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Thu Feb 7, 2013, 11:31 PM

Venezuela: Women and the Health of a People

Venezuela: Women and the Health of a People

By JEAN ARAUD – SUR Y SUR, February 1st 2013

Last December, a young man announces to me that he was going to graduate and he asked me to be his godfather. This makes one feel honoured; but when he says that he was going to graduate as an integral community doctor it’s even more exciting to know that little over ten years ago the rule of health in this country for citizens of the popular sectors (i.e. disadvantaged socio-economic sectors) was “pay or die”.

I found out that my godson, who was graduating in the second round of integral community doctors, is one among the six thousand that the Bolivarian University of Venezuela is graduating. More precisely, my godson is one of fifteen graduates from the Coche Nucleus, a great popular sector of Caracas. And thanks to the now doctor Lenin Aponcio (the godson) one learns more and more; like for example that this second round of six thousand precedes the first of eight thousand doctors.

And finally the great moment of the graduation ceremony arrives…with a surprise! They call the names of the graduates one by one to receive their diplomas. They are, for example, Merys, Rubina, Elvis, María Luisa, Daisy, Maryuri, Yeltza, Jenni, Vivean, Karina, Loimar y Francisca. And that’s it. My godson Lenin, in his graduation group, is the only male and fourteen of the fifteen are women. Fourteen female doctors.

Women, life, politics

Women in Venezuela are the launching pad of the Revolution. We all knew this; in the mayoralties 63% are female mayors, in the communal councils 70% are female spokespersons…and in over 12 years the Bolivarian revolution has had 38 female ministers (there were 27 over the 40 previous years – many of us know this but it’s worth repeating for those who could have doubts).


Evidence of a transformation in the provision of healthcare in Venezuela

The occasion is the opportunity to find out much more about health in the popular sectors. Popular sectors, as in their essence of “people”, and not in the qualitatively derogatory sense the phrase is used by a certain elite to look down upon the least favoured or dispossessed. And thus the first social evidence appears: currently, the Bolivarian University offers the popular sectors the possibility of graduating themselves as doctors.

The second piece of evidence is the contemporary history of healthcare in Venezuela.

1998: In the large urban barrios and rural zones, the population has little access to healthcare. Apart from some deficient (public) hospitals, healthcare is commercialised to the benefit of private clinics, laboratories, and booming pharmaceutical and medical insurance sectors. Healthcare is negotiated with credit cards and insurance.

2000: The Bolivarian revolution initiates its first great mission (social program), the Bolivar Project 2000, to provide urgent medical assistance to those most in need. It includes military surgical units that move around the country to attend to thousands and thousands who for years waited for the inaccessible operations that they needed. Simply, it’s a civic – military program for the health of the people.

2003: The Bolivarian government with the help of the Cuban Republic launches the giant operation Barrio Adentro level 1 (primary care clinics), incorporating 20,000 Cuban doctors who offer primary medical attention to the people in their communities. The program is totally free, even the medication.

2005: The Barrio Adentro 1 program was broadened to Barrio Adentro 2, together with the CDI (Comprehensive Diagnostic Centres, which are clinics equipped with the latest technology and SRI – Comprehensive Rehabilitation Clinics). Barrio Adentro 3 follows, to improve hospital infrastructure.

To all of this, various other programs are added. Among them, Mission Miracle, a broad program of cataract operations for patients who before were condemned to irremediable blindness. This is also achieved thanks to Cuba and a true air-bridge between Caracas and Havana.

An immense hospital is also built, the Child Cardiology Hospital, which not only attends to little Venezuelans but also children from other nations.

Barrio Adentro, CDI, SRI, Mission Miracle, Child Cardiology, are all totally free services, incidentally.

“Objective” journalism

Programs of such magnitude of course deserved media coverage. The mass private Venezuelan media and their international colleagues would entrust themselves with this…but in their own way.

In the news they said that the Cuban doctors were dangerous special agents infiltrating Venezuela. Also, among thousands and thousands of surgical interventions they looked for the one isolated medical error or the patient for whom the treatment didn’t work…it didn’t matter why, or how, only media manipulation and the aim of creating a web of false opinion mattered.

As the people were less naive than these journalists imagined, their media campaign didn’t work and the sick – who at last had doctors in their communities – of course turned up in great numbers. The population discovered what quality, humane and free healthcare is.

This is what will happen now, in exactly the same way, with the young integral community doctors who are no longer “infiltrating Cuban agents” but instead are graduated Venezuelan doctors. The media strategy that desperately tries to question their abilities won’t work.

The moment to analyse and sum up this contemporary history of health in times of revolution has arrived.

1999: Medical care for the underprivileged population is almost non-existent.

2000 to 2012: Massive programs are fulfilled to attend to the primary healthcare of the population nationally.

2012: The first two rounds of Integral Community Medicine graduate: the first in August with 8,000 and the second with 6,000 more, which adds up to 14,000 young doctors.

Today and the future

It’s easy to extrapolate. A simple tentative evaluation allows estimating in an arbitrary way that in the popular sectors a citizen has in their personal environment around 100 people between family, friends and relatives.

Therefore the 14,000 young doctors are accessible in their communities to more or less 1,400,000 citizens. Meanwhile, in the Bolivarian University the students who will make up future graduate groups are being trained.

The conclusion is clear. In little over ten years the Bolivarian Revolution has not only attended to the popular sectors that didn’t have medical services in their communities, but now these sectors are generating their own doctors.

