Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez announced that almost 1,000 Cuban doctors will begin to arrive this week to work in severely under-serviced and impoverished areas of the country. Venezuelan medics have refused to work in these areas.
Chavez plans to bring primary public health care to hundreds of thousands of people living in shanty-town shacks perched on the hillsides around the capital, Caracas, and other urban areas.
“We are sending the doctors to the heart of the barrio-slums where they are really needed,” Chavez said. The Venezuelan president promised that nothing could stop the government’s humanitarian mission. “The opposition is, of course, screaming blue murder over the fact that the doctors are coming from Cuba, but what else can we do when Venezuelan doctors are too ‘primadonna’ to go to the heart of the matter themselves,” Chavez said.
Critical of putting private wealth before the people’s health, Chavez said many doctors “want to set up in private practice and earn fistfuls of U.S. dollars … that can’t be right.” Earlier plans for Cuban teachers to help implement a nationwide literacy program and Cuban trainers to help build a sports and physical fitness campaign have also been attacked by right-wing political opposition, calling the Cuban aid an “invasion.” However Chavez said that since 40 years of successive right-wing governments have only put his people further into poverty, and he is looking for desperately needed health and education aid.
Havana also sent some 33 tons of medical supplies to help alleviate a growing crisis. Private sector pharmacies are believed to be hoarding necessary medicines since the government imposed price controls in March.