When an opinion becomes “close to a crime” and the real crimes go unpunished in Venezuela

June 17, 2010

(I don’t think and anyone that thinks differently than me is screwed!)

In another displayed of intolerance, Hugo Chavez reacted violently to the statements by the President of the Medical Federation, Douglas Leon Natera, who was extremely critical of the graduates of the Integral Medical Community program, to whom Chavez went personally to give them their diplomas.

Natera says that this program does not create the replacement to medical doctors as Chavez and the Government would like you to believe. According to Natera and others, these graduates are part of an improvised program with Cuban teachers who are not even doctors and little practical experience. The training is apparently done with movies and pictures an the trainees don’t see real patients and practice as doctors usually are trained. The Government plans to now insert these improvised medical trainees into hospitals as if they were fully trained Doctors. Of course, Chavez told them never to treat an oligarch in a new twist to the hippocratic oath that these graduates lack anyway.

Chavez reaction? Oh, very simple, he qualified Natera’s well founded opinion, based on technical elements as “close to a crime” as Natera’s statements, according to the all powerful Dictator, are close to a crime, because they “create alarm in the population”.

Of course, the deaths from mistreatment and improvisation in the country’s Government hospitals do not “create alarm” and nobody is responsible because no one in this Government assumes any responsibility for its errors, starting with the autocrat himself.

But Mr. Natera should watch out for himself, you can be sure the Prosecutor already opened an investigation into his “almost crime”, while those crimes committed by these fake doctors, while illegally practicing medicine will go unnoticed and unpunished.

What else is new!

31 Responses to “When an opinion becomes “close to a crime” and the real crimes go unpunished in Venezuela”

  1. Kepler Says:


    It seems we are talking about different countries. Have you had a long, not occasional and not superficial contact with people from the bottom D and E groups in Venezuela? Have you spent quite some time in places such as Calabozo or Maturín and not just in a hacienda?

    I definitely don’t think it is about money, but it is clear that a municipality in Guárico has hardly enough money to pay for schools and “free market” will never do it. I know, I know people working in better off municipalities than those.

    Can you please be more specific? Are you telling me you want to be more “free market” than the US Americans and establish a system like university loans for very basic education? I may be too fool, I don’t follow what you want for Venezuela.
    Let’s be concrete.

    I give you three examples, they represent the average Venezuelans.

    1) Juana Martínez, single parent like a huge amount in Venezuela, has a child and lives with her old mother who tells empanadas. Juana is a street vendor. They live in Vargas.
    Juana is functional illiterate, her mother the same.
    2) Jonny Pacheco and Yulibai Martínez have 4 children. He is a taxi driver or a worker in a container park (yeah, that is rather typical), she is a housewife, does occassional cleaning jobs. They live in Los Guayos (a village where I attended primary school). Jonny finished bachillerato sort of.
    3) Luisa Rodríguez and Pedro Rodríguez, have a mud house, live in Guacara, Lara, 45 minutes from El Tocuyo. They have 4 children as well. He is a very poor farmer, no tractor, rather subsistence with the odd extra for extra, she makes clothes.

    Now tell me what you want to do about them and tell me about your holy taxes.

    It seems some Venezuelans want to be more “gringos” than the gringos themselves.
    What is “in their hands” in the case of these people? Get a loan? Is that the way to solve it all for you? The whole daunting inequalities we have in Venezuela? “get a loan and work hard”?

    I tell you: it never was completely in “their hands” in the US, in Britain, in Japan. NEVER. The vast majority of English settlers arriving in America were literate already for very specific reasons that happened in Britain years earlier (state but also religious ones). The same in Japan (Meiji efforts, etc), in Germany, almost everywhere but Spain and Portugal and Southern Italy (no wonder we have what we have).

    The situation was completely different in Venezuela.
    It seems to me some Venezuelans living in the States or often going there really want to follow what they think are the methods that brought the US to where it is when it was not the case.

    Now tell me you know the mindset of such families as the ones I have mentioned and tell me they will “just see the light and see the way to go”.

    What is the taboo with providing books that even Texas see as normal stuff? Providing free basic schools? That is peanuts, peanuts, just do the maths, that is peanuts even for Venezuela.

    If you want to make universities private, fine. If you want to increase price of petrol, by all means do it! (I think we must), start to liberate the exchange, labor laws, etc, but basic education? That is the alpha and omega.

  2. loroferoz Says:


    I repeat, there are alternatives in private education to pay-it-all-upfront private education we put up as a straw man stereotype in Venezuela…

    I don’t think it’s a matter of raw quantities of money, that education is so bad in Venezuela. It’s a matter of bad allocation of resources, and a dysfunctional system.

    Decentralization, and some reversion of central government income to the regions, should provide more than enough money to start in most places. Then, you can create national funds for those places that cannot start themselves. And, yes it will bring some accountability with it.

    Well, yeah, U.S. and EU parents know full well where the “free books” come from: taxes, which turn not to be free, even for the working class people, even if they don’t pay income tax. They are taxpayers. Noisy, ornery taxpayers.

    “Thought about them as well” should not mean “We are going to send some crumbs your way, go on being the way you were up to now”.

    If we don’t plan on, somehow, giving responsibilities to those who should be responsible, we are done for. What’s the point?

    Our message should be substantially different in that the present and the future of individuals like Juan Bimba, in the public (collective) and private (individual) sense, should be put in THEIR HANDS.

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  4. Kepler Says:


    We have to depart from what we have. This is a criminal government of semi-literate military. Average parents want the best for their children as much as your parents but they have no clue where to go (no, they don’t live in Chacao or in Northern Valencia, sorry, we are not “average” in this sense).
    The sad part is that university docents and students, with some exceptions, people who often have a similar background as we do, have not lived up to their role in talking about alternatives.
    In fact, as I said, they have just said “don’t mess with our status quo (which is fine and all)” and “don’t mess up with our private schools”.
    Those things are right but it all sounds at this stage and in a country that is sinking – as opposed to Switzerland – as “we don’t care shit for the rest of Venezuela”.

    We can all distribute the blame on all parents, but that won’t bring us further because they ain’t doing anything and the boat will be sinking with everybody in it who can’t emigrate.

    If you want to give parents freedom to choose, etc, do it. By all means, guarantee private schools can charge what they want and stuff like that. But independently of that we have to get rid of Chávez on a sustainable basis and you can only do that either by


    some special extra-terrestrial force that can get rid of him and then prevent complete civil war and guerrillas and riots from a collapsing society where the ones taking power have little real support

    convincing most of those who can only send their children to public schools in Venezuela (i.e. over 80% of the population) that you have thought about them as well (not just in education). To do that you have to show you have at least some general idea of what you will do and you will need more than “we are going to be less corrupt than Chavistas and more efficient”. You need at least to give them a taste of why.

    Do you know how much textbooks for a child in Venezuela cost? Do you know what is a salary of a normal worker compared to that? And have you been to our public libraries? And to the non-existent ones in public schools? And do you know how the situation is in the US or in Europe?
    (I am not talking about comparing a school in Santa Fe or Caurimare or Prebo to one in the US, I am talking about that thing the oppo leaders do not seem to comprehend: the Juan Bimba who is the average Venezuelan.

    Now, in spite of all the problems in US schools: do you know every single state of the Union guarantees to a rather decent extent that pupils get free books? That even Texas has in its constitution a provision for allocating a part of the budget in textbooks for schools up to high schools?

    For me universities in Venezuela can start to charge fees and all, but for goodness sake, we need to guarantee the state provides for the resources for primary school. That was done in Britain before the US became populated by Europeans (the Bible movements in Britain but also the efforts by the Kings to improve education paid, the same in Germany and Scandinavia, Belgium, Netherlands, Switzerland and France, the same with the Meiji government in Japan and after that).

    As for schools: I don’t think resources should be based on municipality level. Do you know what is the amount of taxes Barutas can have compared to a municipality in Guárico? I think state level would be enough…and even there: even in the States there are transfers (I know this is a delicate matter, I don’t like blank checks either).

    “I do not think that private education, particularly paid-for private education can fill the gap so quickly”

    Why should it?
    It seems to me you see as the example to follow the US of today. I think we can learn a lot about it with regards to universities but when it comes to pre-university education there may be other examples to consider.

    As I said: state schools here are generally speaking good.
    The vast majority of European scientists you see (including those who are in the very excellent US universities) come from normal, average state schools, state schools not just from Paris or Berlin or London but from Verdun in Northern France or from a town to the North of Trondheim in Norway or from Munich in Germany or a small city between Munich and Frankfurt.

    They are not from “la gran capital”.

    Now: how can we bring competition and accountability to the role of states or the nation when it comes to education? I think the discussion has to go there. I am not an expert on that, but I do know the university people and students have a special role in bringing this discussion to the nation. It is not a full time job to do this. They just need to take a little bit of the time they spend in shouting “con nosotros el gobierno no se va a meter”.
    If they do that, more of those parents are going to start switching sides.
    Very few will do so by an autonomous “chispa”. Even many of the people who claim they do what they do because they are “so insightful” just got most of the thinking from their parents.

