“There is no food in Venezuela,” my Venezuelan friend wrote. “Maybe this is the last time you hear from me.”
I was shocked with these two sentences. Like him, millions of people are facing inhuman conditions in Venezuela right now.
It was not easy for him to reach me. He had to write a letter, give it to his brother who was visiting and his brother sent it to me from abroad.
International phone calls are blocked. All the letters they send are opened, as well as everything they receive is opened and checked. There is no privacy, no liberty of expression and “big brother” is watching 24/7. Even their internet access is limited and controlled. And the military in the streets is ready to use violence and to make detentions.
Like millions of Venezuelans, my friend goes to bed feeling hungry and wakes up feeling hungry. After nine hours in a line, he might get some flour. Yesterday it was actually a good day; it only took him only six hours in a line to get some basic food. So far, he has already lost 33 pounds (15 kilos).
Many kids don’t go to school and are standing in the food lines with their parents. Others go to school, but many faint, because of hunger and malnourishment.
The worst situation happens if someone gets sick, or needs hospital treatment. Hospitals have no conditions and many doctors have left the country. Medicine cabinets in hospitals and pharmacies are as empty as the supermarket shelves. My friend has asthma and he cannot find medicine, a nebulizer and drops anywhere.
Together with other international friends we tried to contact him to get him help. However even our help is extremely difficult to reach him.
First, he cannot receive foreign money. Second, he cannot have a passport to leave the country, unless he pays a lot of money to a corrupt public worker. But then again, with his income of $29 a month, that would be impossible.
There are no basic goods there either. He was taking showers only with water, until a friend from abroad sent him 10 soaps, from which he only received half, the rest was taken away as bribery.
Before this economic crisis devastated Venezuela, my friend used to be an engineer with a good life, a house and a car. Now he is almost starving, his rights are all gone and there is little we can do to help him.
All media in the country is controlled by President Nicolás Maduro. CNN in Spanish was banned. And the government makes a lot of fake propaganda. Maduro’s twitter account, is publishing photos of big smiles, hugs and people celebrating life, pretending that Venezuela is a wonderful country and trying to cover up reality.
Of course, political opposition is not allowed either, the Supreme Court has upheld the almost 14 years in jail sentence of the opposition leader, Leopoldo López, whose wife, Lilian Tintori was a few days ago with President Donald Trump and had his public support.
As my friend expressed, “Every Venezuelan depends on the government, there are no private institutions and all public ones are taken by the government, there is no escape.”
Sadly, the same Venezuela that used to be a beautiful country, is now one of the worst places on Earth.