On Oct. 30, 2000, the Cuban and Venezuelan presidents, Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez, signed a comprehensive cooperation agreement, which reaffirmed their common interests in promoting and encouraging the development of Cuba and Venezuela in terms of Latin America and Caribbean integration.
In return for tens of thousands of barrels of oil each day, Venezuela has received Cuba’s support for its social and educational programs. These Cuban resources stem from the impressive “human capital,” especially health and education professionals, that the island nation has built over the last half a century, as the U.S.-imposed economic blockade forced the island nation to search for another road to development based on the resources at its disposal.
On the original agreement’s 15th anniversary, teleSUR looks at the achievements in sectors such as education, health, culture, sports, science and technology of these developing accords that saw 62 new health care agreements signed in 2015 alone.
The Cuba-Venezuela Agreement’s flagship achievement is the Barrio Adentro Mission, aimed at strengthening Venezuela’s public health system, which has provided more than 617 million free medical consultations and saved over 1.7 million lives.
In exchange for oil and other cooperation agreements, Cuba sends doctors and health care expertise to Venezuela, whose health system had been long-neglected.
Currently some 46,000 Cubans work in Venezuela’s health programs. Not only do Cuban doctors go to Venezuela, but Venezuelan patients travel to Cuba to its world-class hospitals for treatment of chronic or life-threatening conditions, with everything — the treatment, hotels, hospitals, food, doctors, nurses, and in-country transportation — covered by Cuba.
Also in the area of health, the two countries’ joint-funded Miracle Mission has now treated eye problems of over 4 million from Latin America and the Caribbean completely free of charge.
After providing more than 705 million free consultations, helping more than 6,000 people an hour, Venezuela's widely popular health mission marked its 12th anniversary in April, 2015.
All of the hospital's services are free, but not just for Venezuelans. The hospital has treated children suffering serious conditions from countries including Nicaragua, Honduras, Colombia and across the Caribbean.
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The other vital instrument that came out of the agreement between the two countries was the creation of the regional bloc ALBA, or Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our Americas.
ALBA was conceived in 2001 and implemented in 2004. It attempts to lay the groundwork for an alternative form of integration and development based on solidarity and cooperation.
Among its 12 guiding principles is the blueprint for the cooperation, solidarity, and integration encompassed within “Bolivar’s Alternative.”
Among numerous proposals are included a continental literacy plan; a Latin American plan for free health care; an education scholarship program; a social emergency fund; the creation of a development bank of the south; a regional petroleum company, Petroamerica; a regional television station, teleSUR; and many others.
Some of the proposals have moved faster than others, such as teleSUR, which recently celebrated its 10th birthday.
Read about ALBA’s 10 greatest achievements on its 10th anniversary here.
In the education sector, meanwhile, Venezuelan literacy programs Mission Robinson I and II have taught 2.8 million Venezuelans to read, leading to the declaration that the country is illiteracy free. Venezuela would not have been able to reach this goal without the support of Cuba, which introduced the "Yo Si Puedo" method of learning to read to the world.
Two-hundred cooperation projects in science, technology and the environment have been made since the original agreement between Venezuela and Cuba, in areas as diverse as food security, biotechnology production and management of toxic waste. The "Science for the People" agreement is also providing training in environmental management, the development of nanotechnology and reducing the impact of climate change.
The Cuba-Venezuela agreement does not represent one moment in history, but an ongoing development framework.
On the 15th anniversary of the initiative, the governments of Venezuela and Cuba are announcing a special cooperation plan from 2015 to 2030, grounded in the original agreement.
According to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, the plan will include the 17 U.N. Sustainable Development Goals.
"We will consolidate this 2015-2030 plan with the loving support of the majority of the people of Venezuela who are committed to development, peace, tranquility, and who want happiness and a homeland," he said.
The presidents of Venezuela and Cuba today, Nicolas Maduro (L) and Raul Castro, in Havana on International Workers Day. | Photo: AVN