Skip to comments.Politics Plagues Cuban Medics Working in Venezuela
Posted on 07/26/2003 2:53:45 AM PDT by Cincinatus' Wife
CARACAS, Venezuela (Reuters) - In a simple clinic surrounded by rough brick homes, doctor Damaris Rodriguez treats patients in La Charneca, one of the poorest slums of the Venezuelan capital perched on garbage-strewn slopes.
Residents of the crime-ridden Caracas "barrio" or neighborhood have not had a resident doctor for years.
Now they have two, but both are Cubans, not Venezuelans.
As part of growing cooperation with socialist Cuba, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is bringing in up to 1,000 Cuban doctors to provide health care for Caracas' slums.
This has touched off a storm of criticism from political foes who accuse the leftist leader of dragging Venezuela, the world's No. 5 oil exporter, toward Cuban-style communism.
Hardline opponents, backed by fiercely anti-Chavez private media, shrilly proclaim that the Cuban doctors are political commissars of Cuban President Fidel Castro doling out Marxism-Leninism along with medicine.
"They aren't doctors; they're professional political activists," said Douglas Leon Natera, president of Venezuela's Medical Federation. He argues the Cubans are working in Venezuela illegally and stealing the jobs of local doctors.
Rodriguez, a 36-year-old family health specialist from Santiago de Cuba who has also worked in Haiti, rebuffs these charges with a smile.
"Our politics are about saving lives," she said. She and her husband, also a Cuban doctor, receive patients and make house calls among La Charneca's shanty homes that cling to the hillside.
"The press can say what they want. But we know that we're qualified doctors with proven experience," she said.
Government organizers of the "Into the Slums" health program say its aim is to bring free health care to more than 1 million poor Caracas residents who have been neglected for years by governments despite Venezuela's huge oil riches.
SLUM DWELLERS' SUPPORT
Pilloried as "Castro's militia" by opposition commentators, the Cuban doctors are a big hit with local residents who say few Venezuelan doctors dare to venture into the teeming hilltop slums that ring this sprawling South American capital.
"Everybody is happy about it ... We've never seen Venezuelan doctors climbing up here," said 63-year-old Liboria Espinosa. Residents say even city police shun the slums, where deadly gunfights between drug gangs are frequent.
Many Venezuelan doctors bitterly resent the presence of the Cubans. They say the Cuban doctors are not qualified to work here and the opposition media has accused some of endangering the lives of patients with alleged treatment errors.
"We've told people in poor neighborhoods they shouldn't allow themselves to be treated by these supposed Cuban doctors," said the Medical Federation's Leon. The federation has filed a court case to oppose the presence of the Cubans.
A group of white-coated Venezuelan doctors shouting "Cubans out" recently staged a small protest in Caracas.
The Cuban doctors shrug this off.
"We're not losing any sleep over it. We'd only be worried if the criticism was coming from the poor people," said Victor Tamayo, a supervisor among the Cuban doctors.
"We're not substituting or displacing anyone," he added.
He said all of the Cubans working in Caracas have served abroad before in countries like Guatemala, Paraguay, El Salavador, Haiti, Angola, Gambia and Mali.
The doctors, some of them husband and wife teams, are housed by local families. On top of monthly salaries of 525 pesos ($21) earned at home, they receive local stipends of 400,000 bolivars ($250) a month.
The latest Cuban arrivals will swell an existing contingent of more than 1,000 doctors, sports trainers, sugar experts and other technicians from the island already working across Venezuela under a bilateral cooperation treaty.
Critics say the slum project, following hard on the heels of a new government literacy plan using Cuban experts, is part of efforts by Chavez to "Cubanize" Venezuela.
In an alliance that irks the United States, the biggest buyer of Venezuelan oil, Venezuela is supplying to Cuba up to 53,000 barrels per day of oil on preferential terms.
In a recent report entitled "Cuban Invasion," Caracas newspaper El Universal said the Cubans brought to Venezuela since 1999 numbered several thousand and included intelligence agents and shipping and oil industry experts.