  5. loroferoz Says:

    Ok, Kepler.

    Top-down, then we should FIRST push to give parents and teachers and local governments a greater degree of control over their kids’ (and their own) education.

    Also, the discussion about education should be about both content and administration. With emphasis on the fact that administration (including money) should be MUCH closer to the interested parties.

    What I see about Venezuelan education, is that either it is dysfunctional of itself (the horror histories abound about the Ministry and corrupt personnel) , or that severe externalities make it dysfunctional (anything from crime to plain hunger).

    The country in itself is malfunctioning. I gather that the average Venezuelan now (rich or poor) has a social intelligence and conscience and a sense of respect for others’ rights that would force a dryopithecine to commit suicide out of shame.

    It would be an achievement to get the schoolhouse to have chalk and lights and some paint on, to get teachers AND students to attend (and maybe have lunch), to have board meetings where the parents actually show up. Then, getting the academic schedules taught and evaluated for real, for the first time in who knows how many generations, one year in the life. Of course these schedules need to be changed. But, moreover, they need to be TAILORED to specific purposes.

    It’s no miracle that some persons see education as a handicap if you are stuck with a literally worthless one-size-fits-all Bachillerato de Ciencias that will only ensure, being only halfway-taught in the best of cases, that you fail spectacularly at the entrance exams in any engineering university, which you cannot attend because you need a job. How about getting you ready to start working, or to become a technician?.

    Precisely, the idea of reverting control of educational institutions to local government should help a lot in achieving the bare essentials. And should help the best-performing municipalities and states to showcase their achievements.

    I do not think that private education, particularly paid-for private education can fill the gap so quickly, given that in this sense of paying for education, everybody but the really really rich are below the poverty line in Venezuela. But then, private is not necessarily about making you pay then and there or your kid does not continue. It’s about independence and empowerment and immunity from ideological infection. So is municipal and regional.

  6. […] When an opinion becomes “close to a crime” and the real crimes go unpunished in Venezuela […]

  7. firepigette Says:

    Jua, Maybe I should NOT have mentioned the upper class part and then maybe you would ” understand” better.

    If you want to think that education in Venezuela was not corrupt then by all means think it, and join the ranks of folks who form part of the ‘Chavez deluded’

    We cannot correct what we cannot see.

  8. Juancho Says:

    For years now Chavez has operated under the assumption that there is no such thing as an actual job – not one requiring training and experience, which he often equates with bourgeois arrogance. And so we have morons “running” the energy, financial and civic sectors and the consequences are now showing in the most spectacular and pitiful ways. Now Chavez has pulled the ultimate treason – insisting that even medicine is not a true job, requiring proper training and experience. Socialist vigor is enough to perform spinal surgery or supervise pediatric cardiology.

    You have no idea how horrific this could get. The standard line is that these medical techs will only work in clinics, but the front line is where critical diagnosis are made per looming problems unknowable to amateurs. People will die because of this one. Que lastima. It’s fucking insane.


  9. tannin Says:

    A previous blogger wrote something about, the country really no longer functioning.
    From everything i read, and that’s my only source of information, that statement is closer to true than is apparent.
    The basis requirements of life are taking more and more time and resources to obtain; the struggle is to stay afloat, with no hope of improvement.
    With one person rule, unless that person is amazingly accomplished, and works 24/7, the state is throttled; well meaning parents, or teachers, even if they have the time and energy, and even if they are brave enough to suggest that there could be improvements, to a regime which doesn’t accept criticism at any level, would still achieve nothing, except maybe losing their jobs.
    The only hope is that enough people in Venezuela now understand that the present regime is, whatever its ideology, hopeless; destroying a functioning system with nothing to put in its place; and must go.
    The neat thing about democracy is that the uneducated are not dumb, or dull, or ignorant of their life and society.
    They can be sold a story, like the chavez bs, more easily, because of no education but also because of their understanding of how very unfair life is and of their often terrible poverty in a country of considerable wealth.
    However, they are bright and aware people; if enough of them have decided that their plight looks worse now, that the society offers them even less hope than before, that chavez, whether his intentions were good or otherwise, is simply screwing up, they’ll vote against him.
    Chavez knows that, which is why he’s scared.
    Will there be one more election before he dispenses with democracy ?
    Will enough of the poor finally get it ?
    Will the count be honest ?
    Will the govt go if, as and when the people tell them too.
    If the govt goes, then, then the parents and teachers will set about rebuilding the education system.

