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7 The Cuba-Venezuela Medical Partnership The Castro-Chávez Dream Lives On We have a mutually beneficial, generous, and humanistic integrating system that is not based on competitive mechanisms. We are assisting each other to give the best to our peoples. . . . We are proving that we can achieve big goals with few resources but with a lot of willingness and love. Hugo Chávez, November 8, 2010 Fidel Castro and Hugo Chávez are widely recognized as two larger than life figures that strode the world stage for many years. Yet remarkably few people are aware of the impact of their partnership in terms of public health, both in Venezuela and indeed throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. This chapter seeks to shed some light on the large medical cooperation program in which both countries engaged and in particular to analyze developments concerning the Cuban role in Venezuela since 1999. As is seen throughout this book, the benefits of Cuba-Venezuelan cooperation for developing countries (largely using Cuban medical personnel and Venezuelan financial resources) go far beyond the limits of this bilateral approach. For example, financial support for the delivery of Operation Miracle programs in many countries, for the reconstruction of the Haitian public healthcare system following the devastating 2010 earthquake, and for many medical support missions throughout Latin America and the Caribbean (and indeed Africa), could only have been possible with the committed support of these two crucial components.1 This chapter narrows the focus, examining how Cuban medical cooperation was applied in the case of Venezuela, a program that started following Cuba’s offer of assistance in December 1999 in the wake of massive flooding and landslides in Vargas state. Given the size of Cuba’s medical cooperation in Venezuela (where some 30,000 medical personnel were working in 2014), an analysis of the nature and evolution of the program employed The Cuba-Venezuela Medical Partnership: The Castro-Chávez Dream Lives On · 163 there is a necessity. In particular three areas of Cuban participation will be assessed—its role in the Barrio Adentro (Inside the Barrio) program, its contribution to Misión Milagro (Mission Miracle), and finally its participation in the Medicina Integral Comunitaria (Comprehensive Community Medicine, with MIC being the Spanish acronym) training of medical students. To a large extent the Cuba-Venezuela alliance as well as its cooperative missions throughout the region, have been responsible for laying the foundations of a reinvigorated sense of regional unity and pride in Latin America. For many years the Cuban revolution had been the only major challenge to U.S. hegemony in the region, a situation that changed dramatically with the election of Hugo Chávez in 1998. The resulting alliance culminated in the political map of Latin America being irrevocably changed. In bilateral terms too, both Cuba and Venezuela benefited significantly from closer ties. On a pragmatic level Cuba badly needed the subsidized oil that Venezuela, with its massive reservoirs, could provide at reduced rates, while Chávez following his election in 1998 also needed to show Venezuelans that he could provide them with significantly enhanced public health services—an area in which Cuba had ample experience and a large supply of doctors. The relationship between the two countries went far beyond that, however , since scores of bilateral agreements (from fishing to oil exploration, shipbuilding to agriculture) have been implemented over the years. Indeed in April 2013 a further 51 collaboration projects were signed in Havana between the two governments, and a work plan from 2013 to 2019 was laid out. In many ways Chávez saw himself as the heir apparent to the Cuban president, often referring in emotional terms and with tremendous respect to the influence of Fidel Castro, whom he saw as a mentor and father figure in terms of ideology and understanding of development issues. For his part Castro consistently praised the grasp of international politics of his younger Venezuelan counterpart, whom he regarded with great personal affection. In many ways Chávez was the political apprentice of Fidel Castro—and he quickly came to appreciate the enormous importance that public health constituted for Castro. The death of Chávez in March 2013 and the election of Nicolás Maduro have resulted in a continuation of the strong bilateral relationship, with a lesser dependency on the two leaders (Maduro and Raúl Castro) and greater emphasis on pragmatic bilateral relations. The charismatic presidents may have left power, but the mutually beneficial relations have...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780813055473
Related ISBN
9780813061054
MARC Record
OCLC
918841188
Pages
384
Launched on MUSE
2015-08-22
Language
English
Open Access
No
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