Patient No. 1 in Object 20 of CIMEQ Hospital / Juan Juan Almeida #Cuba


Since the Venezuelan president remains admitted in Havana, conjecture about his health seems to revert against the most conservative sectors, and to undermine the credibility of the serious enterprises dedicated to communication.  It is no coincidence, it is a very well laid out plan; because as my grandmother used to say, “In a game of patience, you have to think like a man who acts, and act like a man who thinks; when your exits are exhausted, the best thing is a strategy.”

About President Hugo Chavez’s state of health, we believe that we know a lot, but we do not know everything.  It is pure and simple manipulation; from one side, we have this reduced group with access to the commander that ably has decided to dispense the truth in order to gain time and legislate; and from the other, those that, consciously or unconsciously speculate with the information.

The Cuban government is expert in managing secrecy in order to boost with it the media roar and profitable mystery that death and immortality always create.  Its bunker par excellence is the quasi-inaccessible, impenetrable and murky “Object 20,” nestled in the labyrinthine CIMEQ Hospital, built in the style of Stalinist gigantism.

With audacious engineering and appalling decoration, since 1986 Object 20 has been a temple to the Egyptian belief in life after death.  A construction attached to CIMEQ Hospital but with its own autonomy, built for the purpose of satisfying the ego and paranoia of power and security.  My experience with that place is stormy; therefore, in my personal opinion, it represents a threat more than a seduction.

Object 20 is a kind of sanctuary. When we enter through the basement, we go directly to a spa designed in accord with the ludicrous taste of whoever still longs for the nights of the erstwhile Communist Moscow. Thick walls, soundproofed and fortified by immense slabs of Jaimanita stone darken the Olympic-sized pool, which the sun never touches; on the side a darkened and unused gymnasium fitted out as an Italian fashion statement follows a musical therapy space, two steam rooms, a sauna, two pools for contrast baths, a jacuzzi, equipment for hydromassage, an area to soothe stress, and a well-stocked pantry. All this is watched by four guards who stay on alert, in front of closed circuit cameras.

Exiting through the rear one finds a squash court and a running track. As the spa is built with very high ceilings, this place has no first floor; on the second are situated the intermediate and intensive therapy rooms.  And on the third and last level, after a room for bodyguards, an infirmary and a pantry, there are five patient rooms from which and through a wide, one-way window (of high impact and German fabrication) that they always keep spotless, one can see a pretty countryside with yagruma trees.

The strategical fort turned into a center of international political relations can only be accessed by obtaining authorization from the office of General Raul Castro. And to top it off, when there is a High class or VIP patient, as is the case, neither doctors nor nurses, service personnel, bodyguards, telephone operators – absolutely no one is permitted contact with friends or relatives, let alone with the outside. The comments that come out, either the Cuban government releases them in order to control opinion, or they are scurrilous inventions.

Of one thing you can be sure, the Venezuelan president is the best attended patient on the planet, with products ranging even beyond the world of medicine and pharmacopoeia. A competent team works unceasingly for his improvement. They know that if the Bolivarian leader were to die in Havana, the cause of death would be questioned immediately, divisions within the ranks of ALBA would be created and the little reliability that remains in the Cuban health system would be destroyed.

Translated by mlk

January 14 2013