Chavez, a populist former paratrooper who was first elected in 1998 and survived a brief coup last year, openly praises Cuba's Castro as his friend but says these conspiracy theories are the feverish imaginings of "educated idiots." He says the Cuban doctors will eventually be replaced by Venezuelans.
The Cuban participation is opposed by foes of leftist Chavez. They accuse him of ruling like a dictator and trying to replicate Communist-ruled Cuba in Venezuela, the world's No. 5 oil exporter.***
growing role of Russian and Cuban security advisers in Venezuela.***Egui Bastidas also made a number of revelations about DISIP activities in recent months. He said the Venezuelan security service had collected personal information about all serving military officers and had also tried to smear opposition figures, such as Alberto Pena, the mayor of Metropolitan Caracas. The official said he was also concerned at the growing role of Russian and Cuban security advisers in Venezuela.
Egui Bastidas said he had experienced "the direct participation and the attempts at indoctrination by the Russian and Cuban intelligence services, who have direct and virtually unlimited access within the Helicoide (DISIP's headquarters building)."
Wall Street Journal July 25, 2003 - Flying Too High, Venezuela Shops for MiGs*** As to the letter, Mr. Santos seems to have been on solid ground. Colombian security analyst Alfredo Rangel Suárez tells me he has seen the text and in a column last week in Colombia's El Tiempo, he described its contents. Contrary to Mr. Santiago's claims, it was not a casual inquiry.
"The request from Venezuela to the Russian factory is very specific: Fifty combat aircraft, with multifunctional Zhuk-M liquid crystal 6X8 inch radar, with navigation and weapons control systems that insure the use of six types of air-to-air missiles, three classes of guided air-to-surface missiles, in addition to bombs and 30 caliber guns," wrote Mr. Rangel Suárez. "Additionally, it asks that ten of the planes be delivered within 18 months of the contract signing and also that it include a tailor-made maintenance center for MiGs in Venezuela." The letter was sent to the director general of Russian MiG Aeronautic Corporation, Nicolai Nikitin and signed by Venezuelan Air Force commander Régulo Anselmi, according to an El Tiempo report.***
Ah, yes---"populist". Now that the words "communism" and "socialism" have a deservedly bad rep, the new nom-de-plume is "populist". It's all just socialism, but the socialists are too intellectually dishonest to say so.
June 12, 2003 - Dodd's request for memo hinders Latin envoy's job ***Dodd asked the State Department to explain the stated goal of the current senior U.S. diplomat in Havana, James Cason, in carrying out a ''more confrontational approach'' toward the Fidel Castro regime. He asked for an outline of instructions on any such policy that Cason might have received. Dodd also asked for the final lengthy ''end of tour'' cable sent by Huddleston before her departure from Havana about 10 months ago. She was Cason's predecessor.
While Dodd appears satisfied by lengthy responses delivered by the State Department to Capitol Hill June 4 on the Haiti matter and Cason's role, his office has insisted on seeing the Huddleston cable. Just what is in her cable is not publicly known. Some congressional staffers say Dodd believes the cable contains warnings that the Bush administration policy of intense engagement with political dissidents in Cuba would lead to a crackdown. ***
June 29, 2003 - U.S., Europe work on Latin crises - First on Otto Reich's agenda - Venezuela ***Last week, Secretary of State Colin Powell and Spanish Foreign Minister Ana Palacio spent ''quite a long time'' discussing Latin America and possible areas of U.S.-European cooperation, Palacio told me in a telephone interview from Washington. And the Bush administration is sending its special ambassador to Latin America, Otto J. Reich, to Spain, Italy and France next week to discuss the region's hottest crises, as well as lingering financial troubles in Brazil and Argentina, White House officials and Palacio told me. Among the people who have been asked to meet with Reich is French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin, the diplomat whose public criticism of the Iraq war so exasperated the White House. Others will be Spanish Ibero-American Cooperation Minister Miguel Angel Cortes and Italian and Vatican officials. The most pressing issue on Reich's agenda will be Venezuela, U.S. officials say. The administration fears that Venezuela's populist leftist President Hugo Chávez will renege on an internationally brokered agreement to convene a national referendum on the duration of his term, and that he will provoke a violent clash with the opposition in order to suspend constitutional guarantees and radicalize his ``Bolivarian revolution.'' ''He is trying to create an incident where he can call out the military and say that democracy has been threatened,'' a U.S. official says. ***
So far, the Spaniards, despite a domestic left-wing, politically correct governmental attitude somewhere to the left of Tony Blair and Hillary, have been staunch pals of the US.
