Chavez does something useful ...

Thursday, February 15, 2007

... completely by accident, of course. He has gotten some Cuban physicians off of Cuba and into a location from which escape is easier.

Recall awhile back that Cuba and Venezuela were teaming up to export Marxism throughout Latin America by giving out operations to the needy. How? Hugo Chavez would prop up Fidel Castro's regime with "free" oil while Cuba would supply the slave labor for Chavez's propaganda campaign. In some cases, patients were flown in to Cuba, where they'd be bused to hospitals while the Cubans waited for inferior public transit or simply gave up and walked. This comes from an old report in the Chicago Tribune.

Some Cubans express resentment at the resources being poured into Mision Milagro, complaining that foreigners get better medical treatment than they do. Other Cubans seethe as they watch foreign patients driven to and from hospitals in new Chinese luxury buses while they wait for hours for scarce public transportation.

"I was standing in the blazing sun, and three of these Chinese buses with patients passed with an ambulance behind it," said one Havana resident. "I thought these buses were for us."

Despite the complaints, Castro announced that Cuba is equipping and staffing hospitals throughout the island to sharply increase the number of eye operations.
But in other cases, Cuban medical personnel were being sent abroad. In at least one of these cases, the "medical personnel" seem to have been sent merely to destabilize the host country, so I was initially a little skeptical when I first saw the headline. Wouldn't Cuba keep its better medical personnel well-guarded?

Indeed, Cuba would. It is the doctors posted in Cuba's ally, Venezuela, who are beginning to leave in droves! From the Houston Chronicle:
In his quest to reach the United States, Ariel Perez slipped away from Cuban informants, evaded Venezuelan border guards and kept his distance from Colombian guerrillas.

But Perez, a Cuban physician who fled to Colombia from Venezuela last year, faces one final hurdle: U.S. bureaucrats.

That's because Perez and dozens of other Cuban defectors who have fled from Venezuela have been waiting for months for permission from the U.S. Embassy in Bogota to emigrate to the land of their dreams.

"I want to be free," said Perez, 36, who lives in a slum in the Colombian capital with two other Cuban defectors. "But I don't know how long it will take."

Dispatched by Fidel Castro's government for humanitarian work [sic] in exchange for oil and other badly needed supplies, a small but growing number of Cuban medical personnel are using their foreign postings as stepping stones to the U.S.


About 360 doctors, dentists and physical therapists have applied under the new Cuban Medical Professional Parole program. About 160 have been accepted, while most other cases are pending, said Ana Carbonell, chief of staff for Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., a longtime advocate for Cuban exiles. [bold added]
The article in the Houston Chronicle notes that some claim concern for the poor as a rationale for complaining about the Bush administration's encouragement of the defections.
But some critics contend that, in its drive to embarrass the Castro government, the Bush administration is sabotaging health programs in poorer countries such as Bolivia, Pakistan and Venezuela, which have accepted the Cuban doctors.

"This is an evil and mean-spirited effort to undermine health services for the poor," said the Rev. Lucius Walker, executive director of IFCO/Pastors for Peace, a human rights group that opposes U.S. policy towards Cuba and organizes humanitarian aid convoys there.

In Venezuela, about 15,000 Cuban health workers staff 8,000 clinics located in the poorest and most dangerous neighborhoods of Caracas and other cities, where local doctors traditionally refused to go. In exchange, Venezuela, the world's fifth-largest oil producer, provides energy-starved Cuba with 93,000 barrels of low-cost oil per day, worth nearly $2 billion annually.
Left out of all this is why Cuba is "energy-starved" in the first place.

Were such critics genuinely concerned for the poor, perhaps they would demand that Bush do more to overthrow regimes such as Fidel Castro's and do something to topple that of Hugo Chavez, who is beginning to starve his own people.

-- CAV

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