|The deaths of 10 people in the past week of a mysterious disease in several cities in Venezuela, including the capital of Caracas, have caused panic within the population and has prompted doctors to sound the alarm. A government spokesman minimized the warnings and described efforts to notify the public of a disease that has killed four adults and four children as a “campaign of disinformation and terrorism.” Despite the government’s indifference, the country’s doctors insist there is plenty of reason for concern about a highly dangerous and contagious disease of unknown origin. “We do not know what it is,” admitted Duglas Leon Natera, president of the Venezuelan Medical Federation. In its initial stages, the disease presents symptoms of fever and spots on the skin, and then produces large blisters and internal and external bleeding, according to data provided week stop by the College of Physicians of the state of Aragua, where the first cases were reported. Then, very quickly, patients suffer from respiratory failure, liver failure and kidney failure. Venezuelan doctors have not been able to determine what the disease is, much less how to fight it. The government has denied the existence of “a mysterious disease” and described the information provided by the doctors as a “media campaign against Venezuela.” The governor of the state of Aragua, Tarek El-Aissami and Communications Minister Delcy Rodriguez, refer to the warnings as a “defamatory” strategy to “distress to the population.”
Some theories being examined include the possibility that the disease could be a new type of very aggressive and severe dengue, an atypical version of the Chikunguna fever or an Ebola virus appearance in Venezuela. Media watchdogs are predicting the death of print media outlets in Venezuela due to the difficulties in acquiring newsprint, which has led to diminished circulation and the shutting down of newspapers and magazines in the South American country. According to a new report by the Institute for Press and Society of Venezuela (IPYS), at least 34 newspapers and magazines in 11 states in the past 12 months have reported constant difficulties in acquiring and other materials necessary to print, like ink, film and plates. This situation has been exacerbated by the strict controls for acquiring foreign exchange and internal processes of the suppliers. An exchange rate control has been in effect in Venezuela for the past 11 years, and companies are required to apply for a permit to buy foreign currency and import goods. Newspapers and suppliers have complained that they have not received permits to import newsprint for months. Due to the impossibility of securing newsprint and print materials, 10 print outlets have stopped circulating altogether and four others have halted circulation temporarily. Others have reduced the number of pages per edition, sometimes by more than half, or stopped running during the weekend in order to survive. The oldest daily in Venezuela, El Impulso, almost closed its doors this past week. “The newspaper industry is in a coma in Venezuela,” said the president of El Impulso, Carlos Eduardo Carmona. “The government is slowly killing the free press in Venezuela.” The paper averted closing by coming to an agreement with a government company that agreed to provide enough newsprint for two weeks. “I don’t know what we will do when that newsprint runs out,” said Carmona. The government has not made any public statements about the shortage of newsprint in the country.