Originally posted at American Thinker.
Three weeks ago my friend Jacqueline O, a retired government surgeon in Venezuela, mentioned that a child of a friend’s relative needed a procedure on his heart because he was born with one ventricle.
The baby’s name is Jose Manuel Villamizar Zambrano, and because of a birth defect, Jose requires a cardiac catheterization and almost surely will require follow-up heart surgery.
Jacqueline and I became online friends because she is so ardently anti-Marxist and attracted politically to people of like mind. Jacqueline is an activist at heart and has a soft spot for suffering children, which may be why my big mouth and my politics piqued her interest.
For the last seventeen years, this brave woman has lamented the mayhem socialism is wreaking on her once beautiful country. For eight of those years, she oftentimes would agree with my assessment of socialists or just ask for prayer.
Jacqueline found out and conveyed to me that Jose’s mother Evelyn took her son to the government-run free Venezuelan health care hospitals, where the baby, despite his oxygen-deprived blue lips, was turned away because the equipment was broken.
Naturally, when I heard about the baby’s plight, I asked my friend if there was something I could do to help. Jacqueline again asked for prayer, because for the child to be treated at a private clinic, his mother would need what amounted to 10,000 American dollars.
Rather impulsively, and with not one iota of experience raising money, I ran headlong into starting a GoFundMe campaign, and within one week, I raised, by the grace of God, and the help of many generous people, $10,000. There was even one selfless individual who said that if the campaign fell short of the goal, he, after donating quite generously to begin with, would provide the remainder.
GoFundMe was wonderful and vetted the campaign thoroughly. The organization requested backup verification including documentation from Jose’s mother, pictures, medical records, official letters, and even a photo of her government ID.
Since all this happened, Jacqueline and I have been in almost constant contact, either online or by phone, and what was once a casual understanding of the plight these people suffer every day has become something quite different for me.
Since raising the money, there have been all sorts of obstacles and barriers.
Getting the funds converted and sent to Jose has also been a bit of a trial.
Thanks to GoFundMe, and the wonderful people that made this miracle happen, Jose, who lives in San Cristobal, estado Tachira, which is about 14 hours each way by bus to Caracas, will receive the initial part of his care at the private Clinica Santa Sofia, in Caracas.
In the meantime, the plight this baby and his mother are suffering has been verified by correspondence I’ve had with Jacqueline over the past few weeks.
One day, this woman spent four hours standing in line to buy a stick of butter!
In Venezuela, the shelves are empty, and things Americans take for granted are nowhere to be found. When Venezuelans go to the market, there is no oil, butter, toilet paper, diapers, medicine, or baby formula. In fact, this good woman respectfully asked if some of the donated money could be designated to buy Jose diapers and formula, both of which are in short supply.
My friend has expressed to me that she longs for the day when she will again enjoy a bowl of cornflakes and milk. Right now, in Venezuela, there is no milk.
After posting an MSN article about embattled leftist Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro titled “Maduro in crackdown under Venezuela emergency decree,” in the best way she could express it in English, Jacqueline replied to the post, saying this:
You’re seeing only a piece what’s the reality. Maybe today we’ll get water, from last week and nada of water set. We have a médium water tank and 10 médium bottles potable water. From 4 bathroom we close 3. No bread. Ore arepa (our national food) have to paid more money for toilet papers, no butter, milk even for baby, Etc, etc.
That grim picture needs no translation.
So, with that in mind, I’m writing an update for two reasons.
First, I want to reassure all of you that gave money and prayed – we’re doing the right thing. Just two weeks after the GoFundMe campaign was started by someone who never raised a dollar in her life – namely, me – the New York Times published an article titled “Dying Infants and No Medicine: Inside Venezuela’s Failing Hospitals.”
Here’s an excerpt from the piece:
Gloves and soap have vanished from some hospitals. Cancer medicines are often found only on the black market. There is so little electricity that the government works only two days a week to save what energy is left… Late last fall, the aging pumps that supplied water to the University of the Andes Hospital exploded. They were not repaired for months.
So without water, gloves, soap or antibiotics, a group of surgeons prepared to remove an appendix that was about to burst, even though the operating room was still covered in other people’s blood.
A little farther along, the article says that because of the devastating conditions, President Maduro’s “opponents in the legislature declared a humanitarian crisis … [and] passed a law that would allow Venezuela to accept international aid to prop up the health care system.”
Mr. Maduro, who is Chávez’s successor, “[r]ejected the effort, describing the move as a bid to undermine him and privatize the hospital system.” Delusional Maduro said this: “I doubt that anywhere in the world, except in Cuba, there exists a better health system than this one.”
This brings me to the second reason I chose to write all this. I do it to warn anyone who thinks this couldn’t happen in America. Seventeen years ago, Venezuela wasn’t what it is today. The people of Venezuela embraced socialism because Hugo Chávez promised them that if they did, they would eat – today, if they don’t die, they get to stand on line for four hours for a stick of butter.
Update: David Paulin writes:
Hugo Chávez initially ran as a political outsider and had pledged to steer a “third-way” between socialism and capitalism. It wasn’t until well into his presidency (I think his second term) that he finally declared himself a socialist. In other words, the socialist take-over of Venezuela was a gigantic bait and switch. See my articles on this at AT and FPM.
That said, it might be said that Venezuela was on a slippery slope toward all of this — in light of a long-time political climate of bread-and-circuses populism fueled by its oil wealth.