A New Week, Same Old Nonsense

While scientists in several countries join forces to stop the pandemic, Maduro defends a conspiracy theory of the coronavirus as biological ethnic-cleansing warfare.

Photo: Kennyjo.

At the moment, the Maduro regime has only confirmed 77 patients of COVID-19, while Juan Guaidó says that his team thinks the number is probably around  200 instead. No matter who you believe, the real number of infected patients in Venezuela is probably considerably higher, given that even in countries with important diagnostic capabilities only a relatively small proportion of all cases is detected. 

This is happening in the middle of a national lockdown (announced by Nicolás Maduro last week) and a national fuel crisis. The quarantine is being enforced by the military, the police, and even some of Maduro’s loyalist paramilitary groups. This measure has been poorly executed so far, and it also ignores the fact that most Venezuelans’ delicate economic situation makes it impossible to comply with. The overall plan, however, made some sense and was received by some as a rarely seen show of pragmatism by Maduro’s administration.

But the hope that the government would actually handle this situation with a logical, scientifically-based strategy was utterly destroyed with Maduro’s hour-and-a-half-long broadcast Sunday night. Among other things, Maduro mentioned Sirio Quintero’s work, a “nanotechnologist” based in Boconó, Trujillo, who he presented as a “Venezuelan eminence” and “world-class pioneer,” for writing a manuscript claiming the new SARS-Cov-2 “was produced in a laboratory and includes segments of HIV chromosomes and DNA from many other diseases.”

There’s no need to remark how blatantly ridiculous Maduro’s claim is, but Quintero’s document is so incredibly bad that it’s worth dissecting.

The fact that the new coronavirus isn’t a biological weapon, and has evolved naturally from similar animal viruses, has been stressed enough and is based on scientific evidence presented in Nature—arguably the most prestigious and thoroughly peer-reviewed scientific journal in the world. So, there’s no need to remark how blatantly ridiculous Maduro’s claim is, but Quintero’s document is so incredibly bad that it’s worth dissecting.

Quintero uses non-scientific terms, often referring to the virus itself as a “neurotoxic bacterial agent,” before claiming it was created in a U.S. military facility after fusing “larval strains of the HIV virus with larvae of Fasciola hepatica,” a liver parasite that is completely unrelated to both organisms. He also claims that the new coronavirus has been specially designed to attack “the liver, pancreas, vertebral column, kidneys, thymus, and blood of African and Latin American ethnic groups.” He goes further, saying the virus also includes genetic material from “cobras, bats and cockroaches,” which according to him explains its resistance to chemotherapy and radiotherapy. The document also includes a few lines explaining how the release of hormones from parasites locked in “women’s butts” leads to increased pleasure during sexual intercourse. Quintero finishes stating that the cure to this disease isn’t traditional medicine (obviously), but a tea made from honey and lemongrass, a recipe that was also shared by Maduro in his speech.

Quintero’s work feels more like the script of a lame B-movie and as you can imagine, it can’t be found in any scientific journal, but it was published in its entirety in Aporrea

The fact Maduro validated this kind of pseudoscientific nonsense on live TV, going as far as inviting Quintero to Miraflores Palace so he could share his recipe against the virus is simply insane. It also casts a frightening shadow on the country’s management of the current COVID-19 outbreak in a moment where science and reason are more critical than ever before.

Juan Carlos Gabaldón

Medical doctor from Merida, currently studying Medical Parasitology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine