Thinking about what I wrote last night, giving Maduro a D-. I realized that I was too generous, that my Scientific objectivity took above my best judgement. These measures mean nothing, at best it is a way for him to gain a few more weeks until he finds a way to save his ass. Nothing basic will change in the system. That is all.
A brutal slap drove that point a couple of hours ago. In yet another cadena Maduro sat in front of him representatives of the pharmaceutical sector to "restart" production which apparently to him has unaccountably stopped. Basically he rediscovered the wheel and medicines will churned soon for the great contentment of the people. Unfortunately I wok in the sector and things are not as rosy as he would like el pueblo to believe.
Well, a note first: I do not work in the human medical sector but part of my activities are related to animal husbandry medications and the story is exactly the same. There we see much lower yields because animals cannot be treated adequately. And thus less protein for el pueblo.
I am not going to discuss how medicine is paid or costs in Venezuela: every country has its own very complex system. What I am going to address is how come there is today a criminal, yes, criminal, shortages of medicine in Venezuela.
Before Chavez Venezuela did not produce active principles of a large majority of most medicines. Like most countries in the world, it had a wide representation of diverse major pharmaceuticals companies that would or would not produce on site a given principle, pill it or bottle it for Venezuela and export it to neighboring countries. And vice versa. There were also several local pharmaceutical that would get licenses to manufacture all sorts of generics with raw material imported from wherever. In short, a wide variety of pharmaceuticals were available and we were the envy of Latin America. The only problem was cost. Admittedly a significant one but not an insoluble one if a serious government had set its mind to make public hospitals work efficiently and dispense directly medicine to the neediest sectors of the population. And yet costs were not astronomical and at least the middle class managed quite well.
When chavismo set its currency exchange controls, its importations barriers, its refusal to accept that foreign companies recover their investments, the whole system unraveled. Add to this sub par quality imports from Cuba to satisfy Barrio Adentro Mision and other unfair competition and ridiculous price controls and you get the picture.
The mystery is not that pharmacy shelves are empty today, the mystery is how come they have not been empty 2 years ago already.
What happened took place in different phases, First, major foreign laboratories closed one by one, moving their production facilities to Colombia or elsewhere. Quite often the products they manufactured here disappeared, not even coming back imported from the new place. Simply, they left the country, having enough of its problems. Then, as currency crunch happened, suppliers of raw material became more and more reluctant to provide what the local generics needed to make their pills, packagings and the like. The debt ballooned and suppliers simply stopped sending stuff. Hence the current situation. As for what could not be assembled here, well, they stopped coming even before generics stopped production.
The criminal role of the regime CANNOT be understated: the medical emergency has already been denounced since early last year, people have died, and keep falling and we had to wait until today to finally hear about a new plan that will not resolve anything. At best, the regime announced that it will decide which deseases you can survive and which, well, will be too bad for you if you get them.
The regime guilt comes from its stubborn refusal to create a free exchange rate where people could at least import medicine at international cost. But no, we all have to die the same, and only the very reach, those with hefty accounts over seas can bring whatever they need to bring in. This is XXI century socialism for you.
What is terrible here is that the solution is simple and fast, at least to restock the shelves of the basics. Remove price controls. Free the currency for import of raw material, packaging needs, etc. In three months top you will get again 90% of the generics produced 2 years ago. The production lines exist, the people to make them are trained. You do not even need to pay back debt to suppliers yet, you can wait a little bit longer for that and start paying it AFTER production restarts. They will understand (I know what I am talking about, direct experience with providers). Many of the raw materials can actually be brought in airborne as they are needed in small amounts. The rest can come in a couple of dozen containers just to restart the basics like acetaminophen for dengue and zika or high blood pressure drugs.
That it will be too expensive? What is worse: cheap inexistant pills or expensive available pills? For the poor the regime just needs to organize large scale discounted purchases for public hospitals and provide the prescription for free for those that go there for treatment. Or charge them a nominal fee. Corruption is easily control: one package for hospitals and one for pharmacies so you will know if what you buy has been subtracted from an hospital.
It is really quite simple and the dollars for that exist. You just need to stop the corruption around it.
But since the regime is unwilling to do that, then I have the regret to insist on that: the regime is guilty of genocidal practices against the Venezuelan people for deliberately depriving it from on time access to necessary medication.