  10. moctavio Says:

    In the 70’s and 80’s many Venezuelans went to the US and Europe and received Masters and Ph.D.’s from the best universities in the world. Simon Bolivar University had first class teachers, as the country benefited from the migration from the Cono Sur of many Ph.D.’s in science and other subjects. Many of these people have left the country or retired, the faculties getting older and nobody around to replace them. Medical graduate programs have no students, as well trained doctors emigrate and the good Venezuelan Universities are under fire form the Government.

  11. JAU Says:


    “you have friends in the upper classes that bought diplomas and worked as physicians”

    You’ve got to be kidding me!!!! and how do you know this?? they told you “hey my friend! I just bought a dimploma to be a cardiologist so please come to the hospital so I can check you and charge you!!!”.

    What you are saying makes no sense whatsoever!!!

    You are writing about rumors or hearsay as if it were true!

    Sorry, but your comment is stupid. I AM from the so called “upper classes” and I have never heard such nonsense”

  12. A_Antonio Says:

    I think, provably Venezuela future is already damage for this century, Venezuelans choose Chavez as instrument of their own destruction, like in the end of the movie Ghost Buster (Part One). Only we can say how bad things are, why and how it will be.

    And, It will be more easy that people like us find an inhabited Caribbean Island and begin a Society from nothing, than received and reconstruct a country with the level of destruction achieved when people like Chavez gets boring of his toy. Provably is taht most of Venezuelans as a society will be mentally ill, when they realize the fraud of this Regime.

  13. Kepler Says:


    Venezuelans definitely do not know how bad the average person does in education. He/she is among the very worst in Latin America. There is an interesting article by journalist Oppenheimer about the state of denial of Latin Americans when it comes to education. It turns out that Germans and Scandinavians have a worse view about their education levels than Latin Americans and it turns out that Chileans and Argentinians have a worse view than Colombians and Colombians than Venezuelans.

    And it does not matter if you know it or I know it, but if the average Venezuelan gets to know it. No one is telling him more than what they tell people in Japan and in Germany, that “the level is not good enough and we need to invest in education”. That is not enough for Venezuela.

    Everywhere people talk about education, in Japan, Norway and Ghana, but in some countries such as Japan the discussion goes into content and in other countries such as Venezuela the topic of education is treated like a Tibetan mantra: people repeat the words ‘education, education’ so that the God of education may one day arrive.

    In no country I know has the movement of improving real education levels started bottom up.

    It just does not work like that, although quite some believe otherwise.

    That was definitely NOT the case in the US, that was not the case in Britain, in Japan, in South Korea, in Germany, nowhere in countries that are now developed. It went top down for quite some time. Most of the colonizers in the US were already literate during colonial times.

    Only black were left behind and often prevented from learning. The initial work started early on in Britain. Similar stuff happened in Norway, Germany, Japan.

    “I repeat, this CANNOT be done by university professors, or students. They might offer support and advice. In the most advanced cases, direction. But not the action.”

    I agree. I was not saying university people should go teach people how to read or solve equations. The thing is Venezuelan professors and students DO NOT give general support, do NOT give advice and much less direction. They just march for their bloody rights. And they have of course the need to do that, but they should also have the brains to give some proposals. It really does not take much. As I said: they don’t even do that.

    “Probably we will need to get rid of Chavez and cronies, and of most of the Education Ministry, Chavez or no Chavez. But it should be clear that we get rid of him for a practical purpose”

    We need to get rid of him, no question about it.
    But I believe we can accelerate the process if we started to talk about what structural changes we all could bring and if the “intelligentsia” started to behave more intelligently and talk about things that concern the whole nation, not about their interest (and they do need to defend them).

    Otherwise, tenemos para décadas de Chávez.
    If a ray falls onto him today and he and Diosdado and Ramirez and Rodriguez get transformed into ashes but we do nothing and offer no proposals, we will have Chávez 2.0, Diosdado 2.0, Ramírez 2.0 and Rodríguez 2.0 the day after

    I have nothing against private education, but that is not the solution.

    The vast majority of top researchers and tech entrepreneurs I know in Europe studied in free, state schools. Many of them studied in schools in the countryside or in small towns. I am sure the capitals are not over-represented. The US has several of the best universities on Earth, but those universities would suffer drastically if foreigners stopped going there.

    Accept free markets for education, but let the state guarantee top elementary education for all (primary and secondary levels).
    If you do that, private schools will also have their space, but competition would make them much better.

