MSNBC journalist Mariana Atencio mourns the death of her father and speaks out about the humanitarian crisis in her native Venezuela. Here's her harrowing story.
MSNBC correspondent Mariana Atencio documented her late father’s fight for his life in a Venezuelan hospital on social media, while raising awareness about the devastating humanitarian crisis that endures in her native country, depriving citizens of basic necessities.
After battling pneumonia for weeks and undergoing lung surgeries, Alvaro Atencio, her father, passed away. On Feb. 20, the TV reporter shared a post in his memory: “There are no words. There is no measure that can quantify what you meant to me. No song, poem, painting or sunset that can encompass how much I love you. There is nothing to say except that you will live in me, always,” she captioned a sweet photo of herself kissing her dad during a happier time.
Before her dad went into the operating room for his final surgery on Feb. 19, Atencio asked her followers to pray for him. “Mi gente, Dad is going into surgery for his lung tomorrow. Praying that everything will be alright! You are a fighter, Papi. Sending Big Al and his amazing team of doctors all the energy and all the love #LoveYouPapi #MyStar #ComeOnBigAl,” she wrote alongside an image of herself holding a rosary.
The day before his operation, she shared a post that marked the moment she knew her father’s health was worsening. “We almost lost my dad yesterday. But he survived. He’s still with us!! Another day. Another chance at life. A new hope. We are living through this minute by minute, hour by hour,” she wrote beside a video she posted of herself thanking his medical team.
On Valentine’s Day, the journalist shared a collage of childhood photos of herself with her father and a sweet note of gratitude: “Thank you for teaching me how to love unconditionally. Love will show us the way out of this, papi.”
Over the several days that Atencio shared her emotional journey through her father’s health crisis in the hospital in Caracas, she also voiced her concerns about the dearth of basic necessities throughout Venezuela for its citizens during an ongoing economic meltdown. “Every day in Venezuela continues to be a nightmare to get basic meds…Complete strangers have contacted me through Instagram to step up. I’m in awe of your solidarity! You’ve showed me the goodness in people even in the worst circumstances,” she captioned a video she posted of herself on Feb. 8, after her father underwent his first surgery. She also thanked strangers she met through social media for bringing medicine her father needed to the hospital, which is plagued by scarcity.
On Feb. 6, the day large swaths of the country’s capital experienced a power outage — a sign of Venezuela’s ongoing economic crisis due to soaring prices amid hyperinflation — Atencio shared a video of herself in total darkness in the city: “Living through a blackout in almost half of the capital in #Venezuela. Inexcusable that this is daily life for people here. Thankfully the hospital where my dad is has a generator…but what about those who don’t? My hearts go out to them,” she said.
The journalist disclosed her father’s illness for the first time on Feb. 2, expressing her frustration over the shortages of essential medical supplies in Venezuelan hospitals: “My dad is currently in the ICU in Venezuela for symptoms that resemble the deadly flu going around in the US and pneumonia or an unknown bacteria. While his doctors in Venezuela are top notch and very dedicated, we are living through the medicine shortages first hand. Having a doctor tell you: ‘We’ve run out. There is no more’ is possibly the most heart wrenching thing one can hear. We’re learning of patients here who have died or have to rely on the black market for meds. What’s happening in Venezuela is a violation of the most basic and essential human rights,” she captioned a photo of herself sitting outside the intensive care unit.
While her personal story ended in mourning, Atencio hopes to shed light on the harsh reality that many Venezuelans endure at hospitals and in every day life throughout the country to galvanize action.