NYTimes | This nation has the largest oil reserves in the world, yet the government saved little money for hard times when oil prices were high. Now that prices have collapsed — they are around a third what they were in 2014 — the consequences are casting a destructive shadow across the country. Lines for food, long a feature of life in Venezuela, now erupt into looting. The bolívar, the country’s currency, is nearly worthless.
The crisis is aggravated by a political feud between Venezuela’s leftists, who control the presidency, and their rivals in congress. The president’s opponents declared a humanitarian crisis in January, and this month passed a law that would allow Venezuela to accept international aid to prop up the health care system.
“This is criminal that we can sit in a country with this much oil, and people are dying for lack of antibiotics,” says Oneida Guaipe, a lawmaker and former hospital union leader.
But Mr. Maduro, who succeeded Hugo Chávez, went on television and rejected the effort, describing the move as a bid to undermine him and privatize the hospital system.
“I doubt that anywhere in the world, except in Cuba, there exists a better health system than this one,” Mr. Maduro said.
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 another patient’s blood.
Even in the capital, only two of nine operating rooms are functioning at the J. M. de los Ríos Children’s Hospital.