By Carlos Camacho
CARACAS -- Police charged against patients and doctors protesting outside the headquarters of the Health Ministry in Caracas Wednesday to the shout of ”Genocidas!”.
That’s “genocide perpetrators” in Spanish. Minister Luis Lopez refused to meet with a delegation of demonstrators.
Similar events took place all over Venezuela, in what seems to signal the beginning of a new cycle of protests against the rule of unpopular leader Nicolas Maduro. Already, local social conflict NGO “OVCS” reports there has been a 93% increase in the number of protests recorded, year on year, with 26 anti-government demonstrations being held every day nationwide. “OVCS” said that, on Wednesday, there were protests regarding the health crisis in all of Venezuela’s 23 states.
National Police had to act to prevent demonstrators from entering the building, getting into a shoving match with a mob that included HIV positive and Parkinson’s disease patients, according to Colombian all-news TV station NTN24. “Health Ministry” was the top trending topic in Venezuelan Twitter for several hours Wednesday.
Transplant patients have not received their government-provided medication since last year, while AIDS and HIV stricken patients began noticing scarcity in 2009, but say it has grown far worse over the last few months. The ministry distributes the drugs for critical patients.
Venezuela is experiencing a severe shortage of regular (let alone critical) medication, including antibiotics and blood pressure drugs. Local health issues NGO “Medicos Por la Salud” estimates that between 80 to 95% of all medication is impossible to obtain in country at any given time. There are shortages of even alcohol, aspirin and cleaning and disinfectant products.
Maduro has repeatedly refused to open a humanitarian aid channel, citing fears that the measure would hide a military intervention in disguise. The opposition-held National Assembly okayed criminal procedures against the unpopular Maduro Tuesday, but the embattled head of state is not expected to comply voluntarily.
Health vice minister Jessyca Aleman met with one of the demonstrators, the head of NGO “Codevida”, Francisco Valencia and accepted a document demanding, again, that a humanitarian aid channel for medicines be opened. “The government just does not have the response capacity in the face of the magnitude of what is happening with the medicines’ shortages,” Valencia told NTN24 after meeting with Aleman.
“We will have to go to Miraflores to demand solutions from President Nicolas Maduro”, Valencia added. “Enough with all of the deaths! The government has the solution in its hands by activating international cooperation mechanisms.”