When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. That old saying seems to be proving true in Venezuela where the government has deployed its only functioning tool, state security, to deal with the coronavirus.
Venezuelan officials are denouncing people who may have come into contact with the coronavirus as “bioterrorists” and urging their neighbors to report them. The government is detaining and intimidating doctors and experts who question the president’s policies on the virus…
President Nicolás Maduro has tackled the coronavirus much as he has any internal threat to his rule: by deploying his repressive security apparatus against it.
In commandeered hotels, disused schools and cordoned-off bus stations, Venezuelans returning home from other countries in Latin America are being forced into crowded rooms with limited food, water or masks. And they are being held under military guard for weeks or months for coronavirus tests or treatment with unproven medications, according to interviews with the detainees, videos they have taken on their cellphones and government documents…
“This is the only country in the world where having Covid is a crime,” said Sergio Hidalgo, a Venezuelan opposition activist who said he had come down with symptoms of the disease, only to find police officers at his door and government officials accusing him of infecting the community.
Here’s a tweet from the armed forces of Venezuela asking people to turn in “bio-terrorists” who pose a risk to others.
🚨🗣¡DIFUNDE POR LA SALUD DE NUESTRO PUEBLO Y FAMILIA!
👉🏻 Un trochero es un Bio-Terroristas, que deja en riesgo la salud de todos.
👉🏻 Envíe un mensaje al correo electrónico, con los datos de la persona y su ubicación exacta.
⚠️#DenuncieAlBioterrorista #CEOFANB #Venezuela pic.twitter.com/oqI8mavWo1
— @ceofanb (@Libertad020) July 14, 2020
Official numbers are hard to come by in Venezuela and even harder to believe even when they are released by the communist dictatorship, but Reuters reported this week that the number of daily cases was about to exceed the nation’s capacity to perform tests:
The country has registered 33,755 infections and 281 deaths, and infections have exceeded more than 1,000 a day.
Maduro says authorities have performed 1.64 million tests, but has not said if they are rapid tests or PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests, which are considered more reliable.
However, legislator Jose Manuel Olivares, from Guaido’s pandemic advisory team, told an online media conference that authorities conduct just 600 to 800 tests a day and the results are delivered up to two weeks later.
So the official numbers probably aren’t that accurate.
There were reports a month ago (see below) that there was a surge in cases which had infected some of Maduro’s top advisers and dozens of people at state TV. More recently, a Caracas stadium was transformed into a field hospital which suggests they are expecting lots of new cases soon.
Finally, here’s a video from inside one of the detention centers where people are crammed together in a small room. The description below the clip reads: “This is how Maduro treats Venezuelans, violating their human rights. In the CDI of Montalban María Genoveva Guerrero Ramos, they have patients overcrowded, including many at high risk for being over 60 years old. Nicolás Maduro does not care about the lives of Venezuelans, they treat Venezuelans as enemies and persecute and repress them.”
According the NY Times, the distraught older man is saying, “Please take me out of here. I’m dying here. I feel worse every day.”