up.

        All efforts now are to put as much weight on her as fast as possible so she can receive a kidney from her mother. We’re taking it day by day right now because at any moment her single kidney could fail and start a chain reaction that won’t end well. The doctors continue to say they cannot understand how she’s still alive, much less her strength coming back from so many setbacks.

        Keep up the thoughts, prayers, and good vibes. I’m thinking this child will eventually show us all how it’s done.

        • MRubio that is wonderful!
          If there is anything that she needs that I can send, Please let me know.
          Perhaps there are products that will help her healthfully gain weight and strength?
          Very happy news!!

        • MRubio
          The lady from Southern Exposure seeds sent me a message last night.
          She said that she has put together a box of seeds and will be sending them to Maria today. I included a small group of 50 packets that she sent me to me, in the last shipment that I sent you. She didn’t say what the quantity of seeds or what varieties are in the shipment.
          She also sent this link for the Spanish version of their seed saving guide.
          https://www.southernexposure.com/growing-guides/como-guardar-semillas-uso-casero.pdf
          Every bit helps. I also asked her for any guidance she can provide for carrots and green onions for your area.
          If the package is relatively small, I will ask Maria to hold it until the next shipment. If it is larger I will have her send it on to Vicky and then it will be there for you.

    • know how to bring motor oil from the states? it’s not only the price (as importing might end up being more expensive, at least upfront), it’s not only the chance of being sold spiked oil, but also the fact that even if it is untampered PDVSA is producing terrible oil and i dont want to be risking my engine.

      The problem is how to bring it over without having it stolen in aduana..

  2. This issue is not unique to Venezuela because elections in many countries, including my own, are simply auctions where the majority vote goes to the highest bidder, i.e., the party that promises the most trinkets. The auction winners in countries with large numbers of poor people are those parties that promises the greatest degree of wealth transfer and that is a very bad environment for democracy. The promise by a political party that through government control of the economy it can deliver the most trinkets has arguably been the most powerful political message of the last century and is it seems is the most powerful political message in Venezuela The problem is that once the government has complete control of both political and economic power democracy is at risk and of little concern to poor nfolks more interested in a linea blanca. There is no longer any sharing of power. There is no private industry to counter the drive to transfer wealth even crazy transfers that in time ruin countries, as has happened in your own country. Destroying private enterprise is pretty easy in a country that derives its income from a natural resource. Just nationalize the oil and run the economy and the government with party loyalists. With that consolidation of power and the winning message of maximum wealth transfer, democracy is crushed. Always goid to hear from you, MRubio.

    • You tell people they have a right to it, get them used to it, conditioned to it, and they expect it. People in other countries hear of it, can’t believe there are such fools in the world to give things away, and move to your country. They learn to vote, and vote for more. Covered in ticks, your country dies.

      The fly in the ointment is bad philosophy, bad understanding of life. Philosophy is what moves life, that is its purpose, its reason. It moves a man, it moves a population. The U.S. Constitution for example, drew a clear line of separation between church and state. Here’s why: to give aid to a deserving man willingly is charity, and is a function of religion, common to three great religions at least; to take from one man against his will to give to another man, is theft; a church may be charitable by good will, a government, by its power to enforce, cannot be – but it can enforce freedom of religion, and freedom of charity of religion. So a citizen of such a nation can know that what he earns and has is his, he has the right to defend himself and what he has, and he is free to be charitable and of goodwill. The First Amendment, the Second Amendment, we hold to be inalienable rights.

  3. “In the very heart of the Revolution”

    What “Revolution”? Decimation, Destruction you mean?

    People using dumb phrases and inaccurate words help perpetuate the Genocidal Narco-Tyranny. Especially ‘anti-chavista’ or ‘opposition’ folks like the author here. Makes the Castrista Dictatorship sound official and ever-lasting. Will people ever learn to use proper the language properly? It’s called Dictionary, readily available for proper utilization in various idioms.

    Why use the word “Government” or “Gobierno Bolivariano” when Desgobierno Criminal are perfectly valid words, much much accurate in their depiction.

    In you’re say something using words, especially if you carefully write something you thought about, how about using the proper words?

    • You’ve brought this up before (I think it was you), and most of us get the point.

      But for practical matters, these ARE the best words to use. It just makes it easier to communicate.

  4. Exactly what MRubio is talking about was in the wall Street Journal on Friday.
    https://www.wsj.com/articles/venezuelas-maduro-clinging-to-power-uses-hunger-as-an-electoral-weapon-1521734622
    The people are starving but they are “getting their little drop” and will still vote for Maduro. It is incredible to hear people say they voted for Maduro because they are afraid they will lose the little bit they are getting.
    Food and medicine awaits delivery as soon as this government is gone and a humanitarian channel can be opened.
    How do they not get it?

    • It may be even worse than I thought John. Yesterday I was told the crowds were getting their Carnet PSUV because of the promise a linea blanca. Today someone told me it was for the promise of 4,000,000 bs. That would work out to $17.02 at today’s black market rate. At least a linea blanca is worth something and almost impossible to find. LOL. I’ll try to find out which is correct, unfortunately, I suspect the latter.

      God help this place.

      • When people will sell their vote for the $17, they won’t oppose Maduro’s election.
        I’ll say this for the regime, they know exactly which buttons to push.

        • I’ve heard my woman say at least a dozen times that the chavistas are as well-organized for campaigning as the ADECO’s. I never saw the ADECO’s in action, but trust the accuracy of her observation as her first husband was some big wig with that party many years ago.

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