It doesn’t take long under communism before pie-in-the-sky fantasies about classlessness turn into tyrannical rule by party elites, bogus elections, collapsing economies, and then repression and escalating state violence.
In what was once Latin America’s richest country with the highest GDP per capita and the world’s largest proven reserves of oil, Venezuela today — after nearly two decades of blundering rule since 1999 by the collectivist regimes of Hugo Chavez and Nicolas Maduro — is in a catastrophic meltdown that’s cut the GDP in half and produced an economy that’s incapable of delivering adequate supplies of food, safe drinking water, electricity and medicine.
In his May 2016 New York Times report, “Dying Infants and No Medicine: Inside Venezuela’s Failing Hospitals,” Nicholas Casey showed how Venezuela’s failed economy has turned its hospitals into killing fields: “By morning, three newborns were already dead. The day had begun with the usual hazards: chronic shortages of antibiotics, intravenous solutions, even food. Then a blackout swept over the city, shutting down the respirators in the maternity ward.”
Continued Casey, “Doctors kept ailing infants alive by pumping air into their lungs by hand for hours. By nightfall, four more newborns had died.”
Additionally, “At the University of the Andes Hospital … there was not enough water to wash blood from the operating table. Doctors preparing for surgery cleaned their hands with bottles of seltzer water.”
Bottom line: “The rate of death among babies under a month old increased more than a hundredfold in public hospitals run by the Health Ministry” between 2012 and 2015, while the “rate of death among new mothers in those hospitals increased by almost five times in the same period.”
The socialist promise of economic equality and guaranteed health care that was propagated by Chavez and Maduro didn’t make its way into the reality of the streets.
“Here in the Caribbean port town of Barcelona, two premature infants died recently on the way to the main public clinic because the ambulance had no oxygen tanks,” reported Casey. “The hospital has no fully functioning X-ray or kidney dialysis machines because they broke long ago. And because there are no open beds, some patients lie on the floor in pools of their blood.
“It is a battlefield clinic where there is no war,” Casey wrote.
Said Dr. Leandro Pérez, standing in the emergency room of Luis Razetti Hospital, “Some come here healthy, and they leave dead.”
Casey reports that aging pumps that supplied water to the University of the Andes Hospital exploded and weren’t repaired for months. “So without water, gloves, soap or antibiotics, a group of surgeons prepared to remove an appendix that was about to burst, even though the operating room was still covered in another patient’s blood.”
A murderous attack against protestors in Caracas, with weapons supplied to the killers by the government, was reported in “Armed Civilian Bands in Venezuela Prop Up Unpopular President” in The New York Times on April 22, 2017: “Carlos Moreno, 17, lay sprawled on the ground, a pool of blood around his head. ‘His brain matter was coming out,’ recalled Carlos Julio Rojas, a community leader who witnessed the fatal shooting.”
Ralph R. Reiland is associate professor emeritus of economics at Robert Morris University and a local restaurateur ([email protected]).