The prestigious British magazine analyzed the current situation in the Caribbean country in light of the advance of the coronavirus and the pressure from the United States and the international community on the Nicolas Maduro dictatorship
While the dictator Nicolas Maduro tries to resist in power until the last consequences, Venezuelans no longer only seek to survive the humanitarian crisis daily, but now pray not to be infected with the coronavirus, particularly that the country’s health system is going through its worst moment. The pandemic advances, and the hospitals are not prepared to support a great mass of infected people.
At the same time, Maduro and the leadership of the Chavista regime are following minute by minute the steps of the United States and the international community, after the U.S. Justice Department filed “narco-terrorism” charges against the dictator and his entourage. Washington’s proposal for a transitional government was rejected by the dictatorship, indicating that Maduro, Cabello, and the company are unwilling to negotiate.
Faced with this context, the prestigious magazine The Economist made a harsh editorial, in which it stated: “The situation in Venezuela is terrifying”. The publication assures that “the COVID-19 will make things much worse”.
At first, Maduro very much like Lopez Obrador, boasted of being one of the first in the region to apply the quarantine and sought to show control in the face of the crisis. However, the pandemic exposed, once again, the alarming crisis facing the country’s health sector. Moreover, the dictatorship did not abandon its policy of persecution and threats: it kidnapped and threatened doctors and journalists who denounced hospital conditions.
The health system is barely functioning. The World Health Security Index, compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit, ranks its preparedness for an epidemic at 176th out of 195 countries. Half of its 306 public hospitals do not have face masks, according to Physicians for Health, an NGO said to The Economist, while warning that, in the absence of evidence and follow-up contacts, the disease will spread. “We only have running water for half the day,” said a doctor at the main public hospital in the city of San Felipe, capital of Yaracuy state.
In the last few days, the regime announced that aid from China had arrived in the country to deal with the coronavirus. However, the doctor indicated that the supplies have not yet arrived at the hospital.
The state hospital El Algodonal, one of the best in the capital, has no ambulance, no X-ray machine, and no functioning morgue. Besides, there is no water or electricity in the middle of the week. On March 30, two patients were treated there with COVID-19.
Acting President Juan Guaidó warned that the pandemic could cause a “catastrophe” in the country, and once again urged the Armed Forces to allow humanitarian aid into the country. But, once again, the Army refused to collaborate.
Fuel shortages are another severe problem facing Venezuelans. As has happened since Maduro came to power, the regime handed over control of gasoline distribution to the Army. Reality indicates that the military leadership is taking advantage of the situation to sell the gasoline on the black market, as it has been doing with food as well.
In addition to the health and humanitarian crisis, The Economist also pointed out the economic effects that the coronavirus will cause in a country where inflation is in the millions. “A national shutdown imposed by the government on March 17 will add to the effects of falling world oil prices. Remittances from Venezuelans living abroad are falling. Exports of gold and even narcotics are stagnating.
Although in public, he conveys confidence and a reality that is not such, the Venezuelan dictator is aware of this situation. That is why, on March 15, he appealed to the IMF, the organization he has blamed for all the ills in Latin American countries, to ask for $5 billion in aid. Quickly, and as expected, the Fund refused because it does not recognize Maduro as the legitimate president. “Venezuela has less room than other Latin American countries to borrow to soften the effects of the crisis,” explains The Economist.
International pressure is still the order of the day, even more so after the last steps taken by the United States. However, Washington has offered to withdraw the sanctions and a decent way out of Chavism through a unity government, leading to free and transparent elections. But this was not accepted by the dictatorship.
Just hours after the regime issued a statement assuring that it would not accept “any tutelage” from foreign actors, Donald Trump announced the most massive U.S. anti-drug operation in the West. A few days after U.S. Attorney General William Barr filed charges against Maduro and top regime officials for “narco-terrorism. The prosecutor assured that the regime, since the arrival of Chávez to power, founded a drug trafficking organization called “Cartel of the Suns,” because of a badge on the Army’s uniforms. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, this criminal group, in alliance with the FARC, “tried to flood” the United States with cocaine.
The Economist recalls that “computer discs discovered in a raid on a FARC camp in Ecuador in 2008 allegedly revealed contacts between the group and the Chávez government, in which Maduro was foreign minister. Other charges allege that Vladimir Padrino López, the Defense Minister, conspired to transport cocaine on U.S.-registered aircraft from Venezuela to Central America.
“There is no doubt that there is widespread corruption and penetration of the Venezuelan state by organized crime, particularly drug trafficking,” Geoff Ramsey of the Washington Office on Latin America told the British magazine. “COVID-19 will only grow,” concludes The Economist.
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