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Don't Be Fooled By The Myth Of Venezuelan And Cuban Doctors

Like Cuba, Venezuela churns out doctors who are poorly trained and overworked. Colombia then lets them practice medicine in the country in yet another senseless gesture of political goodwill toward Venezuela.

A woman doctor praying.

A woman doctor reacts with prayers before the passage of the caravan carrying the relic of Blessed Jose Gregorio Hernandez, Valencia, Carabobo, Venezuela.

Juan Carlos Hernandez/ZUMA
Julio Borges


BOGOTÁ — Venezuela's self-styled Bolivarian Revolution is a big-old scam. A scam in every way that has hoodwinked everyone, friend and foe, workers and employers alike. Lying is the system's very backbone.

Like a sinister fairy tale, thousands of youngsters seeking opportunities have fallen for Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro's deceptive promises, and none more so than those lured into becoming one of the state's Integrated Community doctors (or MICs). They dreamed of a career in medicine, but all they have had is a big dose of indoctrination from a ruthless system that has trained them not as medics but as party militants.

I say this in response to reports on social media that Venezuelan community doctors might be allowed to work in Colombia. The Colombian College of Medicine has already warned of the risks of certifying medical degrees given by institutions controlled by the Maduro regime. Its recent statement declared that "the academic training — in theoretical, practical and technical terms — of the MICs is highly deficient and precarious, as their trajectories have not regrettably produced the high educational and professional standards required of a health sector professional."

What folks in Colombia might reasonably ask is, what is wrong with doctors trained by the Venezuelan state practicing medicine in their country? More doctors save more lives, right? There is a logic to that, but the warning given by the College of Medicine is much closer to facts on the ground.

Exploiting medics

I remember when President Maduro decreed in 2014 the creation of the Hugo Chávez University of Health Sciences. The aim was to expand the collaboration his late predecessor as president had begun with communist Cuba, which led to thousands of Cuban doctors coming to Venezuela. The Health University was supposed to train "integrated community" doctors to complement the work of Cuban doctors in poorer districts and improve the health system overall.

Doctors of ideology, not immunology.

The road to hell is paved with good intentions as they say, and the Health University's vocation soon became its medical waste. While failing to produce medical professionals, it did succeed in training an army not of "whitecoats" as Cubans call them but of commissars. Doctors of ideology, not immunology. Ultimately, they will pay in person for the system's failures when they cannot find proper paid work as doctors.

The Venezuelan regime keeps churning out these doctors who can only work in the public sector, where they are overworked for a pittance. In addition, Cuba and Venezuela use these programs not just to indoctrinate citizens but to also make money. One independent study estimates that Cuba's health programs earn the island around $8-10 billion a year.

But it's money for the state, first and foremost, whatever the propaganda might claim. Why do Cuban doctors often defect around the world? Simply because they feel enslaved. According to one NGO, Prisoners Defenders, Cuban doctors sent abroad receive between 10 and 25% of the nominal wages paid them, with the rest going to the Havana regime. Sometimes, part of the salary is deposited in Cuba and only accessible if the medic returns. There have also been complaints of Cuban doctors being intimidated, deprived of their documents, or forced to spy or promote Cuban communism.

A woman doctor writing on a paper.

A couple answers questions from a doctor who is making a tour of the Parroquia El Paraiso neighborhood to identify possible Covid 19 cases, Venezuela, Caracas.

Jesus Vargas/dpa via ZUMA

Delusion and knee-jerk reactions

In Venezuela's case, the youngsters, once indoctrinated, are sent to work in precarious conditions without proper medical training. The country's health service is heaving under corruption and cronyism. The state has diverted millions of dollars that had to be spent on hospitals on financing the Cuban program, which served in turn to line the pockets of an official or two. According to Transparencia Venezuela (a civil association), it spent around $40 billion on the Cuban program between 2003 and 2017.

A recent national poll on hospitals revealed, among other things, that 80% of CAT scanning systems were not working and 60% of hospitals had no running water. Just under 68% of the country's main hospitals cannot serve patients three meals a day. Not surprisingly, many doctors have chosen to migrate or change jobs.

Insisting that Cuba and Venezuela are pioneers of "popular medicine" is delusional.

This doesn't mean Venezuelan doctors are ill-prepared, and they showed their worth in countries like Colombia, Chile and Argentina through the 2020 pandemic. They saved lives and rescued overcrowded wards. No, the graduates of our private medical faculties are professionals of the highest level, outstanding not just in their training but their ability to work well and hard under considerable stress. Their presence in regional hospitals is bound to strengthen health systems in those countries, but to be clear, medical professionals from Venezuela are one thing, and Maduro's Community Doctors quite another.

Insisting on believing the party line of Cuba and Venezuela as pioneers of "popular medicine" is delusional, absurd, and indecent. Because while the regional Left praises itself, patients suffer, youngsters are exploited and public resources are destroyed. We need fewer knee-jerk reactions in favor of "the revolution," and more politicians who can see the suffering of common folks beyond their own political sympathies.

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How Parenthood Reinvented My Sex Life — Confessions Of A Swinging Mom

Between breastfeeding, playdates, postpartum fatigue, birthday fatigues and the countless other aspects of mother- and fatherhood, a Cuban couple tries to find new ways to explore something that is often lost in the middle of the parenting storm: sex.

red tinted photo of feet on a bed

Parenting v. intimacy, a delicate balance

Silvana Heredia

HAVANA — It was Summer, 2015. Nine months later, our daughter would be born. It wasn't planned, but I was sure I wouldn't end my first pregnancy. I was 22 years old, had a degree, my dream job and my own house — something unthinkable at that age in Cuba — plus a three-year relationship, and the summer heat.

I remember those months as the most fun, crazy and experimental of my pre-motherhood life. It was the time of my first kiss with a girl, and our first threesome.

Every weekend, we went to the Cuban art factory and ended up at the CornerCafé until 7:00 a.m. That September morning, we were very drunk, and in that second-floor room of my house, it was unbearably hot. The sex was otherworldly. A few days later, the symptoms began.

She arrived when and how she wished. That's how rebellious she is.

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