Another long month spent in quarantine, another month of this year confined in a limited livelihood — time keeps slipping through my hands like sand. With each passing day I lose any optimism and hope that this quarantine will be lifted anytime soon, time to start making Christmas preparations because from the looks of it, I’ll be stuck here for the rest of the year.
This new reality is the new Venezuelan normal, and now the stagnation that characterized the past years of the collapse of this country has morphed and adapted around it, making life in Venezuela even more miserable than before.
The cases have dramatically surged in an exponential manner over the past month. According to the regime’s official statistics, we’re now at over 31,000 cases, out of which over 21,500 have recovered, and over 260 regrettable deaths.
As with previous entries in this ongoing Lockdown entries (that I now foresee will extend to the rest of the year, hopefully not beyond), the veracity of the regime’s official numbers is up to you to determine. I personally cannot go against them lest I’d be risking arrest for ‘hate speech’. That being said, their numbers have been contested by others, who claim that the numbers are much higher — thus making the situation worse than what it is shown to us. Even though it has not been publicly said to us, outbreaks within the regime’s own ranks are a fact. From the military to top head honchos of the Socialist Party have been infected, some have perished even.
This pandemic hit pretty close to our doorstep, two floors above mine, to be precise. On the 22th of July, one of our most elderly neighbors got infected along with her sister and daughter — sadly, both her and her sister passed away a few days ago. Her daughter is on her way to recovery, which is one good news amidst this tragedy. My thoughts and prayers are with them in these hard times.
Certainly so, panic ensued throughout the building when she announced that she had been infected with COVID-19. Some of my neighbors became rather desperate and wanted to get tested asap. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that this country has a drastic shortage of testing kits (not to mention that we only have two ‘authorized’ laboratories to run PCR tests for the whole country). The response from the local health center and the area’s Communal Council (whose ideology shouldn’t be a hard guess) was that if nobody had become sick after all these days then we’re fine.
That seems to be the case fortunately, as no one else in this building has shown symptoms.
Roads have been barricaded and streets have been blocked, moreso in the capital, Caracas, in an effort to ‘radicalize’ the quarantine amidst the growing number of cases. This city, along with other regions of Venezuela, continue to undergo a 2-week rotating cycle between ‘radical’ and ‘flexible’ weeks of quarantine.
Those who have returned the country through ‘illegal’ means continue to be hunted by the police and other authorities here. Branded as “Bio-terrorists” for the sole crime of returning to your country after being left stranded outside it. There’s one thing being an illegal migrant entering another country, but being an ‘illegal’ for entering your own? That’s a whole other level.
Radical quarantine notwithstanding, it’s not like people can simply stay at home and fiddle their thumbs to make food magically appear on the table, most people here live day by day, and they have to work via whatever means necessary to have at least something to eat, what’s more important, respecting social distancing rules, masks, and all that, or making sure your family eats?
Beyond the COVID-19 pandemic lies another, even worse pandemic in Venezuela, one of gasoline shortages that continues to worsen with each passing day. Waiting in line for days for a mere 30 liters of gasoline is the new norm here. Welcome to Venezuela, the country with the largest proven oil reserves in the world, where there’s barely any gasoline left and every drop counts.
Some specific locales were allowed to reopen during this current ‘flexible’ week at limited hours, such as barbershops, hair salons, hardware stores, among others. I seriously was looking forward to this limited window of reopening for hardware stores, if only for very selfish reasons: my bathroom’s light (a fluorescent tube) burnt a couple weeks ago, and since then I haven’t had proper illumination in my bathroom.
The first workaround was the quickest, and perhaps most ‘Venezuelan’ one: just leave the door open and let some of my bedroom’s lights go in — better than nothing. I ended up digging an old desk lamp and that’s the only source of light in my bathroom right now. Still not much, but better than the first alternative, and certainly better than taking a shower in the dark during my nightly one hour rations.
Cue my lack of surprise when I walked to a hardware store earlier this week in search of a fluorescent tube, only to once again hit head on the Venezuelan reality — they didn’t have any, so, for the time being, that trusty old desk lamp will have to do. It’s annoying and inopportune, but I have bigger concerns right now.
My mobility around the city is as limited as ever, as I don’t have the coveted safe-passage document that lets you move with greater ease around the city (and beyond), and with a still inoperative vehicle I can only go as far as my legs go anyways. Public offices remain closed, much to my dismay, as I still have a mountain load of paperwork to solve following my mom’s passing — two years have passed and I’m still not halfway done, that’s bureaucracy to you.
But for me, the one thing that keeps devouring me is the fact that our airports continue to be closed down for any commercial activity, which, for someone who is actively trying to get a visa to flee and start a new life, puts a huge dent in my plans, not to mention that my passport is weeks away from only being accepted in a handful of places due to its impending expiration next year.
Beyond that, my life continues to be as limited as it has been since March: weekly grocery runs, a few bread runs here and there, and just trying to stay as productive and healthy as possible (failing a bit on the latter, but that’s all on me).
Because there’s never a dull moment in this country, the latest and most unexpected development has been the return of DirecTV Venezuela at the hands of a new company. Three months after AT&T called it quits, Scale Capital, a Chilean company, has acquired DirecTV Venezuela and has begun to reactivate the service to former subscribers, including yours truly.
We still have more questions than answers regarding this. The new owners of DirecTV Venezuela thanked the Venezuelan regime in their announcement (wink wink, if you had any ideas of who’s getting any monetary benefit from this arrangement), and other bells and whistles, such as the service being free for 90 days while the transition occurs.
Most importantly, the former Directv Venezuela directors who had been unfairly arrested in the first place, have been set free. As of the writing of this post, I have a partial restoration of the service, only certain tv channels have returned. With a ‘restored’ Directv service the regime will once again be able to latch onto their infrastructure and reach, spreading their ideologically infested channels.
We’ll see if Globovision and PDVSA TV, the 2 US sanctioned channels that caused the ordeal in the first place and that caused AT&T to bail from the country (as they were unable to comply with both US and Venezuelan laws at the same time) will air under this new iteration of the service, because if they do not then this whole debacle was for nothing, a lot of people lost their jobs (which in times of quarantine is even more devastating), people were arrested, and customers lost their cable service, all because of the regime’s stubbornness.
I’m sure the mysteries surrounding this will be solved soon, it’s all business in the end, just a matter of figuring out who’s pockets (on each side) are being filled through this.
I must admit that my mental health (something I never paid much attention to) has taken a blow during these past weeks, courtesy of the entropic nature of this new Venezuelan reality, stress has certainly devoured me from within lately, which, not only has affected my productivity (which causes a feedback loop on my mind) but then starts to affect me on a physical level.
I still have so much to do, so I better learn how to decompress from all the accumulated stress. This quarantine is something that escapes my control, whether I like it or not, and I have to live with that, making the best out of the situation. I’m sure this will eventually pass, and I can go full steam ahead with all of my plans for the future.
But for now, all I can do is hope that you all stay safe out there, take it easy, and see you on the seventh entry of this saga.