The Ministry of Health revealed figures yesterday showing that the neonatal death rate in the country increased from 0.05% in 2014 to 2.01% in 2015 per 1,000 inhabitants.

El Nacional had to double-check the figures, since it initially believed that the drastic jump might have been the result of a clerical error at the Ministry of Health. However, the newspaper reports that the figures line up with internal statistic maintained by the Hospital Universitario de Caracas. According to those figures, the hospital received 2,447 births last year; of those, 478 entered the intensive care unit, and 47 died. The figures but the neonatal mortality rate at the hospital at 19 per 1,000 live births.

Moreover, the hospital appears to have entered a disturbing trend. El Nacional reports that the hospital had more neonatal fatalities in the first four months of 2016 than it did in all of 2015. Between January and April of this year, out of 1,534 live births at the hospital, 51 neonates have died, putting the fatality rate so far this year at the hospital at 33 per 1,000 births.

The Maternidad Concepcion Palacios hospital is not faring any better, as its neonatal fatality rate for 2016 currently sits at 35 per 1,000 births.

Julio Castro, an infectologist at the Institute for Tropical Medicine at the Universidad Central de Venezuela, told El Nacional what the increased figures mean:

These official figures take us back to numbers recorded in the mid-1980s. In other words, we’re talking about a 30-year setback for health in Venezuela, something that makes us fall from the mid-range spots in Latin America to the lowest spots in all of the continent.

Min. of Health Figures on Vaccinations Paint Grim Picture

The Ministry of Health has also revealed that 2,789,815 vaccines were administered to children in 2015, a decrease of 2,312,453 from 2014. The figures appear to suggest that millions of children were not vaccinated in 2015.

Dr. Carlos Walter at the Observatorio Venezolano de la Salud [Venezuelan Health Watch] told El Universal that the Ministry of Health’s figures on vaccinations pose troubling inconsistencies. For example, Dr. Walter told the newspaper that while the Ministry of Health claims to have vaccinated 77% of all children who required a polio vaccine in 2014, it claims to have vaccinated 91% of children in 2015 but with dramatically fewer vaccines. In other words, the Ministry of Health claims to have done substantially more vaccinations for polio in 2015 with substantially fewer vaccine doses.

El Universal also points out that the inconsistencies extend to the MMR vaccine as well:

The same occurred with the [MMR vaccine], the coverage of which jumped – according to the Ministry of Health – from 87% to 97% in those years [2014-2015], yet there were 2,098,007 fewer vaccines administered than in the year before.

Humiades Urbina, the president of the Sociedad Venezolana de Puericultura y Pediatria [Venezuelan Society of Childcare and Pediatrics] told El Universal that Venezuela’s child vaccination rate actually sits somewhere between the 60-80% mark, which presents tremendous problems for the future of healthcare in the country:

The consequences for the future are that diseases that were under control come back and put the most vulnerable populations – like children, the elderly and patients with hepatitis and HIV – at risk.

CNE Begins Verification Process Tomorrow

The Mesa de la Unidad Democratica (MUD) said earlier today that the Consejo Nacional Electoral (CNE) informed them that they would begin the verification process tomorrow for the 1.8 million signatures handed in to the electoral body asking for a recall referendum against Maduro.

Vicente Bello, a MUD representative, said that the verification process would take place in the CNE headquarters in Caracas, and that it would be observed by twelve preventatives from the PSUV, and twelve from the MUD.

The CNE’s announcement effectively puts to rest fears raised by rector Tania D’Amelio over the weekend, who said that the body would not begin to verify the signatures until the end of this month.

MUD National Assembly deputy Freddy Guevara said that he expects that the CNE will be ready to announce the results of the verification process on Saturday of this week, and that there would be mass demonstrations otherwise.

Bello also said that the MUD would continue to keep pressure on the CNE to carry out the process as quickly as it can with the goal of holding the recall referendum before the end of the year:

The recall referendum should take place in August. We know that the CNE will [kick and scream] and try to slow thing down, and that the Tribunal Supremo de Justicia [the Supreme Court] will say something as well. Let us suppose that happens: then, it would take place in September instead of August, but it shouldn’t be more than that, unless the CNE or the government explicitly states that the recall referendum will never take place. I’m not sure what we’d do then, but that’d be a different ball game.

