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1 26th August 13:58
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Default Venezuelans Cheer doctors and teacher from outside.


My comment. I never have seen a more honest and precise article about
the Venezuela of today, like this one, YES, people that at their fif****
never have seen a doctor, pregnant women that does not know what pre natal
care is, all this in "dominoes country" with some very rich, a middle class
that believe they are rich, and a vast majority of POOR, REALLY POOR PEOPLE,
living under standards that Kenya (Nairobi suburbs) or any place in Lusaka ,
Zambia will appear as more homogenous than Caracas. What a sin for a leader
of a poor country, bringing teachers and doctors to take care of the poor,
and just because the locals cannot organize themselves to do their job. AND
BE PREPARED, the local doctors claims they very capable, that is a chapter
for another discussion.
Is not easy to show in public the dirty close of the family, but
sometimes a MEA CULPA help.
Venezuela and his poor people need help, I would not be mad if someone
else comes and joint efforts to make the poor, just a little bit happier.

What a sad destiny for Venezuela, so distant from God and so close to


Posted on Wed, Aug. 13, 2003

Venezuelans cheer and protest presence of doctors from Cuba

CARACAS - When poor Venezuelans like Jenny Preciado fall ill, they
must leave their distant slums and arrive at public clinics by 6 a.m., lest
they miss being one of 20 patients assigned a number for a chance to see a
doctor that day.

''Sometimes it is so packed, you just don't get a number,'' Preciado
said, standing outside her barrio's new makeshift clinic, manned by a Cuban
doctor. ``This town is never letting this new doctor go.''

While the poorest of Venezuela's poor beam over the arrival of up to
1,000 Cuban doctors who have been assigned to low-income neighborhoods and
even make house calls, their influx has enraged others who see them as
another example of leftist President Hugo Chávez's quest to ''Cubanize''
this nation.

Doctors, literacy trainers, sports coaches and agronomists have openly
poured into Venezuela in past months. Allegations of Cuban advisors in the
armed forces, police and Chávez's presidential offices bubble up
occasionally but have never been proven. Internet gossips talk of Cuban
ships and planes bringing arms to pro-Chávez militias but offer no evidence.

Venezuela's increasing reliance on Cuban experts illustrates the
ever-warming relations between President Fidel Castro and Chávez, a
self-proclaimed ''revolutionary'' who has said that Cubans ''swim in a sea
of happiness.'' It has even become a source of concern in Washington.

A recent editorial in the El Nacional newspaper declared that
``Venezuela is being colonized by Cuba. For everything, the government looks
to Cuba, consults with Cuba and tries to read the signs coming from Cuba. We
cannot do anything without approval from Havana.''


But the Cubans' presence here also underscores the deep-seated
divisions between Venezuela's rich and poor. While Chávez's mostly middle-
and upper-class opponents decry the Cubans' services as political
brainwashing, few Venezuelans seem willing to take their places.

''The doctors here in Venezuela are involved in politics, not taking
care of patients,'' Preciado said. ``We want our children taken care of, and
that's it.''

Preciado lives in Cipres, one of the many slums in the hills
surrounding Caracas. Plagued by poverty and crime, the barrios are
considered a no man's land where no Venezuelan doctor dares journey.

''Pregnant women in these neighborhoods have never been to the doctor
for prenatal care, and give birth at home on the floor,'' said Rafael
Vargas, a former Chávez chief of staff who now runs the Cuban doctor
program. ``There are 10-, 14-year-old kids who have never been to the

In Cipres, Dr. Félix Ramón Viltres Gutiérrez works in a clinic in the
back of a grocery store, where a 101 Dalmatians cartoon bed sheet separates
the waiting from the potato chips.

His one-room office has a shelf with neat piles of medicines and a
desk. In 2 ½ months, he has seen 1,000 patients, who suffered mostly from
asthma, diarrhea, parasites and hypertension.

''We think what we're doing is right: helping people,'' said Viltres,
who has also worked in Nicaragua and Haiti. As for the clamor: ``That's a
political problem.''

Cuba has sent thousands of doctors and teachers to work in poor
countries all over the world in the past decade as a sign of
''internationalist solidarity'' with underdeveloped nations -- and sometimes
as a way of earning income for the Havana government.

The Venezuelan government initially said that in exchange for the
doctors' services, Cuba received preferential oil prices, but Vargas said
there is no such swap. The doctors, he said, are paid about $250 a month by

Viltres came under fire this month when the fiercely anti-Chávez media
reported that a child he had seen later died of meningitis. It turned out
that while Viltres was the first to see the 7-year-old, several Venezuelan
doctors had seen him as well.

The Venezuelan doctors association has filed a complaint in court
seeking to bar the Cubans from practicing. They have been quick to cite
alleged cases of malpractice, arguing that the Cubans are under-qualified
and unlicensed.

''We're not xenophobes,'' said Douglas León, president of the
Venezuelan Medical Federation. ``We have information that these people,
almost 100 percent of them, are not doctors. These are people masquerading
as doctors, wearing white robes with stethoscopes around their necks.''

The Venezuelan Medical Federation asserts there are 9,000 unemployed
or under-employed physicians in this country, so there was no need to hire
the Cubans. The government says it placed four ads seeking doctors, and
there were few takers. The Cubans, Chávez claims, have saved 300 lives.


''The program has been doing an extraordinary job,'' he said in a
recent speech. ``Thank you, Fidel.''

The absence of Venezuelan doctors in crime-plagued barrios underscores
the very factors that helped put Chávez in power. Although Venezuela is the
world's fifth-largest oil exporter, at least 70 percent of its populace
lives in poverty, and half endures extreme poverty.

Chávez, a former paratrooper, swept into office five years ago
promising to change all that. He calls the rich ''the squalid ones,'' and
says they do nothing to help the poor.

His critics note that the number of poor rose under his government,
and surveys show he has a 30 percent approval rating.

When Chávez was briefly ousted in a military coup last year, it was
the desperately poor who came down from the hills to demand his return. And
as unemployment rises along with inflation, Chávez now needs their support
as his critics push for a recall referendum.

''They are as much about indoctrinating as they are about providing
services,'' Miguel Diaz, an ****yst at the Center for Strategic and
International Studies in Washington, said of the program.

``I compare it to missionaries. They teach and provide healthcare, but
at the expense of suffering through their preaching.''

''I think Chávez is using the Cuban doctors for political purposes,''
Diaz said. ``On the other hand, the fact that Venezuelans themselves have
never provided support to the marginal communities that the Cubans are now
serving speaks a lot to what divides Venezuela.''

The State Department has kept an eye on the issue since the literacy
trainers began arriving earlier this summer.

''We support people who want to learn to read and write,'' a State
Department official said. ``But we're concerned over the increasingly close
ties between the two countries. We expect the Cuban trainers will be limited
to their literacy camp.''

Vargas scoffs at the outcry. The oligarchs, he said, are simply
against Chávez's revolution on behalf of the poor.
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