    We agree on decentralization, but this should also mean distributing national institutions across the country. Deconcentration is one (one) of the keys for Venezuela.
    Many caraquenos won’t like that.

  14. loroferoz Says:

    Exactly, Kepler. Insularity does not work.

    There is no waking up “the masses” by just protesting against the government for budgets and institutions. There is also no waking up “the masses” by just saying that the other education is so bad and that we should try and test how bad it is. We know how bad.

    That solves little or nothing; so much like stopping testing.

    And let’s stop calling them “the masses”. They should have individual identities and interests. In this case, they should be parents, teachers, students, administratives and custodians.

    If anything, “the masses” need to take back the initiative. Pushing for decentralization of education and for closer parental observation should at the very least allow competent principals and teachers to show the way, for money to be used for what it is intended and for some busybody parents to whip others into shape. And mayors and governors can be made more accountable than a vice-minister.

    A greater facility for instituting municipal, regional, private (which does and should NOT mean rich kids’ education necessarily) schools would be salutary. Technical and vocational schools should be re-instituted ASAP: education should be related with what you do in real life and not everybody needs or wants to go the university. It’s not about intelligence but about inclination.

    I repeat, this CANNOT be done by university professors, or students. They might offer support and advice. In the most advanced cases, direction. But not the action.

    Probably we will need to get rid of Chavez and cronies, and of most of the Education Ministry, Chavez or no Chavez. But it should be clear that we get rid of him for a practical purpose, at least regarding education.

  15. firepigette Says:

    Would like to add that my opinions on the Quality of Venezuelan doctors has much to do with my own particular value system and not on any inherent fact.This is the way any evaluation of a personal service is for anybody.

    The point is not the evaluation of a service

    The point is the incredible amount of corruption that has existed from time memorial in Venezuela and THE FACT that Chavez was able to use it for his own benefit, and still does.

  16. firepigette Says:


    I never said there are no good Venezuelan doctors…Good and bad is a matter of opinion- not fact.

    I did know a few Excellent ones, that made a stark contrast with the many bad ones.Some of my closest friends there are doctors in the Metropolitana and I worked closely with one excellent Psychiatrist who studied in England.In my family there are also many doctors.What I like about them is their oft humane quality of investigating and listening to the patient.However the dentistry there is the worst I have seen outside Belarus and the nurses are unforgivably bad.

    The point however is the corruption in Venezuelan schools WAS astronomical.

    It is NOT a matter of who likes Ven doctors or no…

    It is a matter of being honest and admitting the amazingly low standards of teaching in Venezuela combined with dishonesty and corruption.

    If Venezuela had been different it would not have Chavez today.

  17. Kepler Says:

    I agree with Bruni. Firepigette, you may have lived for eighty years in Venezuela, but you were very unlucky. Venezuelan doctors used to be pretty good and they were trained in Venezuela. They tended to be more analytical, not just learn things by heart and they could do with little when a European or North American doctor would need the latest electronic equipment to do the most stupid thing.

    I don’t know US doctors but I do know loads of Venezuelan and European students and physicians who have done research or studied or worked with US doctors. I know several, European and Venezuelans, who are the best worldwide and they all talk about the standards in Venezuela.

    I would prefer all things being equal Venezuelan physicians of pre-Chavez time time after time.

    Unfortunately, there was no money for research and research institutes became very soon politicized. But practicing doctors? Give me an average Venezuelan one from the IV Republic any time. Of course, Firepigette, you will say we prefer Venezuelan doctgors because then we can talk in non-analytical Spanish and not in rational-precise English.

    The problem is that they were an elite.

    A country cannot prosper with just a group of top physicians and engineers when the masses are functional illiterate, when there are no skilled workers or technicians.

  18. Kepler Says:


    I am not asking them to spend hours and hours on things beyond their job, but to take position about issues that matter to all, not just to them, and articulate that position. They have had a lot of time to do it but they haven’t done it.

    If they can spend months and months preparing some proposal for the government as I know they have and if they spend many hours in demos as they do, they could at least mention “en passant” those things, but they do not. If they did they could gain some attention and then some others would start to talk about those issues as well and the ball would start rolling.

    Right now we have no fucking functional state, we have a bunch of military with a similar education level as Cipriano Castro and Juan Vicente Gómez, with a similar attitude towards education and progress. Who on Earth is going to wake up the nation if it is not the only people who have some preparation?

    The ones who have to do it are university teachers and professors and university students. They did it actually in the forties of the XX century.

    We can just say: oh, the government has to take responsibility as well as the parents of Jonny Pacheco and Yulibel Pérez. Well: keep waiting.

