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Venezuela: Government leads fight against pandemic, cancels rent

By staff

Members of Venezuelan teachers union.

Caracas, Venezuela -The bustling streets of Caracas are full of masked people, during “open week.” You hear Latin music flowing from the stores, children playing soccer and laughing, merchants selling empanadas. 95% of the people you see are wearing masks outside, since it’s the government mandate.

Every other week is a “closed week,” where everything is closed in the afternoons besides grocery stores, healthcare, gas and other essentials. Many people work from home during the “closed week.” You will still see people in the streets, but far fewer.

Government Human Resources Department worker Oliver Rujano stated, “Our Venezuelan government was one of the best in the world in handling the pandemic. We had very few cases. People here are mandated to wear masks and majority follow it. In the neighborhoods, we all know each other and check on each other. We knew who caught COVID and helped one another. My neighborhood had five COVID cases. Look at the countries with the most COVID cases, like the USA and Brazil. The USA says they are a democracy, but we are the true democracy, the people wish they had, with free healthcare, education and people power.”

Venezuela also took care of its people with housing. Misión Vivienda, the housing program continued to build more houses, with 3.6 million houses built in ten years. There were also protections for renters.

“The people renting apartments were protected and not obligated to pay during the pandemic. They don’t have to pay the rent back either,” said Deputy at the National Assembly for the Workers Sector Oswaldo Vera.

This is unlike the USA, where the eviction freeze is ending and millions are at risk of eviction and forced to pay back over a year of rent.

The Maduro government not only protected renters, but also supported workers with salaries.

“The government guaranteed stability of salaries for the workers. They subsidized the salaries of private company workers, since people were buying fewer services and items. They also provided 100% of the salary for public workers who couldn’t work because their jobs were closed. If someone left work sick, due to COVID, they received their full salary. Also, our nurses were given full protections and PPE for working and treatment and hospitalization for those with COVID were free, unlike the USA,” said Oswaldo Vera.

Vera added, “The government also paid for hotels to be used as hospital rooms to quarantine those with COVID. This also helped the workers, since tourism decreased significantly,” said International Relations Secretary of the Federation of Public Service Workers Tulio Virguez.

Similar to many U.S. cities, the schools were closed due to the pandemic. Teachers continued working by providing online instruction, instruction via text with WhatsApp and for those without any phones or internet, and students picked up assignments from schools every 15 days.

Vaccinations were also a major part of the pandemic plan.

“Teachers started being vaccinated in March, and we expect all teachers to be vaccinated by October, when the schools open,” said Lidia Méndez, an executive of the biggest Venezuelan teachers union.

They have a similar COVID response plan to Chicago, where if one student is sick, they will send the students home. If multiple classes are infected, they will close the school and do an investigation to find the source of the outbreak.

Not all followed the rules of the schools closing.

“There was one school, where the principal disobeyed the law, and the principal kept the school 100% open and most the kids got COVID. That principal was prosecuted and is in home arrest now. He didn’t follow the safety protocol for the kids,” said Tulio Virguez.

One issues the teachers have had during and before the pandemic are the salaries.

“Our salaries low because of the USA economic war against us and inflation related with the dollar. Luckily, we have the government social services of food, public service, healthcare, housing, etc. We’ve had three or four very difficult years due to the USA blockade and sanctions, but we are fighters, and we find ways to keep moving forward,” said Guillermo Madriz, executive member of the teachers union.

“Daily, we are in a fight against the economic war. Every day the inflation and the dollar exchange rate, this changes the salary of the teachers here. Our salaries were much seven or eight times higher before the USA sanctions,” said Cesar Silva, an executive member of the teacher’s union.

The Venezuelan government has supported the people in their needs of housing, healthcare, education and other social services, but the U.S. blockade has taken a toll.

“From 2003 to 2012, we were listed at as the fifth happiest country in the world [according to the Gallup poll]. We had all these free social services started. We had trade exchange with all over the world. Then, the USA blockade began and we couldn’t trade oil. Massive inflation started,” said Cesar Silva.

These sanctions are not just against the government, these sanctions significantly hurt the people living in Venezuela. Even the number of vaccinations entering Venezuela have slowed down due to them being blocked by the blockade.

“We couldn’t pay for the vaccines provided by the World Health Organization vaccine program [COVAX] recently because the USA blocked the wire transfer for multiple weeks,” said Tulio Virguez.

“We want the rest of the world to know that Venzuelans are happy, we drink, we dance and everything, but we need the sanctions to end. They are hurting us, the people,” said Nelson Herrera, Secretary of the Vice Presidency for the Working Class of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV).

The Venezuelan government is providing all the free healthcare, salary, protections and support to its people, but the economic war and blockade is trying to slow their progress, so Venezuelans can’t receive all the vaccinations they need and the salaries they deserve.

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