Hola, it's A.M. Mora y León, signing off on Daniel's Venezuela News and Views. It's been a pleasure to "guest-blog," or "ghost-blog" as Daniel likes to put it, over the past couple weeks. Jorge Arena could not have been a finer complement with his thoughtful essays as well as a pleasure to work with behind the scenes, too. I thank you all - Bruni, Jose Roman, Barqui, Guillermo, Christina, Stig, John, Thomas, Roger, Quico, Feathers, Sydney, Ginger and many others - for your intelligent, informed comments from different perspectives that together added so much to the ultimately collaborative enterprise of blogging.
To sign off, here's a "news" item about Cuban doctors that interested me, and a repost of one item I deleted and didn't get around to reposting till now:
What's that about Cuban doctors again?
A Castroite state-controlled media organ reports that El Barbudo is incensed about Cuba not having enough doctors in Cuba in this news item here. Oh really? It's enough to make me wonder if he's almost as oblivious to economics as El Supremo.
Of course there aren't enough Cuban doctors, Castro! You sent them off to be spies in Venezuela! Cubans have noticed this. And so have Venezuelans! Daniel researched that Misión Barrio Adentro program and found quite a bit of evidence of such shenanigans here. You've got plenty of Cuban doctors, Castro. It's just that when you send them to another country, you don't have them there to exploit in Cuba.
The problem with this Misión Barrio Adentro Cuban doctor program is you've turned them into human chattel to be sent like a cash crop export to Venezuela to "pay" for all that "free" oil you get from Chavez. They're commodity chits, your very own Oil-for-Doctors program oozing in corruption for the 'love' of the barrio children and since these Cuban doctors now are effectively bushels of corn, you shouldn't be surprised there are shortages when you put artificially low prices on them. Corn after all goes for $2.20 a bushel while Havana doctors on the Castro Exchange trade at 50 cents a day. Not only that, as Miguel points out, real trained doctors from Venezuela are knocked out of the market because of these cheap Cuban 'freebies'. In the more economically serious parts of the world, this is called "dumping."
But never mind that. Why is it that Cuban doctors are paid less than cab drivers and hookers in Havana? Doctors in Havana make fifteen dollars a month. Nurses there make eight bucks a month. This shows how much Fidel values doctors and nurses, paying them accordingly. Chavez, by contrast, pays them a princely sum, with this article here showing that Cuban doctors on Misión Barrio Adentro duty making about $200 a month for a three-hour, three-day work week. You get what you pay for. And when you have a busy spying schedule, three hours a day to be a medical commodity export will have to do.
Speaking of lowball prices, does it ever occur to you, Barbudo, that you lose a lot of Cuban doctors to immigration? Some 500 Cuban doctors even in Caracas have decided that even the $200 a month doesn't cut it and have made their way to El Norte, Costa Rica, or any other country that will take them? People pretty well price themselves for what they are worth to put themselves to their best use. Economics 101.
But among doctors, there are many for whom money is not the biggest consideration. The problem is something far more damning: the inhuman system you've got there, Barbudo, one no humanitarianly instincted doctor would want to get near. Recently, I researched the life of Dr. Hilda Molina, an elite surgeon in Havana who trashed her party card ten years ago and tried to pay a visit to her grandchildren in Buenos Aires, something you wouldn't allow, because she was Cuba's 'intellectual property.' (That old commodity thing again, no?) She didn't want to be a doctor in your communist paradise because she objected to the inhuman two-tier system of medical care - one for rich Sandalistas, and the other for ordinary Cubanos. You can guess who gets the better end of the deal based on whose money was good enough and how any decent doctor would feel about it. But life is funny. There's something about those yanquis and their dollars that always puts them on top of things, even in the heart of your impoverished communist paradise hellhole that doesn't follow the rules of immoral global capitalism. Somehow the yanks and euros end up on top over there too. Try basic economics, you schmuck.
Barbudo, perhaps if you paid Cuban doctors, let them use their minds, stopped forcing them into spying, dumped the offensive two-tier health care system and quit treating them like chattel for El Supremo's political purposes, you might actually have a few doctors in Havana. But this isn't about providing health care to Cubans. This is about your own ego and your own effort to propagandize about your regime's supposed focus on health care. Which by all economic and humanitarian measures is one of the world's most dismal failures.
Repost: Today's Must-Read
Carlos Alberto Montaner, who first impressed me with his Guide to the Perfect Latin American Idiot, has got a stunning new essay out on his Firmas Press site, one that I found shocking with its clarity of thinking and dangerous implications. It is well worth reading.
(Jan. 26, 2005)