Spanish ownership of Latin American assets (Phone companies, electric companies, raw materials producers, agriculture, etc. is also very impressive. They also have a lot of influence among the educated and upper classes all over Latin America. Hope it helps.
We have real trouble there. THe CHICOM have effectively moved into a power vacuum in Colombia, Venezuela, Panama and Cuba, with minor power bases in Trinidad and elsewhere in Central America. IMHO, this Middle Eastern TO has caused us to take our eye off a very important ball; one that's one hell of a lot closer to where we live.
Perhaps the Spaniards can do their version of the Allende Treatment on Chavez, and start straightening a couple of things out.
Chavez has his eye on Esequibo. His position is that a 1899 treaty giving a mineral-rich region called Esequibo to Guyana was "null and provocative." This is where Beal Aerospace was going to build a launch facility.
"This cannot remain in limbo for much longer, we have to solve this situation," said Chavez, after talking by telephone with National Assembly President William Lara who headed the delegation. Lara, a staunch Chavez supporter, insisted that "we do not have a hostile stance. This is not an unfriendly gesture toward Guyana or anyone." - (July 23, 2001)--sohu.com
December 12, 2001 - Russia in Venezuela shopping for launch facility site***Russian-Venezuelan trade totals $100 million a year. The Russian delegation, including Oil Vice Minister Leonid Tropko, was expected to sign pacts on tourism, Russian investment and exploring the possibility of a commercial satellite launching facility in Venezuela. They will depart Saturday.***
June 11, 2001 - Bill GertzChina secretly shipping Cuba arms*** A 1996 amendment to the 1962 Foreign Assistance Act requires that economic sanctions be imposed on any nation or company that provides lethal military assistance to a nation designated as a state sponsor of terrorism. Cuba is on the State Department´s list of nine nations designated as supporters of global terrorism.
Sanctions would disrupt a major portion of the U.S.-Chinese shipping market controlled by Cosco, whose business lines include port terminals and warehousing, insurance, real estate and hotel management.
Cuba has been increasing its ties to China in recent months. In April, Chinese President Jiang Zemin traveled to Havana and signed agreements worth about $400 million in loans to Havana.
Other Chinese activities in Cuba include electronic eavesdropping on the United States and Chinese government radio broadcasting, according to U.S. officials familiar with intelligence reports. China also recently agreed to modernize Cuba´s telecommunications network.***
Thanks for the info. The government of Guyana is nigh-on useless, and also heavily infiltrated. So action here will likely involve us, The Netherlands, France,and England. No wonder Chavez is trying to buy MiGs!
Nope, no bias here.
.. "Our Republican values are all about the birth of Latin America. ... We are reinforcing the elements of cooperation, solidarity and participation," said Ortayza, who was once head of the state security police under the Chavez administration.
But as in Cuba, the Venezuelan students will read at the end of the course a letter of thanks to Chavez.
Government officials say the most promising students in the program will be rewarded with land titles, scholarships, trips to Cuba and even a library with 25 classic books, including works by Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, Cuban Nicolas Guillen, Cuban liberation hero Jose Marti and American authors Ernest Hemingway and Jack London.
But the program has riled Venezuelan educators who see politics and not literacy behind the government initiative.
"Cuban has nothing to teach us about literacy programs," said teacher Leonardo Carvajal. "They are selling us worthless trinkets in exchange for 53,000 barrels of oil a day." ***