Caracas (AFP)

In his house in Caracas, Brother Guayanés, a healer, is carrying out a "spiritual operation" on a patient who suffers from the arm: desperate in the face of drug shortages, Venezuelans are turning more and more to alternative treatments.

"We go to the hospital and there is nothing, we have no medicines, or they are very expensive, how to do?", Misses Rosa Saez, 77, who came to this "spiritual center" of Petare, a poor neighborhood of Caracas, hoping to ease his pain.

Brother Guayanés says he performs 200 interventions a week in his "operating room", a small, rudimentary room equipped with two camp beds and lit by candlelight.

"He has healed my kidneys," says Rosa, a regular who, like many of her compatriots, has to deal with the lack of medicines, some of which have seen their stocks melt by 80%, according to the Federation of Pharmacists.

Under the placid gaze of plaster statuettes representing "spiritual entities", Brother Guayanés zigzag scissors on the stomach of the patient lying down, causing a metallic clink, but without inflicting wounds.

The smell of tobacco permeates the center where a "secretary" notes the names of patients in order of arrival.

At the entrance, two posters warn: "every patient must bring a candle and tobacco" and "do not forget that patients have to pay in cash", a commodity that is rare in the country.

Before entering the "operating room", Carlos Rosales, his real name, listens to the patient, makes his diagnosis and writes prescriptions for herbal and fruit treatments. He then examines the patient with a stethoscope, explaining how the human body works.

"We know that drugs are needed, I'm not against medicine, but my thing is botany," he says.

- Reduce the dose -

Contrary to an economy that has been in a free fall for five years, Lilia Reyes, 72, has seen her trade in medicinal plants flourish.

"I can not keep up with the goods," says the septuagenarian in her stall of a market in Caracas, where emanates a smell of chamomile, one of the 150 plants it offers for sale.

Strangled by falling prices and oil production, source of 96% of the country's revenue, the government of Nicolas Maduro no longer supports the purchase of medicines for the country's 300,000 chronically ill people, the first victims of upheavals. supply and prices.

In her restaurant closed three years ago, Carmen Teresa, a 58-year-old Colombian woman who has been living in Venezuela for 40 years, is preparing an infusion of fig leaves to control her "diabetic neuropathy".

The painkillers it needs cost it "too much" and their price increases every week because of the hyperinflation that should reach 1,000,000% by the end of 2019, according to the IMF.

She needs at least four tablets to keep her diabetes at bay, not to mention the five that her mother with Alzheimer's, who also has high blood pressure, diabetes, and has been in bed for over a year because of a broken femur.

"I continue to take my pills, but I have reduced the dose," says Carmen, who is also replacing a cholesterol drug with lemon juice.

But blind consumption of some herbs can be fatal, warns Grismery Morillo, a doctor in a public hospital in the capital, where "many cases of acute liver failure" have been seen after the consumption of certain roots.

© 2019 AFP