When I get home my mother is bedridden, lying there looking certainly like the ordeal she went through was anything but trivial. And still, one has to consider that her case was mild; she did not get to see the grim reaper, but he sent her an e-mail that fortunately ended up in the spam folder. Fortunate or not, this was not a close call in the same sense that people that end up in the infamous ventilator can talk about. But still, she got scared. A few days later, after I have had time to sit down with her and watch her recover some strength (it will be a while before she will be back to normal, if ever) she has told me that what was the worst was when she saw herself in that waiting room in the hospital and realized how alone she was, how lonely it could get and that the possibility that she would be institutionalized and cut apart from us was real. That fear made her come back home, under the valid logic that if death was indeed the destination, it would be at home.
Within the entire phase, the Venezuelan distinctiveness came through. As in: how was she let go back home? Why was she not taken into the hospital and taken care of there, as she was a confirmed case? Because in Venezuela, the surreal is ordinary. Because there were no more beds in that hospital, she was let go and referred to one nurse, a worker there, that could provide her with care at home. An entire industry of home care and assistance has sprung up, instantaneously, for people that are in the level of need that my mother was. Every single health provider and professional is offering services and, for international prices, the entire offer is ridiculous: a graduate nurse would come to the house for four days and provide this assistance, for a total sum of $100, medicines not included. A regime of steroids and other potent drugs would be extra but, at that moment, there were no other deals, and this one did not seem too Faustian.
Because of this, there is one thing that is certain in Venezuela: all COVID statistics are bogus. For every person lying in a hospital bed, there are several that are at home recovering or, in the worst of cases, dying with their loved ones. The government has no force, nor is it interested in, to control this informal new economy that delivers services. Those that are tracked by the public health services get the offer of being taken to (in Caracas) “El Poliedro”, a former large stadium which has been set up with tents and minimum support to take care of thousands of people that are coming down with the disease and have no income to compensate otherwise. Poor hygiene conditions and the obvious lack of showers (it WAS an arena for concerts, not a place to hang out for two weeks) must be the norm but in Venezuela, health and human services are directly tied to your level of income. It is that simple.
24 years of financial and economic destruction, courtesy of the idiotic policies of the drug criminals that run the country, ruined the country and have made it desolate. But now, the veneer of COVID hangs over it, making the eerie silence at night even more spooky. It is not that the country is not moving and the economy is stagnant, it is also that indeed, at night, death trolls the city, taking lives here and there courtesy of this disease and courtesy of the differences in income that people in this country are by now used to.