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Post Venezuela Braces for Pandemic
Created by John Eipper on 03/24/20 4:13 AM

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Venezuela Braces for Pandemic (José Ignacio Soler, Venezuela, 03/24/20 4:13 am)

John E asked me a few days ago about the situation in Venezuela on the development of the coronavirus pandemic. The reality is that little is known and there is a lot of uncertainty. There is talk of just 200 infected, officially fewer than 100, and there are no deaths reported yet--or at least unidentified because of the virus.

There has been some level of panic in many sectors of the population, and yet in others there is irresponsible behaviour. The government has officially declared extraordinary measures, including economic measures: the closure of schools and non-essential shops, the closure of borders, a health emergency and a stay-at-home order for the population. These are not observed in a disciplined manner.  Despite street police and army control there are many people in the streets, especially in low-income areas, looking for food, medicine, and fuel.

It appears that fuel deliveries, which were scarce before the crisis, have been rationed because there is not enough for the entire population, not even to ensure essential transport for food distribution or medical emergencies.

If the pandemic breaks out here as in other parts of the world (a very likely scenario), a major catastrophe of epic dimensions is predicted for several reasons. The health system had collapsed and was in critical condition even before the crisis, without enough resources or medicines. Moreover, the country probably does not have the financial resources to supply itself with these needed resources, as the reserves are exhausted, the current price of oil and low production do not guarantee an income to sustain the daily economy, much less a crisis of this possible magnitude; as well as the shortage of medical personnel who have emigrated to other countries in recent years. It is estimated that more than 20,000 medical professionals and nurses have left, who will hardly be replaced by the arrival of 120 "doctors" sent by Cuba for the emergency. On the other hand, repression has continued in order to silence health workers who speak out on the critical situation of hospitals and health centers.

Last week Venezuela requested an emergency loan to address the crisis from the International Monetary Fund, an institution that was arrogantly scorned by the regime on many occasions in the past. The requested loan of US $5 billion that was immediately denied. Earlier this week, the regime asked for another loan for $1 billion that is likely to suffer the same fate. Anyway, a lot of foreign help will be needed eventually to deal with the epidemic effects.

Finally, the development of the crisis so far is one of great uncertainty and the immediate future is likely a great danger for the entire population. If in other countries of the region or of the world it is critical, in this country the threat could be of apocalyptic dimensions. I hope not, but I am afraid my optimism is misplaced.

JE comments:  The pandemic together with the collapse in oil prices couldn't come at a worse time for Venezuela, which was in a critical situation to begin with.  One might assume that a world health crisis would unite the planet, but like Nacho, I may be guilty of misplaced optimism.

Please keep the updates coming, and cuídate, Nacho.

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