Venezuela’s two biggest problems–a socialist government that has left the population bereft of necessary goods and skyrocketing crime that has led to Venezuela having achieved the second-highest murder rate in the world–have long been considered unrelated. But what of a latest incident in which a man was shot to death in an operating room?
Edinson Balsa was in an operating room in the capital of Caracas, undergoing a procedure to save his life after being shot and receiving critical bullet injuries. Before doctors could repair the damage of the shooting, however, armed gunmen entered the operating room and shot Balsa to death while he was undergoing surgery. The shooters also killed his brother, Said, who was waiting in the hospital’s lobby to hear of his brother.
The shooters have been identified as another pair of brothers, both former police officers, who had previously engaged in a fight with the Balsa brothers and shot Edinson Balsa, placing him in the operating room in the first place.
According to the Public Ministry, which released a statement explaining the situation, “Various armed men entered the operating room of the aforementioned hospital, where they subdued the medical personnel and shot Edinson Balsa.” Moments later, Said Balsa was found dead in the lobby, also of gunshot wounds.
The incident raised flags as to Venezuela’s inability to subdue violent criminals–something which has led Venezuela to the second-highest murder rate in the world, second to Honduras, according to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime. Many of these murders are attributed to politically-related incidents, where Chavista gangs known as “motorizados” attack congregations of university students and protesters.
Despite its longtime oil-for-doctors deal with Cuba, Venezuela is also currently undergoing a medical crisis. Due to the socialist government’s widespread mismanagement of government funds, many hospitals are missing essential equipment like gauze and tongue depressors. As a result, the number of amputations at Venezuelan hospitals has skyrocketed in the past years, as doctors are forced to remove limbs that could have been saved with antibiotic medication and basic medical tools.
Doctors are calling for more reliable security at Venezuelan hospitals after the two shooters entered the Caracas hospital and easily reached Balsa’s operating room. El Nacional is reporting that law enforcement officials say the shooters entered the hospital with what appeared to be valid hospital IDs. One nurse told the newspaper that the two entered the hospital wing asking for Edinson Balsa, and though they were repeatedly told they could not enter the operating room, the duo ignored those directives.
The shooters have been identified as former Caracas police officer Antony Javier Verdú and his brother, former national police officer Estiven Verdú.