    Don’t expect pupils from crappy schools with parents who are functional illiterate to do it, don’t expect awful underpaid primary school teachers afraid of losing their jobs to do it. Don’t expect this government to do anything.

    First we move the masses, we convince them we have ideas and then they help us get rid of this government.

    As I said: it is not about spending much time. Those rectors and jefes de cátedra and federaciones de estudiantes do a lot of talk but the talk is only about “don’t mess with us”. You completely lose your credibility if you are not able to talk about anything on Earth but your own job. Venezuela is not rich Germany or Canada but in a country on the brink to total collapse, so we cannot remain in a cocoon.

    Chavistas took Venezuela away from open evaluation programmes as soon as they arrived in power. Now we don’t even know more or less how our AVERAGE pupils compare to others in Latin America. We do know (at least a couple of persons) they were the worst in 1998 already.

    I sent this proposal to the Venezuelan government, knowing they would ignore it:


    I sent it with copies to the international and national media.
    I sent it even if I knew it was going to be rejected or ignored. I sent it because I wanted to have a proof we came up with that proposal and the government was ignoring it, I see it as the start.
    My idea was to ask other Venezuelans to do the same until more and more people would see the government refuses to do what the rest of Latin America is doing: bring about accountability to education.

    I got an answer from the Venezuelan embassy in France (gracias por su propuesta, la pasamos al gobierno) and then the minister of education gave an interview in El Universal saying they don’t need those things.
    Some people read it. That was just me sending a letter.

    A couple of other Venezuelans (also living abroad) also did the same thing with a similar proposal. I found out about them shortly afterward.

    But we did not represent anyone but ourselves. And yet we managed to put the minister explaining BS to El Universal and we know (some know people in the ministries) there were nervous people there because we sent the petition with those open copies to embassies and to the OECD etc.

    If we had the support of federaciones, of rectorados, we could have a lot of discussion in the media and even from average parents, but those professors don’t want to move their asses.

    They only had to say they would support the move, they only had to say a couple of things about what the government needs to do in primary and secondary schools.

    We asked the rectors, we asked the heads of federations to support that or the other proposals, to bring about other ideas on education in general. What did they do?
    They said (they told me and the other Venezuelans): “no vale la pena”.

    They only needed to give their support or send proposals publicly.
    It is not about moving the government to do something as this government is beyond hope, it is about showing Venezuelans the others are better than the government.

    It is not that the university guys are afraid, they have already protested against the government, they have got into strong discussions, but they have only gone into “we need more money, don’t mess with our entry exams, don’t mess with the universities”. Those points can be very
    valid, but you won’t win this battle if you don’t show the general public you also care for the nation.

    They just don’t want anything to change.

    I am happy when I see some students from Universidad de Carabobo or elsewhere in the interior getting some attention in the media. Sorry, but I think the UCAB boys and girls are not very aware of what is happening elsewhere, even on the other side of the city.

  19. SJ Says:

    This thread reminded me of a conversation last week with a couple of Venezuelans (in the USA). One was mentioning how long it took to get a passport these days — months. The second one mentioned, in a a bragging sort of way, that he was able to get his passport in only three days, because of an old family friend. The sad part I thought was, the second person is educated. No mention of the hardship that everybody else has to go through; it was more like: “it’s a good system because people like me get what we need, without bribes.”

    The longer I live in the USA I am more aware of how broken this society is, at many levels. The financial meltdown, the massive bailouts, the political name-calling and appeals to voter stupidity, and the corporate and government ineptitude that caused and is now delaying the cleanup of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico are just a few manifestations.

    But day to day, this blog and others like it remind me: the police department that we had to call a few months ago, and the drivers license office, and the passport office, and the doctor’s office, and the taxing district, and the majority of institutions in this country, public and private, do their jobs competently most of the time.

    BTW, Oliver Stone’s movie opens nationwide here in July. I expect it will die largely unnoticed.

  20. firepigette Says:


    Actually Dagoberto was responding to what I said about corruption in Venezuela which was not specifically concerning doctors but rather about corrupt educational practices in general and the corrupt buying of diplomas.

    However the main point I made was that I personally knew upper class families who bought their diplomas, just like many papers are bought in gestorias etc.

    Are there some good doctors in Venezuela? You bet…yet honestly the really good ones I know were trained in specialties outside the country.

    Still whether or not there are good doctors is not the point.The point I am making is about corruption in Venezuela.It has always been astronomical and touches on EVERY area.

    Chavez just worsened it.

