Water shortage challenges Caracas quarantine rules

By Ron González.

Caracas, Mar 19 (efe-epa).- Pedro Marrero suffers severe pain from a hernia each time he carries heavy loads, and a recent quarantine imposed by the Venezuelan government to curb the spread of COVID-19 prevents him from leaving home.

However, the 53-year-old worker challenged his pain and defied quarantine restrictions Thursday by leaving his home in the Caracas favela of Petare, one of the largest in Latin America, in a desperate search for water which hasn’t come out of the taps in his house for a long time.

”How are we going to shower and wash our hands if we don’t have water? The authorities should send water to the neighborhoods,” Marrero told EFE on a street in Petare, where the quarantine is not strictly enforced.

He was carrying two large drums in a vehicle hoping to have some luck finding a water source without having to leave the favela.

“I have to carry water, heat water every day because I don’t even have water to cook with,” he said.

The government of Nicolas Maduro declared at the beginning of the week a “social quarantine” to deal with the new coronavirus, which has infected 42 people in the country, according to the latest official report.

The number of people infected is relatively high for Venezuela’s health care system, which has been in crisis for decades.

The Venezuelan government has also suspended classes and working hours, as well as requiring the use of masks to enter pharmacies and supermarkets, the only businesses allowed to operate.

Several kilometers from Petare, in the Los Mecedores neighborhood in western Caracas, about 20 people lined up in front of what is known as “La Filtración,” a water source.

The water flows continuously throughout the area, but without any guarantee that it is safe for human consumption. No one knows why it flows here and not out of the taps in the humble houses of Los Mecedores.

It is only known that the leak was made public when construction of a tunnel connecting this region of the capital’s west to the state of La Guairá, where the Caracas residents’ favorite resorts are located, was halted.

“We can’t quarantine at home if we have to find water, food. It’s difficult,” a young man who preferred not to be named told EFE at “La Filtración.”

Nearby, Piedad Perez was lending a hose to help her neighbors collect water.

She does not know why the water flows through the pipes of her house every Thursday – the only day of the week that this happens – or why she enjoys the service while her neighbors do not.

But the 56-year-old shares her good luck and supplies her neighbors, who have not seen water running from their taps for years.

“I try to help; I take water out of my house and give it to them. And it comes every Thursday,” Perez told EFE from the same place where she runs a car wash with the water that flows almost magically through her home’s pipes.

As Marrero did in Petare, hundreds of residents of the wealthy Chacao neighborhood in eastern Caracas challenged the quarantine on Thursday in order to get water.

The local mayor’s office supplied water tanks, and residents – who for years have faced severe limitations in water supply despite the neighborhood’s reputation – stood in long lines to fill jerry cans.

A commission of the Venezuelan Parliament said Thursday that about 80 percent of the households in Venezuela don’t have regular drinking water, citing data from the national survey of public services.

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