Alfredo Pena, mayor of metropolitan Caracas, is a fierce government opponent, who ironically depends for his financial resources on the central government. Caracas health officials say their budget has been cut by over 50 percent, with the result that their already over-burdened clinics are facing collapse. They suggest that this may be part of a plan to shift resources to the Cuban cooperation project.
Adding to the controversy are accusations that the Cubans are neither qualified to practice medicine nor familiar with modern pharmacology or treatment methods. There have been claims by Venezuelan doctors of serious malpractice that allegedly placed patients' lives in danger.
The Cuban personnel have not been required to validate their qualifications in Venezuela, and according to the president of the Venezuelan Medical Federation, Douglas Leon Natera, they are operating illegally.
President Chavez dedicated most of his regular Sunday radio and television show to denying these allegations. He added that the plan was to bring in a thousand Cuban doctors in all.***
To be more precise: the Chief of Staff of the Brazilian presidency admits, for the whole world to listen, that the ascension of the PT (Workers Party) to power is due to the good efforts of the oldest dictatorship in the continent. He forgot, of course-or purposefully declined to mention-that even before the military took power in Brazil, Cuba was already sending arms to our guerrillas. This is actually the touchstone of the PT. One should never admit that the intervention by Cuba happened before 1964 [year of the revolution in Brazil, when the military took power]. For the PT to admit such a fact would be to have its argument crumble to the ground-that the guerilla was a reaction to the military regime. In fact, however, what happened was the exact opposite.
Nothing like power to loosen the tongue of the people holding it. The timing is tragically significant, too, with the news of the 78 Cuban "dissidents" arrested last March, now convicted and facing prison terms ranging from ten years to life. Dissidents, of course, is the press's favorite euphemism to designate political opponents, human rights' militants, independent writers and journalists. (If you read newspapers, you must have noticed that dissidents exist only in socialist countries).
Diplomats and foreign journalists have tried to obtain permits to watch the proceedings in Havana, but they were denied access to the courts. This is the Cuba to which our PT owes its victory, according to our Cuba-Brazilian José Dirceu. The same Cuba who sends to prison any person opposed to the regime. In Europe and in the U.S. there is protest coming from both the press and human rights' organizations against the escalation of the dictatorship. In Brazil, however, there is a deep silence.***