In Venezuela You’re a Criminal If You Try to Help HIV Patients

Members of the foundations Mano Amiga por la Vida (Mavid) and Conciencia por la Vida are being fiercely persecuted and harassed by the security forces of the Maduro regime. Their crime: receiving medicines and milk formulas for HIV patients.

Photo: Noticiero Venevisión, retrieved.

On Friday, February 15th, CICPC detectives raided the Mavid Foundation’s offices, in Valencia, Carabobo. Eduardo Franco, Mavid’s chairman, said the officers entered without a warrant and confiscated all the donations the foundation had from the American organization Aid For AIDS International, for HIV patients.

“11 CICPC officers broke into our offices when they were closed; they searched the place and took the donated antiretroviral medicines and milk formulas, as well as the organization’s equipment, supplies and documents,” said Franco. In the collapsed Venezuelan healthcare system, it’s almost impossible to find these high cost medicines for chronic patients, so foundations have been receiving humanitarian aid from international organizations since August 2018, to cover treatment for over 600,000 HIV patients.

The officers also detained Mavid board members Wilmer Álvarez, Jonathan Mendoza and Manuel Armas during the procedure, releasing them seven hours later, after a long questioning.

These attacks aren’t new. Farnataro says that about a month ago, she began getting anonymous phone calls informing her of state surveillance.

Raiza Farnataro, chairwoman of the foundation Conciencia por la Vida, an organization with more than 15 years in Barquisimeto, Lara, says a second attack took place on Saturday, February 16th, when an unknown man visited her apartment requesting information about her and the foundation she leads. On Sunday 17th, at 10:00 a.m., a blue vehicle with dark windows parked in front of her building. Two men in black got out and started asking the neighbors about Raiza and her husband, taking pictures of the place afterwards.

These attacks aren’t new. Farnataro says that about a month ago, she began getting anonymous phone calls informing her of state surveillance:

“SEBIN has been calling me for a month; they’re harassing me for receiving donations from Aid for AIDS.”

Far from being passive, Raiza holds the Maduro regime responsible on a video that went viral on social media, where she gained support from civil society and other allied organizations both within the country and abroad.

Civil society organizations and human rights defenders condemn the illegal raid and the persecution against activists who defend the rights of HIV patients, as well as their arbitrary detentions, which set a serious precedent in the context of the complex humanitarian crisis in Venezuela. What’s the goal? Why would the regime directly attack chronic patients who are not a threat to its survival?

And who’s heartless enough to give the order?