The New York Times recently reported that there have been at least 90 casualties since the demonstrations against Venezuela’s present government began in April, and one of the organizations at the centre of Venezuela’s relief efforts is the ‘Green Cross’. This organization is comprised of young doctors and medical students who volunteer to treat patients in the midst of the uprisings opposing Venezuela’s authoritarian regime, and, as observed by the New York Times, is “a symbol of how Venezuelans are trying to replace critical government functions”. The ‘Green Cross’ has been an integral aspect of the recovery of soldiers and protesters alike.
As the ‘Green Cross’ have expressed themselves, civil unrest has made many doctors flee the country. As such, young professionals have taken it upon themselves to be involved in the effort to mitigate the injuries and casualties that have materialised during the progression of the uprisings. One volunteer of the ‘Green Cross’, Féderica Davila, a medical student, stated that “For us, the best way to help was doing what we do every day: provide medical assistance.” The importance of this organization is highlighted by the fact that it pledges no allegiance to either the dissidents or government. Daniela Liendo, another volunteer, states, “During protests we approach the military and tell them that we’re also there for them, to help them if they get hurt.” in a nod to what members of this organization refer to as their ‘Hippocratic Oath’.
There is no doubt that the ‘Green Cross’ is, in many ways, the lifeblood of Venezuela’s recovery system. However, regard must be shown as to whether the work of NGOs should form the backbone of a function that should in ordinary circumstances be provided by the government. Currently, there is an overwhelming reliance on foreign aid in Venezuela, as well as an exponentially deteriorating public health system. Many hospitals have been reported to lack even the most basic and essential medical supplies like gauze. Ms. Dávila has gone on to express the extent of this shortage, stating that many volunteers had to use their own nails to remove debris from those injured. It is evident that the Venezuelan government must take a more active role in providing the most fundamental services that are owed to its citizens.
The necessity of NGOs, such as ‘Green Cross’ has arisen from the violent demonstrations protesting the authoritarian regime in Venezuela. As BBC News reports, Venezuela is divided between those who support the socialist policies established by Hugo Chavez and those who believe that these policies are leading to corruption and economic mismanagement. Venezuela’s current President, Nicolas Maduro, has in recent years lost the stronghold that the government once had over its citizens. This has largely been attributed to the decreasing value of oil, which is Venezuela’s largest export. When there is a decreased influx of revenue, the government is unable to follow through with social policies promised by its regime, thereby leaving citizens to feel disillusioned with the system.
The efforts of the ‘Green Cross’ have undoubtedly been pivotal amidst the turmoil that runs rampant in Venezuela. This, however, brings to light the much larger issue of the failings of an authoritarian regime.