By María Fernanda Rodríguez.

María is living in Spain for two years. She left Venezuela for postgraduate, without the idea to emigrated definitely. Actually, in her job, she requested a no remunerated permit, hoping she may come back to her country, even though her last stay ending with the most humiliating experience of her life.

She arrived in Venezuela in February to visit her family, and she planned to come back to Madrid in March, but the COVID-19 pandemic changed her plans. After four months of stranding in Mérida (located in the Venezuelan Andes) due to the mobilization restriction ordered by Nicolás Maduro, she got included in a list of people allowed to onboard a humanitarian flight to Spain. The long waiting had an ending: July 22.

But, María described those last days as an odyssey full of humiliant, awful, and inhuman moments, with civil and military officers involved in all of them. “When you must approach the authorities, you realize, you remember the dictatorship we are living,” she told El Pitazo.

“He ripped the results in our faces”

Since the flexibilization of the quarantine began, citizens need a safety permit to move from one state to another. Also, they need the negative result of the rapid test from COVID-19 to board a humanitarian flight. These two requirements coasted Maria three days of repeated tours in a city whit gasoline shortage, begging, tears and humiliations.

“We went to the hospital, to the Social Security Institute, to the Integral Center and nobody wanted to do us the test, they said that were only for sick people and not for travelers. They also said that the Defense Operational Zone (ZODI in Spanish) had to authorize the test, and then, at the ZODI, they told that everyone had to find to do the test on their own.”

Through the intermediary of the Spanish consul in Mérida, María and other people authorized to take the humanitarian flight to the European country got the chance to do the rapid test to discharge COVID-19 at the Social Security Hospital in the city.

The consul told María that she must go to the hospital at 10:00 of the Saturday morning to do the test, but they must go quiet because it was not allowed by the director of the hospital. “We arrived, and the first one to do the test was a doctor and professor in the same hospital. Can you imagine? If she could not find a way, much less us. Then, I did the test, and later a family of three.”

What seemed like an achievement to reach the safety permit to go out from Mérida to La Guaira (where the international airport is) it vanished in minutes. The results of the test became ripped paper.

“While we were waiting for the results to obtain the document, the director of the hospital arrived. He locked himself in his office, and you heard from outside the yelling to the poor lady that did the test. He treated her horribly. He is a despot. When he came out, he said there were no tests. We begged and asked him to please give us the results, and he said that was not his problem. We begged at least gave us the test, and he said: I broke and threw them away,” María told with a torn voice.

Fourteen hours of travel, and endless checkpoints

At 3:00 pm of the last day in Mérida, and after begging and crying in her third visit to the ZODI, María got that a female guard called to the military area at the Los Andes Hospital to get the test. With the negative result in her hand, she came back for the fourth time to the ZODI and finally obtained the safety permit to travel to La Guaira.

With the other two women, María left Merida on Sunday morning, July 19, boarding a van of a local company that offered the mobilization service in the country.

She arrived at La Guaira passed midnight, after a long trip of 14 hours with many checkpoints. During the road, only the driver musted show the permit. But, in the middle of the traveling, in the state of Barinas, officers checked their luggage twice, once because one of the women said they go to Spain, and then, a guard started to ask about what she doing for living in that country. “When they saw an opportunity to get some dollars or euros, I spent the worst moments in my life,” María Quintero remembers.

After the guards reviewing their luggage, they tried to get some bribe. When they could not get anything, and when the women went back to the van, that said they must do a physical checking to them.

“I thought in the pat-down at the airport, and I said, well, a woman should do that, right? and he said, of course, of course, how you do think I would do it?” Maria remembers, without knowing that she was about to live the most humiliate and outrageous moment in her life.

Undress and crouch

When the women did not allow themselves to be extorted, they had to pay with humiliation, showing their naked bodies to a stranger female officer who used the olive-green uniform with a despotic attitude.

“They put us in a room with jailed people, or maybe in a quarantine room. I don’t know. First, enter a bunch of men and then the women. Later, we got into a room where three women were sleeping in a bunk. Suddenly, the female guard said: Undress, so, that we took off all our clothes, including our underwear. After that, she said: Crouch. When I asked if I could keep my panties, she told me: We all have the same. That was horrible, very unpleasant. The guard checked the cell phone to one of the girls to make sure she was not recording. That woman guard has no humanity in her.”

When they arrived at La Guaira, after midnight, it was the first time when someone asked them for the results of the COVID-19 test.

Finally, María took the plane to Madrid on time. In the European capital, she works in a non-profit organization that promotes international cooperation. One of her dreams is to come back to Venezuela and work as a political scientist in an open and transparent government to prevents corrupt, meanwhile she tries to forget the bitter memory of her last trip to her country.

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