Mall Sales Fall 15-30% In Two Months

The Camara Venezolana de Centros Comerciales [Venezuelan Chamber of Shopping Malls] announced yesterday that sales throughout the country’s shopping malls had fallen between 15-30% in two months as a direct result of the taxing electrical rationing system mandated by the national government.

The Maracaibo Chamber of Commerce reports that over the past two months, visits to malls in the city have fallen 20%, resulting in sales dips of 18% for department stores and 25% in food courts. Amaya Briner, the head of the organization, also said that visits to movie theaters in malls had fallen 75%, putting businesses “up against the wall”.

The largest mall in Maracaibo, the Sambil, was forced to close its doors on April 30 until further notice after the state-owned electrical company announced that it would no longer provide any electricity to the mall, citing its high energy demand.

Two months ago, the national government unveiled a series of rationing regulations that require shopping malls to generate their own electricity or during peak hours. However, not all shopping malls are equipped with electrical generators that are up to the task, and those that say that their facilities are taking damage due to being forced to operate for up to 9 hours straight.

Briner told El Nacional the the point of a mall’s electrical generation units is to act as temporary back-up systems in the case of power outages, not provide continuous electricity to the installations. Briner also said that it would be a better idea to have malls close one or two days a week instead of running electrical generation units for prolonged periods of time, since that would inevitably lead to further problems down the road:

Many [malls] will have to close because they can’t [generate electricity], or because their electrical generators are damaged, or because they’re waiting for repair parts.

Motta Dominguez: Crisis Ongoing Despite Rain

Minister of Electrical Energy Luis Motta Dominguez stressed today that despite the fact that rain fell at the Guri dam over the weekend, the situation at the damn is still “very critical”.

Motta Dominguez conducted an inspection of the reservoir’s western section, and tweeted the picture below along with the following:

Today we examined the western sector of the reservoir and the drought – despite Saturday’s rain – continues to be very critical…

AG: 37 Killed in Lynchings in 2016

Attorney General Luisa Ortega Diaz announced today that authorities had investigated 74 lynching incidents in 2016, and that her office recorded 37 fatalities due to the practice. Ortega Diaz also said that two people are in custody for having participated in lynchings this year, and added:

Lynching is  a crime. No one can commit a crime with their own hands. The rule of law exists, and it establishes the conditions under which trials are to be carried out.

Ortega Diaz made the announcement while launching the Direccion de Politica Criminal [Criminal Policy Directorate], a new initiative aimed at conducting crime and policing-related research in order to help inform policy.

Ortega Diaz also revealed that there have been 4,969 murders in Venezuela so far this year, and admitted that there is a “grave problem of corruption” with the country’s police bodies.

Cabello: Opposition Doesn’t Want Referendum

PSUV vice-president Diosdado Cabello gave a speech yesterday in which he said that the opposition was not actually interested in carrying out the recall referendum against Maduro. According to Cabello, the fact that the opposition did not immediately launch a referendum campaign as soon as they took power in the National Assembly is evidence of this.

Cabello also downplayed the collection of approximately 1.8 million signatures in favour of the recall referendum as the beginning of the end of Maduro, saying:

Absolutely nothing has started to happen. Nothing has started to happen. They’re only in the initial process of asking the Consejo Nacional Electoral [for permission] to do the referendum.

At the same time, Cabello called into question the actual number of signatures the opposition claims to have collected, and suggested that the actual number of signatures is irrelevant, given that the most important factor is that they be valid:

They say that they handed over 2 million; other say that it’s 2.5 million, and others say that there are 3 million signatures (…) The fact is that today, it looks like they snuck in a little truck carrying the signatures. Nobody knows anything. How many are there for sure? We will know soon.

Questions/Comments? E-mail me: invenezuelablog@gmail.com

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