Chavismo Kicks the Ill When They’re Down

What does a day looking for medicine look like? It looks like an authoritarian game of ignominy and frontal abuse.

Photo: Naky Soto

Abusing Dignity

Employees of the University Hospital of Caracas (HUC) denounced last week that the institution’s board rejected a donation from the organization Doctors Without Borders (MSF), despite the complex humanitarian crisis we’re experiencing. This Monday, the Health Ministry and the hospital’s board issued a statement to explain their decision, claiming that the donated medicines “don’t have the required sanitary registration” to be used in the country; demanding respect for the current legislation and, even more serious, exhibiting an inexcusable contradiction: according to them, there are no medicines because government authorities have been sanctioned, but saying that “Venezuela has enough resources to acquire all the medicines (…) and it’s not susceptible to miseries that might break its dignity,” suggesting that a more pertinent aid would be the lifting of sanctions against its leaders.

The Venezuelan government managed to accumulate a four billion dollar debt with the pharmaceutical industry.

Chavismo’s sadism

The Venezuelan government managed to accumulate a four billion dollar debt with the pharmaceutical industry. Without any promise of payment, the sector was dismantled, multiplying the vulnerability of a population with less money, less food and crumbling basic services, if any. In this context, in Venezuela any medication costs much more than it can cost in any other country. People die every day from treatable diseases, not necessarily complex, but finding medicines is practically restricted to private efforts, with hundreds of people requesting on social media what they can’t find in drugstores, hoping that someone has it. Naturally, suppliers are constantly decreasing and each case competes with many others, which is why everyone accepts and welcomes any medicine, except for the government.

The official offer

If you go to the high-cost pharmacy of the Venezuelan Institute of Social Security (IVSS) in Los Ruices, you better be healthy and have lots of available time. The poor technology they use depends on the talent of those who handle it, thus, the investment becomes a waste. A poorly printed paper with the IVSS logo is more important that the software that regulates the process, which is understandable only for those who have lived through it. Last Friday, I went there for the first time ever and I was utterly lost and confused, as nobody offers information and most of the employees are hostile. The printed code used to enter the room only works for half of the process, until an employee checks that each recipe has the seven requirements they demand: date of issue; name of the medication per recipe, the patient’s name and ID card number; name, signature and seal of the treating doctor. If any of those elements is missing, the recipe is discarded. Then, you must wait until another employee shouts your name and only then will you know what medication in the recipe you’ll have access to according to the inventory.

Refusing to receive humanitarian aid is another kind of death sentence.

“Nobody speaks ill of Chávez here”

That huge room, with rows of metallic chairs and scarce ventilation, is only decorated with a free version of el finado’s crooked eyes and to their left, the phrase above these lines, an unnecessary insult and an incentive to do the opposite. Only people with severely impaired mobility may enter the room with company and although nobody explains why, you can’t use your phone, so your only option is talking to the rest of the people there, although that’s also regulated by those who “keep the order of the room,” a horde in uniform with olive green shirts and an immense need to feel superior and humiliate you, only because they have the relative power to do so. That’s a well-known trait of chavismo that, as we know, is never sated and springs up regardless of the individual’s level of authority. This is the deal: I humiliate you to remind you who’s in charge, so you remember you’re a slave; then I check the reactions, because without a victim, there’s no pleasure in humiliation. Nothing justifies the degradation, but when you see it happen several times against fragile people (sick patients, the elderly, etc.,) the insult transforms into aberration.

A bit more patria

Upon leaving the pharmacy, I felt mutinous, like a child: unable to contain the tears, trying to walk faster so that my speed would keep me from kicking something, with the absurd desire that my husband could guess the reason for my indignation so he could join me in my sadness for every mistreated person, for every patient that didn’t get what they needed because there’s nothing left to offer. Refusing to receive humanitarian aid is another kind of death sentence. Those who survive malnutrition have to deal with the health tragedy, with viral diseases, with medicine shortages, with the arrogance of corrupt bureaucrats who, after destroying the country, still cling to the power of deciding which aid pleases them and which mocks them, because their dignity is more important that the health of citizens, because sovereignty is above the right to live.

The government has no way of linking individual sanctions against their leaders with the lack of medicine purchases.

A serious confession

Yesterday morning, journalists César Miguel Rondón and Lila Vanorio interviewed one of the people mentioned in the HCU’s statement, Dr. Thaís Rebolledo, the only signatory whose signature was replaced with the term “Protected.” Rebolledo claimed: “Given the sanctions against us, we’ve been unable to buy medicines,” ratifying the contraction of recitals 1 and 5. She also parroted that only abiding by the legislation can they guarantee people’s integrity and that it would be more helpful lifting the sanctions than receiving insulting donations. Dr. Rebolledo lied. The government has no way of linking individual sanctions against their leaders with the lack of medicine purchases, not even assuming that the frozen assets in their personal accounts were embezzled from public funds because, in addition to admitting corruption, they’d require comparing the numbers between individuals, consignments and institutions.

The government ratifies that abusing the dignity of Venezuelans is their sole province, that explains their definitive refusal to receive humanitarian aid and just how deeply our crisis has intensified. Humiliating us is their prerogative, limiting us is their attribution, killing us is their faculty. The statement will serve for future trials against those responsible for another decision that blocks the access of scarce supplies and medicines. It’s a political decision and that’s how it must be judged.

Naky Soto

Naky gets called Naibet at home and at the bank. She coordinates training programs for an NGO. She collects moments and turns them into words. She has more stories than freckles.