By Jeremy Morgan
Latin American Herald Tribune staff
CARACAS – Marcelino Castellanos, 75, went off duty as a night watchman at a workshop in La Aguada, a non-descript industrial zone in Santa Lucia in Valles del Tuy south of Caracas.
On getting home, he discovered he'd left his keys behind. So, his wife being hard of hearing, he reached up and tried to call her through the window to let him in.
At this point, all agree, he became the target of two large dogs belonging to his neighbors. Unfortunately for him, they were Pit Bull Terriers, a notoriously ferocious breed subject to strict controls in Western Europe including outright bans in some instances.
The beasts leaped on Castellanos, biting, scratching and tearing at his legs, arms and face. They are said to have ripped off an ear and damaged an eye in the process. His family gave the alarm.
The owners came out and tried to restrain the dogs, in the end soaking them in oil in order to do so.
But by then, the old-timer was in deep trouble, Somehow or other he was gotten to a hospital. But, there was nobody to treat him, so he was sent to the capital.
Castellanos was taken to Domingo Luciani, a state hospital in south-east Caracas that was once renowned as one of the most advanced on the continent but is now a shadow of its former self (as he who writes once discovered to his cost some years ago).
But neither could Castellanos find anybody to look after him there. He was sent on to another hospital, Pérez Carreño, where he ran into the same result. He was sent back at Domingo Luciani.
Unattended and in an increasingly grave medical condition, the old man literally bled to death around two in the morning on the first day of 2009.
Not surprisingly, the family is unpleased with what they see as inhumane treatment at the hands of the state health service.
That said, doctors at state hospitals are very poorly paid, and when they are it's often in arrears. They've been in dispute with the Health Ministry about this for months, and many moonlight in the private sector to make ends meet.
But if the relatives have a real beef with anybody, it's the neighbors. The dogs, it seems, are not just a nuisance, but also qualify as a public menace.
Alejandro Castellano, a son of the late victim said that he and his family went to his father's home to celebrate Christmas. At one point, he wandered out on the patio – only for the two brooding pit bulls next door to launch into him.
The son says he was strong enough to fight them off, not least by throwing stones. But what he wants to know is what happens if the dogs, having mauled the old man, then turn on somebody's children.
The scientific and investigative police, Cicpc, are said to be investigating the case.