Archive for September 24th, 2003

Dear Giovanni

September 24, 2003

I was going to reply to the comment by a reader in the story right below. My response was so long that I decided to make it an article in itself:

Dear Giovanni:


I think you are over simplifying the issues. First of all, Venezuela has a fairly large number of unemployed Doctors. Second, Venezuelan Doctors are considered to be better trained than Cuban ones. In fact, about ten years ago it was a team of Venezuelan Doctors led by Dr. Rafael Muci who determined that the Cuban epidemic by which 30,000 Cubans had lost or were losing their eyesight was simple malnutrition. I have talked to Dr. Muci about this and in his respected opinion a doctor trained in Venezuela is a much, much better doctor than the one from Cuba. So why didn’ty the Chavez Government open the program to venezuelan Doctors? Finally, countries are built on laws. There is a law in Venezuela that says that anyone trained abroad as a medical Dr. has to do an equivalency, much like in many countries of the world. A Venezuelan that goes to school in the US or Italy or any of those countries you mentioned WOULD have to do that. The Cuban doctors don’t. I would not approve if the doctors had any nationality.  Countries become developed when the laws are respected and there is enforcement of them, I do not believe citizens have the right to choose which laws they violate, least of all Governments.


What I object is that money is being spent on “new” projects to bring Cuban Doctors (which is really a political program) that are less qualified while Venezuelans hospitals do not even have gauze because the Government does not given them funds. The reason is that funds are spent only where politics matter. Most of the extensive networks of Venezuelan health facilities have no funds other than for salaries. I also take exception to your 80% figure. I have provided links in this blog to the Universidad Catolica project that shows that the poverty line was at 61% when Hugo Chavez took over and it stands today at 68%, those are the best numbers available. In fact, the Government’s numbers say poverty is below 50%.


The same thing happens on your second point, what I object to is that resources are being used for political purposes, when they could be used to solve a crime that is clearly easily solvable. I don’t buy the argument something was happening for the last twenty years. I was extremely critical of Rafael Caldera’s first three years in office, when he did everything wrong because he thought he knew what was right, much like Chavez, and things got much worse for Venezuelans until Teodoro Petkoff became Minister of Planning. But deaths in the barrios in Caracas Caldera’s last year in office were running at a rate of 40 per weekend, today they are running at 100-110 per weekend, so at least a better job at crime prevention was being done then. Both are tragic numbers nevertheless. But what is more tragic is that someone who had the popularity and the resources to improve things for the average Venezuelan has not done so because politics and power is what really matters to him. Look at the front page of El Nacional today where you would see how perverse this Government can be, former stripper, Head of Intelligence and currently Head of the training Institute INCE, Eliezer Otaiza is shown “showing off”  his new “equipment” in the modern gym he had built for himself next to his office at INCE. What type of social conscience can anyone have when as you say, there is a lot of poverty in the country and bad health care, but you can justify building yourself a modern gym in your office in an Institution in which should spend money in training young people? I think any politician in Venezuela from any party, who spends money in such ways should be recalled immediately.


As to your comment on Cuba and the US, I don’t see what they have to do with the letter from Havel et al. I do believe that people have the right for self-determination. But I do not believe that self-determination means or implies that people should be oppressed, not taken into account or have their rights be violated by their Governments. I do think the international community via the UN or whatever has to make all the efforts to stop this behavior wherever it may occur. The world should not sit idle while we witness more Pol Pot‘s, Fidel Castro’s, Hussein, Pinochet’s, Videla’s, Idi Amin’s or any form of oppressive dictatorships that violate the human rights of their citizens. That is the main accomplishment of the civilized world in recent decades.


One of the saddest things of the recent events in Cuba where dissidents were jailed and three men were condemned to die by firing squad was that these men were what should have been the archetypical success of the Cuban revolution: They wereblack and young (below 21), raised and educated completely under the revolution,  but they were killed for committing a political crime in which nobody was even injured!. Such is the reality of Cuban oppression.


The overall deterioration of health, crime, the economy, the increase in corruption and the lack of any constructive accomplishment is the tragedy of Chavez and those that are still with him. Had it been Salas Romer that had this same record of accomplishment, I would be saying exactly the same thing. Venezuela has received over US$ 120 billion in these five years for its oil exports and there is no measurable improvement in any economic or social parameter you may mention. This is more money in any five year period that any Venezuelan President in any five year term has received. Under the old Constitution Chavez’ Presidential period would be over by the end of the year. Under the new Bolivarian one, a referendum should be taking place by the end of the year. Neither will happen. It is not fair to the Venezuelan people, poor or rich alike.


Thanks for reading and commenting my blog.