By Carlos Camacho
CARACAS -- Venezuela Regime head Nicolas Maduro termed the Coronavirus outbreak in oil-rich Venezuela “a catastrophe” Monday night, only three days after denying that there were any cases in the country.
In the meantime, his ministers were busy admitting to the first 2 cases on Friday, then 17 Sunday night and then the number of cases appeared to double, was Maduro announced 33 confirmed Coronavirus patients.
Repression has not stopped, with an opposition lawmaker being arrested without a warrant last week. If anything, critics say Maduro’s new measures -- which broaden an existing quarantine and “social distancing” decision and include selling no gasoline to non-essential vehicles and locking down major cities including the capital of Caracas -- actually place more of Venezuela under the control of his regime and the military and police still obedient to it.
"Drastic measure are needed…. We have never faced a situation like this before," Maduro said during a broadcast from the Miraflores Palace, labeling the outbreak a “catastrophe.” Up until Friday of last week, Maduro had denied the existence of any Coronavirus cases in Venezuela and promised to beat the disease with “Interferon” from Cuba.
Meanwhile, old crises have compounded to haunt Maduro: with more than 80% of the country without running water, it’s hard for Venezuelans to comply with sanitation measures. Not even hospitals have water, or even emergency power, if it comes to that, according to the Red Cross. And blackouts are becoming increasingly common.
Maduro said that 28 of the infected people came from Europe and five from Cucuta, across the border in Colombia. That 18 of the patients were men and 15 women. The number of cases has increased since Friday, when the first two patients were reported: on Saturday the total number increased to 10 and on Sunday to 17, a growth rate faster than France.
State by state, cases have been recorded in Miranda (13), Caracas (8), Vargas (5), Aragua (2), Anzoátegui (2), Mérida (1), Cojedes (1) and Apure (1), or only eight of Venezuela’s 23 states and territories.
Maduro announced that holders of the regime-promoted “Carnet de la Patria” biometric party ID will receive “in the next few hours…a series of social benefits”. The card, which the opposition has described as a social control tool, is mostly only held Regime loyalists. The regime also anticipated the arrival of aid from China to address the situation.
He also said that today he made a first contact with the government of Colombia, with the mediation of the Pan-American Health Organization, to attend to the emergency at the border. President Ivan Duque closed the common border on Saturday.
Duque does not recognize or deal with Maduro so the discussions have to take place through a multilateral organization.