  21. bruni Says:


    we are talking about doctors here. If something has been serious, good and respected in Venezuela it has been the medical doctors. Even here in Montreal, my doctors say that they love to get vzlans doctors as graduate students, because they are so well trained.

    The level of the medicine in Venezuela has always been very very high.

    My “chapeau” to Natera who is saying what the medical establishment should have said a long time ago. How come cuban doctors with no licence can operate in Barrio Adentro?!?

  22. firepigette Says:


    English is too specific a language for you to have to put words in my mouth I did not say.

    In the best of liceos in Caracas( where I taught), the standards were on the floor.Most kids did not know even how to summarize or make an outline.Reading, and writing skills were almost non- existent.

    Thinking was largely contextual and not conceptual among both teachers and students.This leads to academic difficulties.

    Students regularly attempted to bribe teachers and it was common for students to raise their grades by doing minor papers to hand in at the end of grading periods. Parents often said that they were paying way too much for their kinds not to get good grades.

    Of course that does not mean that ALL teachers, parents and students were corrupt…but many were.

    Chavez cannot keep winning elections in a country where the majority are honest.Honest people reject the corruption inherent in the Chavez government.Political systems do not arise from a vacuum.They arise according to the values of a people.A basically honest pueblo will not tolerate someone like Chavez for too long.The fact that Chavez is such a liar and many people still say that he is a great communicator should give you a clue.

    Chavez is legalizing what already existed in Venezuela and making it much worse.Instead of improving Venezuela’s problems he entrenches them, legalizes them and turns them into a system to create a source of power for himself.

  23. A_Antonio Says:

    Please, the last one that leaves the room shoots off the Light.

  24. loroferoz Says:

    Corruption is about performing a scam for money. That in itself is criminal.

    True enough, Kepler. Deep involvement of the universities in public life is essential. Specially regarding the betterment of public primary and secondary education.

    But also realize that the good university professors, lecturers, and students DO have jobs. Responsibility for primary and secondary education lies in the hands of those responsible for primary and secondary education. Begin with parents and teachers. Continue with the students themselves who should have been taught to be responsible.

    Venezuelan society is upside down, it has let it’s educational and ethical standards go down the drain. Parents will let anything pass just so their kids will get their bachillerato, and the kids will get their passing grades because teachers don’t show up. The Education Ministry will let anything pass so everyone is content, up to the very corrupt. Society and the economy itself shows teenagers that crime, parasitism and corruption are better roads to success than working, educating themselves and making honest business.

    That situation cannot be changed by a tiny minority, if the huge majority don’t reject their state. It’s a miracle then that you have a tiny competent minority. But, certainly they need to be involved if their work has to have any meaning. But alone, they cannot convince parents to show interest in what their kids are taught, or help in painting the classroom walls.

  25. Kepler Says:


    I think both are right. Let me put it like this: I studied at the UCV, studied in Germany, worked for the university in Belgium and on an exchange in Britain. I know a lot of people from MIT and CalTech in the US. I know a lot of professionals from USB, UCV, UC. They are very very good.
    But: they are not the average. I would say we used to have very good doctors, very good specialists from some faculties. But then there was the rest and the rest was very very bad, substandard, as I have said, even for Latin American very low standards.
    I have mentioned this a zillion times but I do it again: 1998 was the last time Venezuela took part in international tests trying to see general analytical skills in maths and reading and comprehension for average pupils. Venezuelan pupils came up 13 out of 13 countries in Latin America in maths, well under the second worst, Bolivia. Venezuela came in position 41 out of 41 countries in reading and comprehension.
    You don’t build a country with a tiny group.
    Whether you are republican or democrat US Style, whether you are a fan of the Tories or Labour, of SPD or CDU, of the Liberals in Britain or Switzerland you have to agree on something: without good basic education for the average, the country is lost.

    We are not just Northern Valencia (where I grew up) or Eastern Caracas.
    Even there I remember the students coming from Universidad Santa María, specially Law. I remember reading in El NAcional “se busca profesional de derecho, por favor abstenerse los de la Santa María”.
    By the way, Silly Flores is one of those Santa Maria alumnae.

    The saddest part is that I don’t see most teachers and professors and students at the USB and UCV and definitely UCAB get it: we cannot just be thinking about “don’t mess with our people, with our students”. If they don’t become pro-active and actually challenge the national government to focus on delivering decent conditions for the average Pedro Pérez for primary and secondary school, they are being selfish and shooting themselves in their foot.

