The coronavirus in Venezuela—‘a difficult moment and a trial’

VENEZUELA has recorded its first several dozen coronavirus infections. The country has already shut its borders and imposed an obligatory social quarantine as of March 16. It is a situation that poses a great threat to a population that is already extremely vulnerable, given the very fragile state of the Venezuelan hospital system.

The Venezuelan bishops’ conference has also taken preventative measures, including the suspension of public Masses. In a March 15 statement, the bishops declared:

“This is a difficult moment and a trial, from which we will emerge victorious, thanks to our faith and hope, which must now be expressed in works of charity and solidarity. And so we invite all our brothers and sisters within our nation to draw closer to God. During these times of a healthcare crisis we must remind ourselves that the Lord is in our midst and will not abandon us. He is the Rock who saves us.”

The Blessed Sacrament in the streets of San Cristobal

A doctor working in one of the main hospital centers in the country, who asked not to be identified, told Aid in the Church in Need (ACN) that “the Venezuelan hospital system is not ready for the great emergency that could result from numerous people being infected by Covid-19. The country’s precarious situation of the hospitals and the shortage of medicines is already well known throughout the world.”

Given the shortage in Venezuela of testing equipment to determine if people have been infected by the coronavirus, it is impossible to have any real idea of how many Venezuelans are in fact victims of

There is likewise great concern among those members of the population who must work in order to earn a living and feed themselves, and now are prevented from doing so on account of the enforcement of social distancing. “I don’t know how long we will have to put up with the quarantine, but if the virus doesn’t kill us, we will die of hunger instead,” said Ester Chacón, a small trader.

On Sunday March 22, the 150-plus priests of the Diocese of San Cristobal were asked by Bishop Mario Moronta, to ring their church bells at 12 noon and—while observing the social distancing rules—to bring the Blessed Sacrament to the doors of their churches and “from there to bless the whole city, the whole country, the neighboring country of Colombia and the whole world, calling on God to free us from this pandemic.”

At the same time Bishop Mario Moronta called on the authorities to “guarantee its citizens safe access to food, medicines, and medical care and to ensure that there are no power cuts or shortages of water and other essential services. We also call on them to take note of the immoral practices of certain persons who are exploiting the health emergency by unreasonably raising the prices of essential commodities for all the people. Those who are behaving in this manner have no fear of God,” he added.

ACN has been funding numerous aid campaigns to help the Church in Venezuela. During 2019 it gave more than $1M in aid, for the support of priests and religious, for priestly formation and pastoral care and for various emergency aid projects such as food kitchens, boreholes and electricity generators.

—Johan Pacheco