One more dark side of Venezuela economic crisis is a surprise, but not a shock.
A recent and devastating report by the New York Times exposes the deadly effect of Venezuela’s political and economic crises on the most vulnerable sector of the population: young children.
The report, written by Meridith Kohut and Isayen Herrera, details the tragic impact of the unending food shortage in the South American country. The Times found that hundreds of children have died in recent months because of malnutrition, a fact the government tried to hide. This attempt indicates at least a modicum of shame on the part of what has been a shameless regime.
For five months, the journalists tracked ill children at 21 public hospitals in 17 states across the country, where doctors confirmed that the number of children suffering severe malnutrition is unprecedented in the country.
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“Hunger has stalked Venezuela for years. Now, it is killing the nation’s children at an alarming rate, doctors in the country’s public hospitals say,” the article reports.
Emergency rooms are full of children with severe malnutrition. And many do not survive. The devastating food shortage means that no family member can get enough food, spending days without eating.
As always, the youngest are in the most danger. Many new mothers who cannot breastfeed their babies can’t get formula milk to feed them, either, and hyperinflation has put milk beyond the reach of poor families.
In the midst of despair, mothers try to feed their babies rice starch mixed with water — whatever it takes to fill their stomachs and keep them from starving in their arms.
But there’s rarely enough, and the children end up in the hospital, where basic supplies such as soap and gauze are lacking. Many times, when babies get to the emergency room, their bodies are so deteriorated that there is no chance of salvation.
The government releases few facts on the general health of Venezuelans. Those would put Hugo Chávez-inspired ideals in a bad light. But as much as the government tries to hide it, the devastating reality is visible. Nicolas Maduro’s rhetoric founders in a sea of lies, while hunger kills hundreds of children.
Maduro’s regime refuses to accept international assistance, which repeatedly has been offered.
Clearly, ego trumps doing what’s best for his people. Acceptance would be tantamount to admitting that Venezuela is in the clutches of a humanitarian crisis, which Maduro himself perpetuates.
Maduro says that food shortages are due to the “economic war” launched against the government by local businessmen and the United States. It is true, there are smugglers, known as bachaqueros, who buy subsidized products to resell them at higher prices and make a profit. But to blame them for the national disgrace is a fallacy. And, of course, the United States is an enduring and convenient scapegoat. Venezuelans shouldn’t buy that lie.
Rather, the blame falls on a government that suppresses private initiative while repressing its people. The fault lies with a regime that cannot straighten out the national economy — and doesn’t appear to want to.
As a result, Maduro is even incapable of saving the lives of the littlest victims of his incompetence — a shame that he no longer can hide.