Venezuelan doctors conducting a COVID-19 house visit. Photo courtesy of @OrlenysOV
By Leonardo Flores
Within a few hours of being launched, over 800 Venezuelans in the U.S. registered for an emergency flight from Miami to Caracas through a website run by the Venezuelan government. This flight, offered at no cost, was proposed by President Nicolás Maduro when he learned that 200 Venezuelans were stuck in the United States following his government’s decision to stop commercial flights as a preventative coronavirus measure. The promise of one flight expanded to two or more flights, as it became clear that many Venezuelans in the U.S. wanted to go back to Venezuela, yet the situation remains unresolved due to the U.S. ban on flights to and from the country.
Those who rely solely on the mainstream media might wonder who in their right mind would want to leave the United States for Venezuela. Time, The Washington Post, The Hill and the Miami Herald, among others, published opinions in the past week describing Venezuela as a chaotic nightmare. These media outlets painted a picture of a coronavirus disaster, of government incompetence and of a nation teetering on the brink of collapse. The reality of Venezuela’s coronavirus response is not covered by the mainstream media at all.
Furthermore, what each of these articles shortchanges is the damage caused by the Trump administration’s sanctions, which devastated the economy and healthcare system long before the coronavirus pandemic. These sanctions have impoverished millions of Venezuelans and negatively impact vital infrastructure, such as electricity generation. Venezuela is impeded from importing spare parts for its power plants and the resulting blackouts interrupt water services that rely on electric pumps. These, along with dozens of other implications from the hybrid war on Venezuela, have caused a decline in health indicators across the board, leading to 100,000 deaths as a consequence of the sanctions.
Regarding coronavirus specifically, the sanctions raise the costs of testing kits and medical supplies, and ban Venezuela’s government from purchasing medical equipment from the U.S. (and from many European countries). These obstacles would seemingly place Venezuela on the path to a worst-case scenario, similar to Iran (also battered by sanctions) or Italy (battered by austerity and neoliberalism). In contrast to those two countries, Venezuela took decisive steps early on to face the pandemic.
As a result of these steps and other factors, Venezuela is currently in its best-case scenario. As of this writing, 11 days after the first confirmed case of coronavirus, the country has 86 infected people, with 0 deaths. Its neighbors have not fared as well: Brazil has 1,924 cases with 34 deaths; Ecuador 981 and 18; Chile 746 and 2; Peru 395 and 5; Mexico 367 and 4; Colombia 306 and 3. (With the exception of Mexico, those governments have all actively participated and contributed to the U.S.-led regime change efforts in Venezuela.) Why is Venezuela doing so much better than others in the region?