Healthcare workers attempted to stage a protest today at he Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas today as part of their four-day work stoppage to demand better wagers. National Guard soldiers prevented the striking workers from nearing the palace, forcing the protest to take place in the vicinity of the building.
The striking workers are from the Mision Barrio Andentro, the once world-famous healthcare initiative that placed medical staff, facilities and other resources in some of Venezuela’s most impoverished areas. Founded early on in the Chavez presidency, Misio Barrio Adentro has not been spared the effects of the collapse.
Marching from the headquarters of the Ministry of Health to Miraflores, the striking workers were met by National Guard soldiers not far from the palace.
The video below captured the workers forcing their way through a National Guard attempt to stop them. The video was captured just two blocks away from Miraflores:
During the scuffle with the authorities, some of the workers yelled,
We are healthcare [workers], not criminals!
According to the workers, the Maduro regime is not in compliance with their collective agreement, and they are not being paid what the government claims are their salaries.
In the video below, some of the striking workers speak with a reporter about a meeting that they have just had with the Minister of Health. Below, the video along with my translation:
Reporter: Did [the minister] offer you a solution?
Striking Worker #1: We don’t have any immediate solution.
Striking Worker #2: What they did was insult us up there.
Striking Worker #2: They told us that a police officer deserves to make more than we do because they put their lives at risk more than we do. They told me that I was the negative one in the group because I refused to agree to the proposal that they made. Did you hear me? We’re the ones that are going hungry here, not them.
They told us that if we refused to work then [that would mean that] we were against the revolution. No. Our children are having a tough time. We are having a tough time. We have to keep doing this so that [the government will] abide by the collective bargaining agreement.
Worker Explains Plight of Healthcare Professionals
Yolimar Garcia, a healthcare professional who works with vaccination programs, explained that the little money that they earn is not enough “to buy a carton of eggs”. She also explained that the demanding nature of their work makes it impossible for them to line up, often four hours, at supermarkets in the hopes of finding food at subsidized prices. Because of this, Garcia explained, healthcare workers are often forced to find food at unregulated, exuberant prices.
Garcia also explained that she does not feel like she is compensated enough for the work that she does, which places her in direct contact with members of her community on a daily basis. She said:
We are people who work in the community because we love our work and our communities, while lots of people receive benefits from the ministry [of health] for sitting in an office.
Garcia also made it clear that she is chavista, saying:
I wish I could work better in Venezuela. I don’t want to leave my country. I am a chavista. We are not against the revolution. Our president has to become aware of what is happening in all of the health centres and with all of the doctors and nurses in the country who are giving their all to look after children who are dying of measles.
Strike Comes As PAHO Releases Recommendations on Healthcare Crisis
The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) released a set of five recommendations today after taking stock of the healthcare crisis in Venezuela. The recommendations spell out general guidelines for the Maduro regime to follow in order to help mitigate the effects of the crisis on Venezuelans.
Below, PAHO’s five recommendations:
- “Urgently” create a plan to halt the spread of measles and diphtheria
- Reduce cases of malaria;
- Mobilize existing resources to ensure the full function of hospitals;
- Increase efficiency in healthcare delivery by consolidating resources;
- Improve public health initiatives, including the dissemination of information to the general public.
The recommendations follow a visit to Venezuela by PAHO director Dr. Carissa F. Etienne, who was in the country from June 12 to 15. While there, Dr. Etienne met with regime officials to discuss the healthcare situation in the country.
Following Dr. Etienne’s departure from Venezuela, PAHO released an article covering her visit, part of which reads:
Etienne emphasized the importance of collaboration between the government, civil society and citizens in tackling the country’s health care challenges. She also highlighted the work carried out by PAHO in order to improve access to medicines and health care.
“We are working with the government and other services to ensure the continued supply of medicines, diagnostic services and treatment for those with acute and chronic illness,” she said. “We are also providing support at a regional level in order to ensure resources for the purchase of critical medicines.”
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