Saturday, August 05, 2006

Cuba: Reuters extolls Castro's exporting of doctors; ignores the more than 4000 who have fled to USA

This Reuters report praises the Fidel Castro idea to export Cuban doctors to Latin American countries. The majority of those doctors were sent to Venezuela - in return for oil - and to Bolivia and its new socialist president Evo Morales - in return for . . . I dunno, Evie's coca paste, maybe. What the Reuters report fails to mention is this:

More than 4000 Cuban doctors have fled Venezuela - that's a 27% desertion rate - since the program began. Those with passports board a plane for the USA. Those whose passports have been confiscated by their hosts seek, and are granted, asylum in U.S. embassies. Other Cuban doctors sent to Bolivia have also fled although the fallout rate is curiously much lower. I would suppose that it is much harder to flee Bolivia than Venezuela. I mean, how the hell do you get to Bolivia in the first place, let alone get out?

In addition, Venezuelan doctors have marched in the streets and participated in work stoppages to protest the Cuban doctors's presence and their $200 per month salary which is 10% that of a Venezuelan doctor. Another reason for the high desertion rate of the Cuban doctors is that they only recieved $100 per month, the other $100 was paid to their families in Cuba. Someone made the point that in Cuba $200 per month may be a fortune, while in Caracas it's, well, only $200.

To try to make up for or to mask the loss of these highly touted and highly publicized medical experts, the Venezuelan government under Hugo Chavez has decided to begin importing "bachilleres" into Venezuela from Bolivia, giving them one year of free education, then turning them loose on the country's healthcare system, specifically its poorest citizens. A "bachiller" is a senior in high school who is taking advanced college prep classes.

So Chavez's plan is to import Bolivian high school seniors who have matriculated through Bolivia's world renowned public education system, give them a year's medical training, and then turn them loose on Venezuela's poor. It sounds like a bloodbath in the making to me.

The ex-minister of health for Venezuela, Dr. Rafael Orihuela, strongly criticized the move by Chavez, reminding his interviewer that a minimum of 6 years of advanced training is required to become a doctor, and then only if the proper tools are available for the training. He says that Venezuela doesn't need more untrained doctors to replace the more than 4000 Cubans who have fled to the USA as much as it needs to attend to its own crumbling health care system. He listed a shortage of 25,000 nurses, lack of financing and the poor condition of hospitals and clinics as more pressing needs than the importation of high school students to administer medicine.

He described the Bolivian students as "tapa amarilla" which means the "cheapest of the cheap". He also slammed the quality of the Cuban health care system, saying it was from the epoch of sulfa drugs (WWI), hopelessly behind the times and lacking any means to fix itself.

He called Chavez's plan, "a clear and frank act of treason against the motherland and against the people, because what they are doing is trying to create a shortcut for pirates (low paid doctors) so they can kill Venezuelans. That's the only conclusion that I can draw from this completely surprising and amazing decision."

What amazes me about this is that Chavez intends to import prospective medical students from Bolivia to replace the deserting doctors from Cuba, while Bolivia had to import doctors from Cuba in the first place to cover for the shortfall in its own doctors. Confusing. Where is Bolivia going to get doctors to cover for the shortfall of Bolivian doctors caused by the Cuban doctors' desertion to the USA and Bolivian medical students who have gone to Venezuela to butcher Chavez's people for $200 per month? From Somalia?

And why doesn't Reuters seem to be aware of any of this?

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