More Cuban Doctors to Venezuela: From Modern Slaves to “Strikebreakers”

Cuban doctors before leaving on an international mission (Reuters)

Cubanet, Miriam Celaya, West Palm Beach, 24 July 2018 — In Venezuela, while hundreds of health workers have been out on the street on strike for a month in demand for decent wages and better working conditions, the official Cuban media have just announced the immediate delivery of 62 Cuban doctors, recently graduated from the University of Medical Sciences of Havana (UCMH), who will provide free services in popular areas of that South American country as part of the Barrio Adentro Mission.

The labor dispute taking place between health personnel and the government of Venezuela was initially promoted by the nurses’ guild, but doctors, lab technicians, service employees and administrative staff of several public hospitals have quickly joined, without receiving any satisfactory response from the president, Nicolás Maduro, despite the demonstrators’ requests for dialogue, and their current intention to join forces with workers of other public companies, also on strike for similar reasons. continue reading

In addition to the demands for wage increases, there are also complaints about the shortage of medicines, the poor state of hospital facilities and the collapse of the infrastructure that impedes adequate treatment for patients with serious and/or chronic diseases. It also prevents guaranteeing an adequate diet for patients who require admission and surgery. In fact, the capacity for hospitalization or surgical interventions is, at present, minimal, as various medical, humanitarian, religious and Human Rights institutions have been reporting for a long time.

Paradoxically, in a country where, according to Decree #8.938 of April 30, 2012, “with rank, value and force of Organic Labor Law, Male and Female Workers” (LOTTT) promulgated by the then President, Hugo Chávez, and published in the Extraordinary Official Gazette #6.076 of May 7, 2012, workers’ right to strike is acknowledged, and replacement by others to occupy their posts is expressly prohibited, so it is outrageous that the leader himself is allowed to royally violate his country’s legislation.

Thus, instead of facing the situation and responding to his own workers, the Executive simply replaces them, sub-hiring through his buddy the Cuban president, 62 inexperienced Cuban physicians who will perform as so many others of their countrymen’s shamans, modern slaves who have preceded them or who continue to serve as voluntary captives of both governments. It is highly unlikely that these new villains can solve any problem in the critical health picture in Venezuela, but at least they will help Mr. Maduro show his care for the poorer of those he governs, and for Mr. Díaz-Canel to justify the continuity of the already dwindling deliveries of oil to Cuba.

And all this despite the fact that just three months ago, on April 30, 2018, the official Telesur press monopoly published, at full speed, a triumphant headline that read: “Venezuelans have been protected by Labor Law for six years.” And then iy offered a laudatory text to celebrate the prodigious social advances achieved in a six-year period through LOTT, “a legal tool worthy of the revolutionary process of transition to socialism that Venezuela is experiencing,” as expressed in April 2012 by Hugo Chávez when he promulgated said Decree-Law, whose regulations were later signed by Nicolás Maduro as head of state to wash his… hands with him.

Thus, without any disguise or embarrassment, the Caracas-Havana conspiracy claimed the prerogative of desecrating, in a single haul, the Venezuelan labor law and the supposedly sacrosanct words and drive of one who considered himself Bolívar’s spiritual heir, a visionary who had hallucinations of “socialism, XXI Century style” and one who, once “planted” at the Cuartel de la Montaña and evidently no longer able to transmute into the little bird adviser* to his disadvantaged pupil, Nicolás Maduro, remains the same as the ashes of his master, Castro I, only for the permanent symbolic evocation that “legitimizes” the continuity of the chaos in their respective countries.

With the rampant shamelessness of those who feel immune, the duet Maduro-Díaz Canel has just set aside Article 489 of the LOTT, which stipulates “the protection of the exercise of the right to strike” and establishes the ban on the contracting of other workers “to carry out the work of those who participate in the strike.” For further derision, the same article adds that “Workers during the exercise of their right to strike shall be protected from trade union immunity under this Law …” And all this contempt to what has been legislated is done by invoking the medical assistance program in exchange for oil – euphemistically called “Mission Barrio Adentro” – promoted in 2003 by the then presidents Hugo Chávez and Fidel Castro.

It’s just a matter of time before we see how many of these new instant doctors, hastily trained in courses taken after mass registration, are more proficient in serving the interests of the regime and its allies than in conscientiously performing the altruistic work that would correspond to a profession destined to save lives and alleviate human suffering, and who will most likely end up “defecting” from the “mission” and reaching their true goal: escaping to freedom. At least such is the dream that many of them secretly cherish, while out loud, and before a flag so often defiled, they solemnly swear “to defend the revolution and the conquests of socialism” wherever duty calls.

And, if at the end of all the farce the very sacred “mission” ends in the Yuma*, that would be better still. For, after all, it seems that in many cases, the end does justify the means.

