[Marxism] Cheaper oil has a price (Miami Herald)

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Sun Aug 28 06:51:12 MDT 2005

There's no question but that Cubans have been complaining about the 
inconvenience some have experienced because of the internationalist 
work some Cuban doctors are performing abroad. No one in the United
States have ever had difficulty finding a doctor, providing that the 
patient had enough money to afford to pay to see the doctor, of course. 

Cubans who feel a sense of entitlement for their system of free 
health care rarely hesitate to complain about the inconveniences 
which have resulted when some of their doctors and dentists have 
been transferred to work abroad. Indeed, as is well-known to anyone
who has ever stepped outside of a tourist hotel, Cubans don't hesitate
to complain about anything, so much is entitlement part of Cuban culture.

Omitted from the MIAMI HERALD's alarmistically-written account, is any
mention of WHY Cuba's government might feel compelled to take such steps.
Could the Cubans have any REASON for taking such steps? Is it possible 
that Cuba has any difficulty paying its own bills because someone wants
Cuba not to succeed? 

Could someone be trying to prevent Cuba from earning foreign 
exchange through normal commercial activity? The following idea is
A SECRET, JUST BETWEEN US, DEAR READER: There is a teeny-tiny, itsy
-bitsy, teeny-weenie, yellow polka-dot bikini possibility that the
United States of Absolutely perfect freedom [USA] might possibly be 
obstructing Cuba's trade possibilities, by preventing US citizens 
who'd like to visit the island, or by preventing US corporations 
wanting to do business in Cuba from doing so, and so on and so forth?
Hope the reader won't think I'm making all of this hypothetical stuff
up out of my paranoid imagination...

Anyway, a newspaper writer visiting Cuba might have received some 
suggestion during their brief visit to the island that there is a 
blockade going on, though you wouldn't know it from this article 
in the HERALD of MIAMI, a newspaper committed, 100%, to a fully fair, 
accurate, objective and all-sided examination of Cuban reality

And the Herald report doesn't even think to mention all those free 
doctor visits in Honduras. See this Wall Street Journal report:

Thank Goddess, however, the Honduran regime has now decided to cut 
the number of Cuban doctors by 50%, so those Hondurans in the outback 
who'd never before -- thanks to the invisible hand of the capitalist 
free market system - seen a doctor until the Cubans came, will now 
once again find themselves treated by the "invisible hand" of market 
forces. Unfortunately the "invisible hand" won't carry a stethoscope, 
a thermometer, free medicine, or any other actual medical device.

The best we can say about this is perhaps it will be something of a
learning experience for Hondurans on the benefits of the free-market
or capitalist system. Next time their child get sick, they'll be able
to call the invisible hand when the Cuban doctor isn't available.)

Walter Lippmann, CubaNews
"Always trust our free press 100%"


Posted on Sun, Aug. 28, 2005	

Cheaper oil has a price
The Boston Globe


HAVANA - Free universal healthcare has long been the crowning
achievement of this socialist state, but the system is now under fire
from Cubans who complain that quality and access are suffering as
they lose tens of thousands of medical workers to Venezuela in
exchange for cheap oil, which this impoverished country desperately

The close friendship between Fidel Castro and Venezuela's Hugo Chávez
has netted Venezuela a loan of 20,000 Cuban health workers --
including 14,000 doctors, according to the Venezuelan government --
who work in poor barrios and rural outposts for stipends seven times
higher on average than their salaries at home. Castro has vowed to
send Chávez as many as 10,000 additional medical workers by year's

In return for farming out more than one-fifth of its doctors to
oil-rich Venezuela, Cuba is permitted to import 90,000 barrels of oil
a day under preferential terms.

The Cuban doctors program is wildly popular among Venezuela's poor.
But Cubans have begun to object that the exodus of their healthcare
workers is taking a toll on medical care for Cubans. Most people
interviewed would speak only on condition that they not be identified
or asked that just their first names be used, for fear of reprisals.

A 45-year-old nurse in Camagüey province said she has worked without
a doctor in her primary-care clinic for more than two years since the
physician was transferred to another clinic to replace a doctor sent
to Venezuela.

''My patients complain every day. They want me to act as a doctor,
but I can't,'' she said helplessly. 'The level of attention isn't the
same as before. It's not fair . . . to take from us to give to our
neighbors. People are now saying, `I've got to get a ticket to
Venezuela to get healthcare!' ''


Cuban doctors and nurses have long worked overseas in humanitarian
missions. With one of the best doctor-patient ratios in the world,
Cuba could afford to lend more than 52,000 medical workers over the
last four decades to 95 needy countries. But over the last few years,
as Castro and Chávez's cooperation has blossomed, the Cuban
assistance program has substantially increased the number of medical
workers in Venezuela.

Aware of early grumblings about the exodus, Castro acknowledged in a
September 2003 speech that ``it could very possibly be true that in
the midst of so much movement there is no doctor in a certain place
for a short time. These situations must be immediately resolved.''

But rather than being speedily rectified, the situation has gotten
worse, ordinary Cubans complain, with the flight of family doctors
who handle primary care, a shortage of specialists, and a longer wait
for eye surgery, physical therapy, and dentistry. Senior medical
workers counter that many doctors were underutilized before, and that
the departure of many to Venezuela has spurred efforts to improve
efficiency at home.

The Ministry of Public Health and the Cuban press center did not
respond to repeated requests over a three-week period for interviews
and data for this story.

With 66,567 doctors, Cuba boasts a ratio of one doctor per 170
residents, compared with one doctor per 188 residents in the United
States, according to the World Health Organization.


Cuba's much-praised system has suffered setbacks, however, since the
cutoff of Soviet aid some 15 years ago, with hospitals and clinics in
need of renovation and equipment, pharmaceutical costs soaring, and
patients complaining that they must bring their own bedclothes,
sheets, food, and fans to hospitals.

But complaints about a lack of medical personnel are new, dating to
the cooperation with Venezuela that some observers disparagingly call
the ``oil-for-doctors program.''

María, a Havana dentist, said her clinic now has six instead of 16
dentists, a reduction that has ''affected quality.'' Danilo, 29, a
Havana hospital nurse, said his overnight rounds have increased to
nine from six times a month.


When Castro boasted that ''100,000 Venezuelan brothers and sisters''
will fly to Cuba for eye treatment this year, a number of Cubans
watching at home groaned at what they perceive as favoritism toward

''It's all the Venezuelans who need cataracts surgery first, and then
the Cubans if there's any time left,'' sniffed Georgina, 60, of

Carlos, a 37-year-old engineer with a chronic ear problem, used to
get house calls. He resents waiting 20 days for an appointment
because his specialist is in Venezuela. ''Now when I need hearing
tests, I see technicians who haven't even graduated yet,'' he

Many medical workers dismiss the criticisms as the gripes of a
spoiled population unaccustomed to waiting for medical care. But
ordinary Cubans, accustomed to waiting interminably for nearly
everything -- from transport to rations to salary increases -- retort
that medical care was the one thing they never had to wait for.

Health workers also said the situation is temporary, while Venezuela
trains its own personnel, 27,000 of whom will begin free medical
school this fall in exchange for a commitment to serve poor areas.
Venezuela has one doctor per 542 residents, according to the WHO.

© 2005 Herald.com and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.


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