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  • Cuban doctors all around the world have saved innumerable lives and forwarded the mission of Fidel Castro.

    Cuban doctors all around the world have saved innumerable lives and forwarded the mission of Fidel Castro. | Photo: Reuters

Published 1 July 2019

The Cuban medical missions are a cornerstone of the island’s international cooperation programs, as 400,000 Cuban health specialists have collaborated in 134 countries.

Cuban Foreign Affairs Minister, Bruno Rodriguez, called United States (U.S.) National Security Advisor, John Bolton a “pathological liar” after the U.S. official accused on Saturday that Cuban doctors in the region are “means to repress the region.”

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“We reject the delirium of National Security Advisor Bolton, who says that the U.S. sends its hospital ship to the region while Cuba sends "means of repression." Yet fails to say that 400,000 Cuban health specialists have collaborated in 134 countries. Made 3.4 million ophthalmologic surgeries. Pathological liar without treatment,” Rodriguez tweeted on Monday. 

The Cuban medical missions are a cornerstone of the island’s international cooperation programs for the world. In Venezuela, the Barrio Adentro Mission is a social program which began to be promoted by Venezuela's former President Hugo Chavez in 1999. 

Its main purpose is to offer health services to the Venezuelan population living in areas which do not have permanent medical facilities or are far away from hospitals. Since its inception, this program has sought the Cuban doctors' cooperation so as to provide quality care through ambulatory clinics, comprehensive diagnostic centers, and specialized child health care.

"Cuban doctors can never be defamed. Their extraordinary human work carried out those lands which the Empire calls 'the world's dark corners' belies the New York Times and its reporter Casey," Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel said back in March, as U.S. media accused doctors of allegedly carrying out political activities, which closely resembles the U.S. government's official discourse against the island. 

Despite it, figures show the extent of the collaboration provided by the programs. Another mission is Operation Miracle, the free Cuban-Venezuelan eyecare program has brought back sight to more than 700,000 Bolivians in the last 12 years.

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An additional 31,000 Brazilians, 46,000 Argentines, 25,000 Peruvians, and 314 Paraguayans have also received extensive treatment, Dr. Yohandra Muro, chief of the medical brigade, said.

The program was launched in 2004 by late revolutionary leaders, Fidel Castro, and Hugo Chavez. During its first year, only Venezuelan patients were treated but in 2005 it was extended to other Caribbean, Central and South American countries. 

Initially, patients had to travel to Cuba for treatment, but in 2006 the program set up ophthalmology centers in several nations, including Bolivia. 

“The willingness of Cuban doctors to work in difficult conditions became a cornerstone of [Brazil’s] public health system,” said Ligia Bahia, a professor at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. Yet far-right President Jair Bolsonaro went against the Cuban physicians, causing them to leave the Mais Medicos (More Doctors) program. 

In the first four years of this program, the percentage of Brazilians receiving primary care rose to 70 percent from 59.6 percent, according to a report by the Pan-American Health Organization, which coordinated Cuba’s participation.

The departure of Cuban doctors could reverse that trend, with the consequences especially severe for children under five, potentially leading to the deaths of up to 37,000 young children by 2030, warned Dr. Gabriel Vivas, an official with the PAHO.

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