Translated by Norma Whiting

Translator’s notes:
* Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro has claimed that deceased president Hugo Chavez appears to him as a little bird and advises him. On announcing this he reproduced the tweeting noises he hears from Chavez .
**”La Yuma” is Cuban street lingo for the United States

2nd of November-Day of the Dead / Ricardo Medina

The Commemoration of the 2nd of November as All Souls Day, did not arise suddenly. Since the 7th century, the Archbishop of Seville, Saint Isidoro (560-636) established that the Monday of Pentecost would be offered to Saint Sacrifice = Eucarist= Holy Mass for all the dead, as was customary in other countries, especially in the chapters and monasteries.St. Odilo (+ 1049), abbot of Cluny (France) was dedicated to this tradition and usually established it as a commemoration, as it is now; other traditions offer altars decorated in the style of life of the deceased, meals, flowers, candles, the traditional bread of the dead and people spend the night in cemeteries with their loved ones, for example the Night of the Dead (Mexico).

The monasteries dependent on Cluny Abbey, endorsed the Office for the Dead, then Rome gave it great importance, and officially established the Office of the Dead spread throughout the church, complete with the Liturgy of the Hours and enriched with lessons of Saint Peter and St. Augustine, with the privilege of three masses. Today religious congregations include the office of the canonical hours, prayers for the members and supporters who have gone to meet the Father and mention their names.

In each daily celebration and all the masses the moment for the Dead is presented, when it is said among other formulas: “Remember also, Lord, for our deceased brothers and N … N … who have gone before us with the sign of faith and who sleep the sleep of peace. To them and to all who rest in Christ, we pray, Lord, grant them the place of renewal, of Light and Peace.”

There are also offices of liturgies for the deceased lying in state, at the time of burial, for those who die at sea and a special liturgy for young children, who are those children who have not attained the use of reason; it is desirable to shroud them according to their age and to surround them with flowers to honor their spirituality, for this service white vestments are used, the offices for the dead are not celebrated, instead are celebrated masses of glory masses, masses of angels, to praise and bless God, the prayers and psalms in serving infants are of triumph and joy, even though the pain and sadness afflicts their relatives.

In the Commemoration of November 2nd as All Souls Day, the church is dressed in purple, a sign of humility and sorrow, encouraging us to retreat and meditate for our loved ones who have gone before us with the sign of death.

Sadly in Cuba we can see every day the loss of the tradition of visiting cemeteries, holding Masses, burning candles, laying flowers for our deceased relatives and friends; this humble servant thought to present my humble prayer to God for all those who in life I have loved well, my grandparents, my uncles, my teachers, friends, brothers in faith, fraternal, my spiritual directors and all who are entrusted with and have instructed my prayers.

Lord grant them eternal rest!

And may perpetual light shine within them!


Translated by: Norman Valenzuela and Carlos Maristany (first half of first paragraph only). Others: remainder.

November 5 2012

United in Diversity / Fernando Damaso

Photo: Rebeca

The Cuban crisis is advancing inexorably towards its climax for reasons that are economic, political and social as well as genetic. With each passing day the situation for most citizens — shortages, price rises, low salaries and pensions, lack of opportunity — becomes even more complicated. The “update of the model,” now codified into law, neither casts sufficient light on the tunnel’s darkness nor provides real solutions to the multiplicity of problems.

Faced with this impending reality, people from a variety of opposition camps have come together to discuss what might be the best way to achieve this necessary transition. Some feel the best way is through dialog with the government in order to achieve a greater degree of openness, which might be expanded over time. Others reject any sort of dialog in favor of direct public pressure. Still others are looking for a middle ground that might satisfy both parties and avoid violence. There might be other approaches as well. To say which is best poses a great risk, one I feel we need not take since doing so would only add fuel to the debate’s fire and complicate the current contradictions.

Perhaps it would be more convenient and intelligent to try to determine a set of demands to present to the authorities which are premised on bringing about real change. If there is a desire to seriously resolve the nation’s issues, there must be a basic shared platform on which all factions can agree in order to begin to take firm and effective steps forward.

Therefore, it is clear that the different factions must be recognized as negotiating partners, something that up till now has not happened due to the intransigence of the authorities, who consider themselves to be the country and the nation’sonly trustees, imbuing it with their ideology. Only when faced with a united opposition — one united in diversity, not in unanimity; one without fractures — will the government feel tempted to have a dialog without worrying about losing what little credibility it has left with certain sectors of the population.

The level of opposition is not reflected in the figures for election turnout or in the numbers of people who show up for mass demonstrations, which are simply by-products of an entrenched double standard, but rather in the silent voice of the majority of outraged citizens as it filters through our cities and towns. Experience over many years has shown that a fragmented opposition garners no attention.

The last approach of the government with highest leadership of the Cuban Catholic church, as the only interlocutor accepted for some very immediate problems demonstrates this. All of the initiatives should be well received and not just criticized, despite their limited reach, because they can serve to enlarge the spectrum of participation, demanding that the spaces be open to all equally. Nobody, by his own decision, should proclaim himself representative of all the citizens of the nation and pretend to be the only voice to listen to, rather it would be more intelligent to make oneself a bridge or a collection point for different views.

To aspire to a truly democratic country, the road to the transition should also be profoundly democratic. If it is not, we risk the danger of repeating the costly errors of the past, and in losing ourselves once again in the entanglement of the autocracy, intolerance and exclusion, something that none of the opposing viewpoints want, much less so, the majority of Cubans both within the country and beyond.

Translated by: Stephen Clark, Alex Vizcarra, Norman Valenzuela, and Carlos Maristany

September 26 2012