The US has a total embargo on Venezuela. The EU has imposed new sanctions. The goal is to oust President Nicolas Maduro. But the measures are hitting Venezuelans hard and are likely to kill many people.
Carolina Subero lives with her mother, sister and three children, in a tiny two-bedroom cinderblock home in the poor barrio of Caucaguita in eastern Caracas.
Subero sits on her couch, with her youngest daughter Jenjerlys. She’s 5 years old, with long dark hair and big brown eyes. But she’s also autistic and epileptic, which means she needs medicine regularly — medicine she can’t get.
“She has seizures every day,” says Subero. “The medicine helps to make them not as bad. When we can’t get her medicine, they send her to the hospital.”
She says that Jenjerlys used to take four different medicines for her seizures. But now because of the US sanctions that are blocking the import of essential medicine,Carolina can only get one of the drugs. And that only some of the time, because it’s too expensive.
A box of pills that will last 10 days, costs around $8 (€7.3). That doesn’t sound like a lot, but it’s a fortune in a country rattled by hyperinflation and a devalued Bolivar.
“I’ve had to trade food for the medicine,” says Subero.
Jenjerlys is just one of more than 300,000 people who are estimated to be at risk because of lack of access to medicines or treatment because of sanctions on the country. That includes 16,000 people who need dialysis, 16,000 cancer patients and roughly 80,000 people with HIV, according to a report published in April by the Washington-based Center for Economic and Policy Research.
The situation is poised to get worse, with the total US embargo of the country, announced in August, and new EU sanctions levied last week.
“We understand that the Pan American Health Organization has had to change the accounts [used to purchase the medicine] four times, because they keep getting blocked,” says Marcel Quintana, the person in charge of the distribution of antiviral meds to the country’s HIV patients, something Venezuela has provided free of charge for decades.