At one of Caracas’ biggest public hospitals, most bathrooms are closed. Patients fill jugs from a tiny tap on the ground floor that sometimes has a trickle of water. Operations are postponed or canceled.
The Central Venezuelan University hospital, once a Latin American leader, is reeling as taps run dry.
“I have gone to the operation bloc and opened the tap to wash my hands, as you must do before a surgery, and nothing comes out,” said gynecologist Lina Figueria.
Water cuts are the latest addition to a long list of woes for Venezuelans hurting from a fifth year of an economic crisis that has sparked malnutrition, hyperinflation and emigration, Reuters reports.
Malfunctions in the capital’s water network due to lack of maintenance have taken a turn for the worst in recent months, depriving many in this city of 3 million people of regular running water.
Caracas is nestled in a verdant valley perched at around 900 meters (2,953 feet) and its water is pumped from much lower sources. But the pumps have not been maintained, spare parts are scarce and President Nicolas Maduro’s administration is short of cash.
“For many years this deterioration process was not noticeable. But now the water transport systems are very damaged,” said Jose De Viana, former president of Hidrocapital, the state-run utility in charge of Caracas’ water supply.
Venezuela’s socialist government typically says water cuts are due to sabotage by right-wing “terrorists.”
Information Minister Jorge Rodriguez in July announced a “special plan” to fix the issues, but did not provide details. The Information Ministry and Hidrocapital did not respond to a request for information.
Lack of water – and taps that sometimes spurt out brown liquid – have triggered health concerns in a country lacking basic antibiotics and vaccines.
About 75 percent of Caracas residents said they do not receive water regularly, according to a survey published by two Venezuelan non-governmental organizations this month. Around 11 percent said they thought dirty water had caused skin and stomach problems. The survey does not have comparative figures.
Medical consequences are hard to gauge as the Health Ministry no longer releases once-weekly data, but doctors say scabies and diarrhea are on the rise.
Water shortages have also made some basic daily activities untenable. Poor residents say they take fewer showers.
In the low-income neighborhood of Catia, university professor Mariangela Gonzalez, 64, has 127 bottles, gas containers and pots clogging the entrance to her house.
“When the water comes on, we have to run,” said Gonzalez.
Meanwhile inflation is skyrocketing, and expected to reach at least 1,000,000% this year.
Venezuela’s inflation may hit 1 million percent by the end of the year, the International Monetary Fund announced.
This incredible hyperinflation is reminiscent of Weimar Germany during the years immediately after World War I, in which wheelbarrows full of cash were required to buy bare essential items, like a loaf of bread.
To counter the hyperinflation problem, Venezuela’s answer is to lop off five zeros from its currency value and launch a state-backed cryptocurrency.
It wasn’t that long ago that the left praised socialist Venezuela as a model country, a good comparison to the mean, ruthless system of the United States.
“Since the [Hugo] Chávez government got control over the national oil industry, poverty has been cut by half, and extreme poverty by 70 percent,” wrote New York Times contributor Mark Weisbrot in the wake of socialist President Hugo Chavez’s re-election in 2012. “College enrollment has more than doubled, millions of people have access to health care for the first time and the number of people eligible for public pensions has quadrupled.”
Just six years later and the country is a catastrophe. It seems 21st-century socialism hasn’t worked any better than 20th-century socialism, or any other kind of socialism for that matter.
Venezuela’s dire state is not for lack of resources. It is the most oil-rich country in the world and used to be one of the wealthiest nations in South America. Now, it’s teetering on the edge of economic oblivion.
The scale of Venezuela’s collapse is staggering. The economy has halved since 2013 and unemployment has now reached 30 percent. Basic items like baby formula and toilet paper can’t be found on store shelves.
People have turned to “car cannibalism” (or mass carpooling) to minimize the number of vehicles running. Public transportation has ground to a halt.
Hunger strikes by workers in the country’s nationalized electricity company have led to widespread power outages and water shortages.
Venezuela now struggles to pump oil out of the ground as its nationalized oil company is, according to CNN, “forced to import light crude from the United States to dilute the heavy oil it drills in Venezuela.”
Ironically, the policy of nationalization—purportedly to give back to the people—has left those very people destitute.
James E Windsor, Overpasses News Desk
August 15th, 2018