03 April, 2006

A Failing State

A recent set of articles (1 and 2) in El País are levelling some even-handed criticisms of the Chávez regime. Basically, they highlight the major signs of decay in the public realm, including the crumbling state of the Venezuelan health system and the on-going deterioration of operations at PDVSA, the state's oil body. Indeed, while Venezuela offers to buy as much of Argentina's IMF debt as that country will allow, it's public hospitals fall deeper and deeper into disrepair, and more and more of its oil sites are abandoned. To illustrate this point, which I made in a previous post, following are some excerpts concerning the moribund state of public hospitals from the two pieces:

"At the Leonardo Ruiz Pineda public health center, located in the public housing zone 23 de enero in Caracas -an area of popular for Chavez-, there are no X-ray sheets, nor chemical substances for lab analyses, nor wooden sticks for throat examinations, nor medicines. There are 40 employees who see a mere 50 patients daily.

'In one night we get eight men with bullet wounds in the thorax,' says the quoted doctor. 'But we only have four tubes to drain their lungs, so the other four men must be left to die. We don't have any gauze, sutures, liquid disinfectants nor surgical gloves. Our hospital counts on a CT machine, but there's no one to man it.'

To be fair, these hospitals have been neglected by public funding since way before Chavez. The difference is that while before shortfalls extended to particular areas of expertise and more advanced technologies, today many of these public hospitals are threatened with extinction. Like the recent symbolic collapse of the Viaducto Uno, much of the public infrastructure, including traffic, health and education are crumbling amidst the foreign-spending bonanza, widespread corruption and massive hand-outs of the Chavez government.

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