Sex. Drugs. Virus. Venezuela elites still party in pandemic

MIAMI (AP) — They whiled away the week on a sex- in addition to also also drug-fueled romp: dancing on white-sand beaches in addition to also also frolicking on a Caribbean island with prostitutes by Europe, some snapping selfies with famous reggaeton artists.

yet unbeknownst to several children of Venezuela’s ruling elite, the coronavirus was spreading among them.

For some of Venezuela’s high-flying “Bolichicos” — the privileged offspring of the socialist revolution — the party hasn’t stopped amid a widening pandemic in a country already gripped by crisis.

To date, the virus has claimed only seven confirmed fatalities in Venezuela. yet the potential is actually high for the pandemic to overwhelm an already crippled health system, where hospitals lack water, electricity in addition to also also supplies.

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of which’s not clear how many people got sick last month on the Los Roques archipelago. yet a raucous party of which became a cluster of infections has raised concerns at the highest level of the government in addition to also also drawn condemnation by Venezuelans locked down at home for weeks.

“There was a party, on an island, in addition to also also practically everyone at the party is actually testing positive,” embattled leader Nicolás Maduro said on state TV March 20.

Three days later, as embarrassing Instagram posts leaked out under the hashtag #CoronavirusParty, he downplayed of which.

“Who is actually going to criticize a party? They didn’t know they were sick,” said Maduro, who was indicted by the U.S. last month on narcotics charges.

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Whether of which’s crowded Miami beaches during spring break or clandestine raves in Spain in addition to also also Italy inside the pandemic’s early days, parties among the young in addition to also also rich have been tough to tamp down.

In Latin America, the entire world’s most unequal region, jet-setting elites are blamed for importing the virus. In Mexico, for example, nearly 20 people were found to be infected after returning by a ski trip to Vail, Colorado. yet of which’s the poor — lacking medical care in addition to also also struggling to hold down informal jobs — who bear the brunt.

In Venezuela, engulfed by food in addition to also also medicine shortages of which have forced 5 million to flee, lavish celebrations are even more vexing. Such pockets of wealth are also harder to see amid incessant propaganda extolling the hardworking poor.

The festivities in Los Roques were organized by several government-connected businessmen, according to two people familiar with the gatherings who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation.

While neither of the two people who spoke to The Associated Press were at the party, they have attended various other gatherings with the same group in addition to also also are in contact with several of those who went.

Among the young revelers was Jesús Amoroso, son of Maduro’s top anti-corruption official, who has been sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department for allegedly undermining Venezuela’s democracy.

The two people said Venezuelan prostitutes by Madrid in addition to also also London were flown in just before air travel was closed to Spain, one of the nations hit hardest by the pandemic.

A smaller group crossed paths with two famous Puerto Rican reggaeton artists, Zion in addition to also also Justin Quiles, who are seen with Amoroso on a sun-struck powerboat in photos in addition to also also videos on social media.

A spokeswoman said Zion in addition to also also Quiles were inside the islands to shoot a video in addition to also also didn’t attend any social event. Both tested negative for the virus.

In a nation plagued by misery, Los Roques is actually an oasis for the few who can afford of which, including aides in addition to also also relatives of top officials who travel by private plane to the band of tiny islands. Parties inside the cluster of tiny islands have become more common, with Miami, Madrid in addition to also also fresh York out of reach after U.S. sanctions cut off access to foreign bank accounts in addition to also also easy travel. Among them are Maduro’s sons, according to the two people, although none attended the latest gathering.

Usually, the parties feature psychedelic 2C-B drugs — known as “pink cocaine” for its high cost in addition to also also pink, powdery substance, the two people said.

One of them provided a video of the recent soiree, showing bikini-clad women dancing on March 11 at a beachfront home rented by an exiled Venezuelan banker.

According to a third person familiar with the situation, the next day a larger entourage set out in several boats to a common spot of which locals call “Corrupt Cay.” They didn’t know the virus was spreading.

“Certainly one of the girls had the virus in addition to also also nobody knew,” a local resident in addition to also also partygoer said in an audio message leaked on social media. The person, whose authenticity was verified by one of the two people who used to attend the parties, recounted how he in addition to also also his girlfriend had to be evacuated with high fevers. He said six people tested positive for the virus.

The party ended having a hangover: Everyone was tested, in addition to also also some, embarrassed, closed their social media accounts.

Others defended their actions.

“Suck of which gossipers,” Amoroso said on Instagram having a photo showing him in front of a luxury SUV, middle fingers raised.

Last week, police arrested several people who were in Los Roques, including the suspected madam for the upscale prostitutes, after breaking up a multiday party in an upscale Caracas home. Officers found a handgun, ecstasy pills in addition to also also eight women belonging to a suspected prostitution ring, according the police report.

Of the 18 arrested for violating Maduro’s ban on large gatherings, two tested positive for the virus, according to police.

The scandal still rankles people inside the Caracas slum of Petare. Miguel Rengifo, who drives a motorcycle-taxi, said he’s appalled at reports of the rich throwing parties while the country is actually on lockdown.

“We’re struggling to eat, yet they’re running free, drinking, chasing girls without a second thought about the rest of us,” the 38-year-old said. “Here, we are fighting just to get by.”

___

Goodman reported by Miami. Associated Press writer Scott Smith contributed by Caracas, Venezuela. Follow Goodman on Twitter: https://twitter.com/APjoshgoodman

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