The mass media outlets in Western countries can surprise their audiences in good faith, projecting President Chavez as a “tyrant, dictator and populist of a Venezuela that is Cuban-ising”, but millions of citizens,who expressed themselves in their good faith at the polls to reelect their president for a third term, don’t believe this story.

Meanwhile in the streets of various European capitals thousands of demonstrators protest for their rights to health, rights previously gained that are worsening…

Jean Araud is a French social communicator domiciled in Venezuela. Translated by Ewan Robertson for Venezuelanalysis.com

Translator note: Integral Community Medicine is a government medical program whereby the Cuban doctors who work in the Barrio Adentro health program also train Venezuelans to become doctors. Eventually, enough Venezuelans will be trained to be able to replace the Cuban doctors, establishing a completely new medical system in Venezuela. The six to seven year program is free and students are supported with a small monthly bursary. As a result, thousands of Venezuelans from poorer backgrounds who were previously unable to enter the country’s elite (and expensive) medical schools are now training to become doctors. In general graduates practice medicine in their communities after graduating and as thus deepen the provision of free healthcare throughout Venezuela.

Source: Sur y Sur
This work is licensed under a Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives Creative Commons license
(My emphasis)


Well, of course, the Corporate Media would malign free health care for the poor majority--as the author points out in the middle of this article--or worse, they completely ignore one of the greatest health care achievements on the planet.

But if you want to know what they won't tell you--for instance, WHY Venezuelans have elected and re-elected the Chavez government (and also recently gave Chavez's party a huge victory in the gubernatorial elections) you need to seek out alternative news sources, like venezuelanalysis.com. This information is simply NOT THERE, in the U.S. subsidiaries of the Corporate Media--very deliberately not there--cuz they don't want you to know.

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Reply Venezuela: Women and the Health of a People (Original post)
Peace Patriot Feb 2013 OP
silverweb Feb 2013 #1
mecherosegarden Feb 2013 #2
Peace Patriot Feb 2013 #3

Response to Peace Patriot (Original post)

Thu Feb 7, 2013, 11:38 PM

1. Bookmarked for after work.

[font color="navy" face="Verdana"]This looks very interesting. Thanks for posting.

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Response to Peace Patriot (Original post)

Fri Feb 8, 2013, 02:42 AM

2. Well, I don't understand some things

Like, why the Venezuelan president is being treated in a foreign country instead of receiving treatment on his own country ?
If things are so good there , why then I have to send money every time that one of my relatives get sick and need medical treatment because they can't afford to pay for medication or they need some special test.
"The population discovered what quality, humane and free healthcare is" the article say , but if you ask my father in-law, my-mother-in-law, relatives of two friends who died because they couldn't afford their cancer treatment, and so many people who cannot afford their medication, they would tell you otherwise. I am not so sure about what to believe anymore.

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Response to mecherosegarden (Reply #2)

Fri Feb 8, 2013, 04:12 AM

3. I imagine that Chavez is in Cuba because it has one of the best medical systems in the world.

He also may be there because of security concerns. I imagine there are rightwingers--not to mention other interested parties (ahem, CIA, DEA, DIA, Exxon Mobil, the Miami mafia)--who would kill him if they could, and in serious cancer treatment, he would be very vulnerable. Cuba likely has the best intelligence service in Latin America. How else have they prevented CIA disruption and coup d'etats in Cuba all these decades? He may be relying on them for his own security while he is seriously ill.

Cuba is acknowledged (everywhere but here) to have a truly superior medical system. It has been in development for decades. I suspect that that's most of the reason.

Venezuela has a developing medical system--and one that never served the millions of poor people before. If you read the article, it says that the idea of the Chavez government was to provide immediate, massive access to medical care, by setting up new community clinics, staffed by 20,000 Cuban doctors, as they developed this massive expansion of medical care; and now those doctors are training Venezuelans to take their places and to keep expanding the care.

There are always gaps in a developing system. Possibly your family and friends are in an income bracket that doesn't qualify them for free care. That is a gap--if they actually can't afford care--and of course it should be remedied. But the country had millions of poor and millions of abject poor, in the barrios and in rural areas, who had never seen a doctor in their lives, ever. How would you prioritize this? Would you provide care first to those who have been able to afford medical care all their lives, but reach a point where the cost goes over their heads? Or would you address the much more serious medical crisis of millions who haven't had any care at all, of any kind, from infancy on?

Your sample (of Venezuelans) is very limited, you understand--your family members and/or friends, and some few others whom they may know. The government has to--and has chosen to--take care of multi-millions, all of them poor or extremely poor. Not just strapped for cash. Not just unable to afford medications. Unable to afford FOOD, or decent housing or any of the basics of life.

I didn't say "things are so good there." Venezuela had too many decades of cruel neglect of the poor by the rich for systems such as medical care or education to be described as "things being so good there." What is remarkable is the Chavez government's goals and what they have achieved so far--achievements in poverty reduction, in the availability of medical care, in educational opportunities, and other social goods, that have been acknowledged by entities such as the UN Economic Commission on Latin America and the Caribbean and the Millennium Project. Their achievements are real and are dramatic, and have certainly been reflected in various kinds of opinion polls and in elections--but the country is not perfect. I do think it is a "good," though--and a very great good--that the government has the GOAL of ending poverty and vast inequality.

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