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According to El País, 50 newborn babies died this past month in a public hospital in the northern coastal town of Barcelona, Venezuela, and the cause of death is attributed to bacteria from an opossum that was spotted in the neonatal unit. Sadly, sanitary conditions like these are the norm in public hospitals across Venezuela, which also suffer from a 93% shortage in basic medical materials. Venezuela’s healthcare scarcity doesn’t stop there. Since former president Hugo Chávez’s election in 1998, more than 12,000 doctors, surgeons, and various other medical practitioners have left the public health system, 60% of them fleeing the the country to continue their careers elsewhere. Cuban “medical missions” have partially filled the void, but many of these physicians are treating the mission as an escape route. Just last week El Colombiano reported that at least 720 Cuban doctors have abandoned their Venezuelan medical posts and escaped to Colombia, in hopes of reaching the United States.
The healthcare crisis is only part of Venezuela’s woes. With inflation rising towards 200%, the national currency, the bolívar, is often used as a napkin to hold street foods such as empanadas. Lines often form around supermarkets throughout the country for basic goods. In July, Pepsi and Nestle shut down operations. Sovereign debt yields approach 30%, and odds of a default were estimated at 93% at the end of 2014. ¡Bienvenido a la Revolución Bolivariana! These are the fruits of failed, socialist polices copied from Cuba, implemented by Chávez, and now doubled-down upon by President Nicolás Maduro.
With legislative elections looming in December, Maduro is eager to change the national conversation by resuming his role as national bully. Today, he’s picking fights with Colombia, whom he blames for the deaths of three army officers in the poorly secured border-town of San Antonio. Despite not having any suspects, Maduro has alleged that Colombian paramilitaries are culpable, abruptly closed the border for 60 days, and deported more than 1,000 Colombians.
This is the second time in recent months that Maduro has antagonized his Bolivarian neighbor. In June, Colombia issued a letter of protest challenging Maduro’s newly-decreed borders in the Gulf of Venezuela. And while he incites conflict on his western border, Maduro has also picked a fight with his little neighbor to the east, Guyana, threatening the former British colony over a territorial dispute dating back to the 19th century that now involves a major oil discovery in Guyanese waters.
But Maduro’s feckless attempts to drum up national support with fabricated threats to national security appear to be falling on deaf ears. The latest polls report 24% approval for his socialist administration. Simply put, Venezuelans see threats differently than their government. They see 50 children dying in a government hospital as a threat to national security. They see the murder of peaceful protestors, the unjust imprisonment of political leaders, the daily violation of human rights, and the military’s protection of narco-terrorists like Farc as a threat to national security. Same goes for the empty supermarkets, lines for basic goods, and the devaluation of the bolívar.
The primary threat to national security in Venezuela is not from the outside, but from within.