Photo: FyA Tour

Quick question: what happens first if you contract yellow fever, do you die or get deported?

I’m gonna tell you a secret: passports in Venezuela are paid with dollars, in cash. Wanna get your papers or, say, your criminal records? Get ready for a bribe. As in all red States, poverty and bureaucracy turn corruption into a way of life. You can either embrace it, or get nothing done, and that’s how an entire society turns into a network of accomplices.

The new flavor of this disease? The issuance of yellow fever vaccine international certificates.

In Anzoátegui, there are no vaccines for yellow fever at any of the authorized healthcare centers, so I think you can see what the process is like if you need to travel abroad, and that little requirement is ruining your show.

“Son, you wasted your trip. There are no vaccines here, let alone certificates.”

Looking for more information about this, I went to the Felipe Guevara Rojas Central Hospital in El Tigre where, upon arrival, a thin lady with a pencil told me that “son, you wasted your trip. There are no vaccines here, let alone certificates.” The place hasn’t had any vaccines since December. Last January, they received 15, not enough to cover the demand, and many people were left out after spending the night in line.

The Angulo Rivas Hospital, in Anaco, is in the same situation. A nurse who asked to remain anonymous told me that the delivery of certificates had been suspended due to “a mafia.” If it’s known that this “mafia” exists, is suspending deliveries the best way to fight it?

I don’t know if the Health Ministry’s indifference is born out of incompetence or as a platform for business, because some patients with whom I talked to that morning told me about an alleged private laboratory in Anaco that sells certificates.

She says, straight up, not checking for any info on who I might be, that I had to transfer Bs. 700,000 and send her the info to be displayed on the certificate.

Desperate because you need to travel and there are no vaccines?

Find a contact. But let me tell you: it ain’t easy. I got a lady’s phone number in Barcelona who, by the way, it was explained to me, “hands you the certificate in a matter of hours.” I call her and she says, straight up, not checking for any info on who I might be, that I had to transfer Bs. 700,000 and send her the info to be displayed on the certificate. It’d be ready that very afternoon.

Nervous and curious, I went the following day to the agreed place for the certificate. There I stand, waiting under the sun in an ominous corner near Barcelona’s Municipal Cemetery, of all places, at the Pedro Maria Freites Avenue. She arrived, and I could immediately tell she was nervous too. We didn’t talk much; she handed me the certificate sealed by Anzoátegui’s Health Institute (Saludanz) and, with an authorized signature from that entity, valid until 2028 (10 years from now, deceiving international authorities), it had the issue date space in blank, so I could write it myself days before the trip.

Thank you very much, it was a pleasure, goodbye. As easy as that.

The “mafia” is, then, real. Much more dangerous than the actual mosquito carrier.

The “mafia” is, then, real. Much more dangerous than the actual mosquito carrier, uncaring about the possibility of someone contracting the fever and spreading it here or abroad. While last year, many monkeys were ignorantly slaughtered in Sao Paulo for carrying the virus, in Venezuela, there are very organized groups who don’t really mind about creating a public health issue at an international scale.

How is this even possible and why doesn’t the State act against them? You tell me, dear reader.

Caracas Chronicles is 100% reader-supported. Support independent Venezuelan journalism by making a donation.