    One of the most respected professors I know from the UCV, well-known internationally, told me some months ago the same thing: the saddest part is that most teachers and students don’t care a fig about the rest, they do not want things to change, they think they do not have to bring about ideas to improve standards, they do not have to talk about the public education.

    It seems as if a huge amount of those good professionals but above all those who are just mediocre do not want real standards in public schools to rise because then it would become apparent that the first have to become even better to get the same jobs.

    Its seems as if the great majority, whether chavistas or not chavistas, just want the status quo to remain, for completely different reasons: chavistas want blind sheep, people dependent on their crumbles and the others want a stupid mass so that their beautiful chicos and chicas remain the brightest in Venezuela without too much effort.

    Variance in education levels is huge in Venezuela, more so than in the US and Europe. The average citizen cannot count or read or analyze as a Mexican or a Colombian can.
    No Colombian would want to study in Venezuela’s primary or secondary schools unless he is an absolute nill.
    Venezuela is not just USB and the other stars.
    We don’t build a country just with a handful of engineers and doctors.
    Never ever.

  26. Dagoberto Says:


    What are you taking about?, are you serious?.

    Yeah, sure there were people to managed to get a degree or a job with a minimum effort, but you argument is plain insulting.

    Professionals in Venezuela had extremely high standards: Doctors, nurses, engineers, scientists, psychologist, economists, etc. graduated from recognized Venezuelan universities like UCV, USB, ULA and UCAB are right now succeeding in North America, Europe and Asia, equaling or surpassing their new colleagues EVERY SINGLE DAY. I’m a personal witness of it.

    What we are seeing in Venezuela with universities like the new UNEFA and la Bolivariana is, as in many other areas, a deliberate destruction of the higher education system, and a fake and populistic message that modern world requires no hard work and knowledge to be understood and managed…

    … being the President the first asshole at that…

  27. firepigette Says:

    It has always been that way in Venezuela only now it is government sanctioned.I have friends in the upper classes whose family members bought their diplomas and worked as physicians , lawyers etc without proper training many years ago.I know people who collected salaries from the the University Central without ever giving a class.I worked in private liceos where grades were easily bought.

    *Corruption is not new…but now it is openly sanctioned.*

    I would compare it to legalizing drugs.Let’s take the crime out of criminality?? Yeah sure.

    Why weren’t people complaining before when there was at least a chance to fight it, but when the government is a left wing dictatorship, ideology takes over, and it becomes almost impossible to fight.

  28. A_Antonio Says:

    I also, I can say that I had personal contact with Venezuelan nurses and physicians (UCV, ULA) related to Cubans doctors and Barrio Adentro, their histories can freeze your blood.

    Usually, very competent and experience nurses graduated from Venezuelan University not yet intervened Chavez, are the better advisers to Cubans and to the “new” physicians.

  29. loroferoz Says:

    It is worse for patients because Natera’s opinion is well founded. But from a legal and ethical standpoint, it cannot get worse. It does not matter then whether Natera is sane or raving mad. Simply the phrase

    “create alarm in the population”

    applied to speech means that somehow opinions are dangerous to us kids, that we don’t have the wits or the eyes to know what is what. You hear that told without laughter and scorn erupting around, and your rights are dead.

    It is an insult to each adult. It is also misrepresentation and a scam, and the person trying to push that should be treated like a sociopath and a fraud. But this is not the case. We have precedent in being treated as kids.

    From previous governments, we are children regarding ownership and use of certain items: weapons, certain tools, certain vehicles, broadcasting and radio listening equipment, chemicals and plant-derived products. Some go so far that they try to ban shocking or unpopular speech or extreme sports. We are 3-year olds who will repeat any obscenity we hear mindlessly and believe anything, who will cause disaster with adults’ stuff.

    The Social-X (X for -ist, “democratic” and the rest) and totalitarian governments go one step further than other forms of government in regarding adult individuals as children on economic decisions, prevision for the future, contracts, hiring, and self-support.

    Then, we have the hardcore socialists: Adults become children regarding contrary opinion.

  30. Kepler Says:

    Miguel, several of my relatives and friends in Venezuela are physicians. They report absolutely the same thing. Two of them have saved the lives of patients previously treated by Cuban technicians. A friend of a relative decided to teach in one of those pseudo universitities, as he claimed “to try to see if I can improve standards there” but as my relatives said, probably to try to earn a little bit more. Right now the friend is very frustrated because teachers are forced to let anyone pass.

    The thing is also: what are we going to do with all these people who now are getting pieces of paper certifying they are good for nothing?

  31. HalfEmpty Says:

    The post casts an entirely new light on the phrase practicing medicine.

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