Hospitals across Venezuela face supply shortages that affect both doctors and patients. According to a national survey conducted on April 2 and certified by the National Assembly, 92 percent of the health sector doesn’t have soap on site. The same survey found that 61 percent doesn’t have face masks, and 79 percent doesn’t have disposable gloves.
The National Assembly has voiced its concerns in a statement, saying, “The sentinel hospitals where 60 percent of the cases of coronavirus in Venezuela are concentrated are not in condition to care for the patients infected by COVID-19.” Sentinel hospitals are selected to collect data in an area with a high probability of encountering cases of a disease.
On a health ministry website, Nicolás Maduro listed 46 medical centers his regime claimed were “prepared” to receive COVID-19 patients, according to a Reuters report.
Now, he and his allies are punishing journalists, doctors, and National Assembly members for speaking out against the substandard state of medical infrastructure in their country.
A freelance Venezuelan journalist, Darvinson Rojas, tweeted March 20 about the discrepancy between the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases reported by the Maduro regime and the number reported by hospitals and journalists.
One day later, Rojas was arrested by Maduro’s special police force, which claimed it received an anonymous tip that Rojas had been diagnosed with COVID-19, even though he had not, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. His parents were also detained and questioned by police but eventually released the same night.
Upon release, Rojas’ father told a local reporter he could hear police questioning his son about his March 20 reporting on COVID-19 statistics.
Rojas was finally released on April 2 with restrictions on his freedom, according to media reports in Venezuela.
Similarly, Dr. Rubén Duarte posted a video on social media asking the Maduro regime for equipment so his hospital could meet minimum health codes to treat coronavirus patients. In retaliation the Maduro regime’s counterintelligence agency detained Duarte.
National Assembly member Tony Geara tweeted that a local hospital in a southern state of Venezuela didn’t have running water. Police responded by searching his house for four hours. Maduro’s secret service then arrested him while he was preparing to bring food to a neighbor in need, according to the National Assembly.
On March 31 the U.S. government released a plan for the restoration of democracy in Venezuela. As U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo explained, “The urgency for this has become all the more serious in light of the Maduro regime’s failure to adequately prepare for and address the global COVID-19 pandemic.”