Photo: El Nacional, retrieved.
  • Nicolás popped up on Sunday in person (instead of on the phone) to report that the number of confirmed coronavirus cases increased to 77 (seven more than on Saturday). He praised the quarantine, assured contagion rate had decreased to 3% and reiterated that all cases are imported: 21 from Spain, 10 from Colombia, three from the U.S., three from the Dominican Republic and one from Peru. However, on Monday March 16th, he said that 28 cases came from Europe. 40 patients are women and 37 men. According to his epidemiology map, cases are distributed as follows: 30 in Miranda, 19 in the Capital District, eight in Vargas, six in Aragua; two in Anzoátegui, Apure and Falcón states; and one case in Cojedes, Lara, Mérida, Monagas, Nueva Esparta, Portuguesa, Táchira and Zulia. 74% of cases are in the capital region. Vargas governor Jorge Luis García Carneiro said that there are nine cases in the state, not eight.
  • Maduro said that the U.S. is blocking them from buying food and medicine. He denounced “crazy movements” from the U.S. to cause destabilization and a coup in Venezuela and asked the Armed Forces to remain alert and find coup monguers (?). He called U.S. authorities “murderers, genocidals” but asked them to lift all sanctions against state-owned companies and officers while the coronavirus crisis lasts. He ordered his Foreign Minister to work for the return of 200 Venezuelan citizens who are stranded in the U.S. and ordered his Defense Minister to repeat Sunday’s sukhoi displays. He thinks it’s necessary to “come together in prayer” to overcome the pandemic, and ordered to light the Cruz del Ávila at 8:00 p.m.
  • He reiterated that the quarantine will go on, the use of masks is mandatory, cases have been ruled out according to the data collected by the Patria system (21,801 suspicious cases showed up in the survey, allegedly taken by 11 million Venezuelans in six days). He also said there’s enough medicine to solve the coronavirus crisis in the country, highlighting the help from the pharmaceutical industry and thanked Russia and China for the test kits. He expects 2 million test kits to arrive next week. He also reiterated that the country has 4,200 beds available in CDIs, that both the private and public sector have beds, and that they’re already working together. He also said that hotels will help in isolating patients if the maximum capacity of the health system is reached.
  • The economic measures he’ll implement are the following: 
  1. Suspending rent payments on primary households and stores for six months (he added that the government will “seek support mechanisms for landlords”).;
  2. Decreeing a “firing freeze” until December 31st, 2020 and a special plan of payroll payment in small and medium companies (Pymes) through the Patria system for six months (this is a discriminatory measure, because not all Pymes are enrolled in the system);
  3. Bonus payments to people with carnets de la patria, whether they’re informal employees or private business workers (another discriminatory measure: this carnet is a political instrument);
  4. Suspending payments of interest on all credits awarded by banks (banks that haven’t extended credits for months, because of chavista measures); 
  5. Suspending payments of penalties for delays on credit interests (those have been suspended since 2018) and offering financing, using the state as a guarantor of credit payments for essential goods… despite the default?;
  6. He prohibited cutting public and telecom services for the next six months (the former is absurd, the latter is an unnecessary mockery).

If chavismo is indeed making requests to the IMF, it makes no sense for Nicolás to ask for 5 billion dollars (and then one billion) to face the crisis and now offer to finance payroll, bonuses, services and supplies.

  • Caretaker President and AN Speaker Juan Guaidó assured the nation on Sunday that, extraofficially, the cases of COVID-19 have reached 200 in the country. Guaidó said that 81% of public hospitals don’t have soap and that there are barely 84 beds with vents. According to sources, the number of cases on Saturday morning was 181 and the total patients under observation was 298. Unlike chavista numbers, most cases are in Zulia (21 confirmed cases and 46 under observation), followed by Miranda (18 confirmed cases and 46 under observation) and Caracas (17 confirmed cases and 29 under observation). 
  • Deputy Alfonso Marquina shared on social media the measures Juan Guaidó proposed to the regime: 
  1. Granting mass direct subsidies to the population, for one million bolivars, since many live with their daily wages and they’re not working because of the quarantine; 
  2. For companies, postpone VAT and ISLR so this money can be used for paying their payroll;
  3. Exonerate tax on raw materials for food, medicine and personal hygiene products;
  4. Re-establish credits and flexibility for the legal reserve, in order to reactivate the economy and allow people to make purchases with credit cards;
  5. Eliminate parts of the protocols and procedures that slow down the distribution of food across the country: there are testimonies of producers that have had to give away crops because they can’t move their produce for lack of fuel. 
  • The National Academy of Medicine warned about using drugs that aren’t effective on patients infected by COVID-19.
  • There was a cacerolazo in the 23 de Enero slum last night, protesting against the murder of three men on Saturday. Colectivos accused of the crime denied their involvement. 
  • Jesús Rojas, journalist Darvinson Rojas’s father, kidnapped on Saturday night by FAES officers, said they were able to see the journalist and that he’s OK. He confirmed the reason for his detention is the information he published about coronavirus in Venezuela. 

The decisions being made in countries with solid health systems like Spain and Italy are devastating: when the amount of severe cases surpasses the capacity to fight back, other methods are used to prioritize medical attention and supplies. Governments are still announcing public policies and investment to strengthen their capabilities amid the pandemic and the inevitable consequences that are foreseen. In Venezuela, instead of buying ventilators, money is wasted in a demonstration of military planes. What isn’t being spent in health during a sanitary crisis, is spent in the “morale” of those who make the decisions without sanitary criteria or interest for citizens’ lives. It’s an insult.

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