Not Enough Guns for a Quarantined Country | Caracas Chronicles

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Venezuela started its second month of quarantine and Caracas sees more people on the streets every day, almost as if they fear hunger more than they fear COVID-19. Police officers, who were zealous in their duty when the crisis began, have relaxed their insistence on hygiene measures and the importance of staying home. 

Until April 14th, 189 cases of COVID-19 had been confirmed in the country, most of them in Caracas and the nearby states of Vargas and Miranda. To stop the contagion rate, Nicolás Maduro issued a collective quarantine order established in decree N° 4,160 and three weeks later, on April 11th, he decreed the extension of the quarantine until May 13th, asking his cabinet and police and military personnel for support. 

However, the reality of public services like water and cooking gas, and the lack of income to survive a lockdown as suggested by the WHO, have caused that Venezuelans, especially in low-income areas, fear the new coronavirus less and less each day, venturing out and finding ways to make money, to buy cooking gas cylinders or to fill water bottles wherever they can. In areas of Caracas like Catia and Petare, people never stayed home. 

When the first two cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in the country, Special Actions Forces (FAES), National Police and National Guard officers, along with local police, started forcing citizens to stay inside. These actions got less severe over time, particularly after the first month. A FAES officer told Caracas Chronicles that it’s tough for their institution to order citizens to abide by the new rules, because “people answer to their own conscience.” 

And it seems like every institution thinks so, too. In Caracas, one of the few special operations was carried out to raid a party in Los Palos Grandes, a middle-class zone of the Chacao municipality. Two partygoers were COVID-19 positive and they were detained for breaking the quarantine; the apartment’s owner, Jorge Eduardo Echenagucia Vallenilla, was also charged with illegal drug possession, illegally carrying a weapon and resisting authority. The raid was carried out by National Police and Chacao police officers. 

Police officers, who were zealous in their duty when the crisis began, have relaxed their insistence on hygiene measures and the importance of staying home.

After that, police and military operations have slowed down, and the National Guard went straight to gas stations, because the reality affecting other states for some time now finally caught up with the capital: fuel scarcity. Instead of controlling the masses at Ruíz Pineda, San Martín, Catia, Quinta Crespo and Petare (meaning, all across the city), officers found a gig in the long lines for gas, and according to several drivers, they charge $10 if you want to skip the line. 

Soldiers at the Border 

Even though the presence of police and military officers has decreased in the cities of Venezuela, it hasn’t decreased at the border at all. 

The military has been deployed to control the entry of migrants, who have decided in the last few days to return because they can’t survive the quarantine abroad with their savings. Until Sunday, according to figures revealed by Nicolás Maduro’s regime liaison in Táchira, Freddy Bernal, 5,791 Venezuelans have crossed the Simón Bolívar International Bridge.

Officers have taken migrants to shelters set up in border towns like Rubio, Michelena, San Antonio del Táchira and state capital San Cristóbal, in the Venezuelan Andes. Bernal said that officers have detained 15 people in shelters for criminal acts on April 13th because, according to this chavista leader, “these places have rules and the Army will make sure they’re followed”. 

In Santa Elena de Uairén, Bolívar state (southern Venezuela), they also run a relocation operation for migrants arriving from Brazil and other places. On April 14th, Admiral William Serantes, commander of REDI Guayana (a special defense command on Bolívar), alongside governor Justo Noguera said that they established a place to receive Venezuelans, where they’re tested for COVID-19 and then isolated in shelters for 15 days. 

This goes for air arrivals, too. On Saturday April 11th, 133 Venezuelans (131 adults and two children) who returned from Mexico in a humanitarian flight operated by state airline Conviasa, were forced to stay at an old (and somewhat in disarray) touristic complex, Ciudad Vacacional Los Caracas, in Vargas state, isolated for 14 days. 

Vargas governor Jorge Luis García Carneiro said that these people would remain at the complex, where they had already kept 61 people, after they landed on April 9th in a flight from Havana, Cuba. Carneiro says they have 400 beds available. 

The only conclusion is that your privilege depends on your location. In places like Caracas, and the nearby states of Miranda and Aragua, law enforcement works at its bare minimum, completely different from what happens at the border. And although you’d believe that with these policies the regime fears people returning from abroad and spreading the virus, devastating what’s left of our already broken health system, there’s also lines for gas that get longer and longer, with videos all over social media proving that motorbikers don’t care about social social distancing, and there’s nobody to make them comply. 

So what’s the regime playing at?

This post was originally posted on Caracas Chronicles – View Original Article

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About the Author

Have lived and invested in Venezuela full time for the last eight years and visited for each of twelve years prior to that. Studied and closely followed developments in Venezuela since 1996.