HAVANA TIMES — A few weeks ago, a good friend of mine’s best friend died.
A few weeks ago, a good friend of mine’s mother died.
A few weeks ago, three friends died, friends of friends, people, relatives.
This death song is never-ending. And dying is natural, but when lives could have been longer it stops seeming so natural. And when the sick person suffers more than they should have, it pains everyone who knows this person.
A few years ago, cancer became the second leading cause of death in Venezuela and it’s a well-known fact that the percentage of cancer-related deaths worldwide is even higher.
However, the number of Venezuelans sick with cancer between 2013 and 2017 is beginning to catch people’s attention. As we all know, patients can be cured or, at least, their life expectancy and quality of life can be improved a lot of the time if the cancer is detected early on.
However, in the meantime, streets fill with election propaganda, squares fill with populist concerts; while politicians spend millions on their governor campaigns, the president continues to spend billions on paying the country’s foreign debt (as well as on his ridiculous suits that also cost millions).
By keeping up these million-dollar payments on this debt – which in my days as a student leader of “let’s be like Che”, we were told to repeat that this is “unpayable” – imports in Venezuela have been drastically cut. Medicines, supplies, food? O eo Eo the Venezuelan people have already got fed up of this.
O eo Eo, so you don’t think you’re reading this wrong, or that I wrote a few more letters than I should have, is the beautiful chorus from a song with a first and second verse. The composer, I can’t recall, but in the first part of the song says: O eo Eo, the Constituent Assembly goes… they put this on the radio and TV every five minutes on state-owned channels for a few months and people almost got sick from listening to this merengue reggaeton tune so much.
After the elections for the Constituent Assembly and State Governors, (en Agosto y Octubre) a second verse was added to the song. Pure joy which was also funded following politicking’s propaganda. If we’re talking about funding, now we have the “Youth Plan”, whose fundamental premise is, just like the Homeland Mothers Plan, to numb and continue corrupting a youth who are unable to get jobs and have very little interest in their studies. Of course I’m not saying that all young people are like this, but this absurd monthly cash payment is directed at those who have the least amount of interest in learning, and this handout is hardly ever backed up with any real study or work placements.
There are more than enough examples of how millions of Bolivars and dollars have escaped, while Venezuela’s electoral map is being inexplicably colored in red with a few exceptional blue spots (the opposition coalition MUD’s color).
In this false and chaotic party, which isn’t anarchist in any way and is hardly socialist either, it seemed like people began to suddenly love the government again, represented by the PSUV (United Socialist Party).
For those who live outside of Venezuela who continue to believe the story of baddies and goodies, of socialist dictators and humanist opposition groups, of a disadvantaged opposition who is standing up to a powerful government; or of a humble working-class president who the Machiavellian opposition doesn’t allow to carry out his socialist project, I don’t know which of these two versions is the more hilarious.
Sitting down to listen to Tibisay Lucena on the Sunday the elections were held, to find out the results, was like having Mr Bean at the helm of the Electoral Council (CNE). The pact between the PSUV and MUD could be seen a mile off, giving the government “political power”, plus control of the State with its large mining reserves and giving the opposition the not at all insignificant border states.
And what about the tantrum some opposition party representatives had later? Pure spectacle, as La Lupe would say. Hector Rodriguez, “elected” in the state of Miranda, one of the states with a previously opposition-backed majority, took the icing on the cake and this Hector Rodriguez isn’t a guy everyone loves, famous for his phrase: “We aren’t going to take people out of poverty to make them the middle class and then pretend to be bone-skinny.”
You need to have a lot of nerve to be so direct in front of so many people and TV cameras. You need a lot of cheek to use all of the resources he used in his electoral campaign. How many cancer patients could have received treatment, for at least a month, with the money he spent on his unnecessary campaign?
Does anybody really care about the people who are dying every day, who are in pain, who are no longer contributing to the country, to their people? Chemotherapy is becoming harder and harder to get, medical equipment for early detection of some kinds of cancer have stopped working or the price of these tests is so high that very few people can pay for them.
Caracas’ famous oncology hospital, which has been half-built for several years now, is filling with weeds and nocturnal animals, I imagine rats also swarm there. “Red elephants” is the name that has been giving to these projects “created” by the revolution, using millions of diverted resources which are then never completed.
A couple years ago, a small malign tumor was detected in a relative of mine in Cuba. He received the diagnosis and radiotherapy in time. He is still healthy even today. I am scared to think what would happen here, in spite of the fact that going to a hospital in Cuba is, in many aspects, like having a toothache or much worse. But, I ask myself, what health system is Maduro taking advantage of in order to continue convincing the poor or ignorant that his government is even Leftist?
A humanitarian leader doesn’t cut food and medicine imports in a country that hasn’t taken the effective measures to produce these on its own. A government that calls itself socialist must at least pretend to be interested in the health of its people. I repeat, there is a shortage of hospitals in Venezuela and those that are open and functioning are in poor condition or lack medical supplies. The CDIs (Venezuela’s Comprehensive Diagnostic Centers), this budding measure, aren’t being maintained and only have two or three medicines on their shelves.
Friends of my friends are dying in pain because they don’t have medicines to relieve their pain. They are dying because we continue to live in a system that makes us dependent on the excessive use of pharmaceutical drugs and has made us forget the names of the plants that heal us, which large pharmaceutical companies have used to their advantage. My friends’ mothers are dying even though their cancer was treatable, if it had been detected in time.
But, there is only money to pay for mediocre music composers and ads on the TV and radio in times of elections, so that we can all sing, O eo Eo… la la la…