Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Venezuela Update 

We have some more bandwagon jumping going on here. One of Chavez’s more recently established Missions (social programs) is Mission Milagro or Miracle Mission. It is a program whereby people with vision problems are taken to Cuba where any necessary surgery is performed to correct their problem. Venezuela has actually already sent tens of thousands of patients to Cuba for operations and that has proven very popular. So the Mission Milagro is very much looked forward to by many Venezuelans. Incidentally, this is also one of the programs that Chavez announced would be open to other nationalities, including people from the U.S.

Well, now the Venezuelan Society of Ophthalmologists (SVO) has come out complaining that this Mission is ignoring them and they want to get involved in it. According to Ultimas Noticias the president of the SVO, Alejandro Rubin Siva, “Venezuela has many people highly qualified to do this type of work.” Moreover, he “considers it unnecessary to send the patients to Cuba as counting the money spent on the trips to Cuba there would be more than enough money to do the procedure here”.

Now maybe we should take this as a good faith offer but one has to wonder about a couple of things. First, why only now do these doctors want to serve the poor? The poor, with all their unmet vision needs, have been there for decades yet to my knowledge no one has tended to these needs. Could it be they just want in on something to support their already lucrative private practices? And speaking of that, the article pointed out that the cost for a vision correction operation by a private Venezuelan doctor is currently 3 million bolivars (about $1,200). So Dr. Rubin, how much is that price going to come down? If you really want to do something helpful, as opposed to just doing something to line your own pockets, you better be able to drop the price.


In any event, is has to be wondered if sane person in Venezuela would want anything to do with some of these “doctors”. As will be recalled, last week some of them just stood around and did nothing while four people died from running out of oxygen. Hopefully, those individuals will soon have a day in court.

Unfortunately, though, their gross negligence is anything but an aberration. For example, here is yet another example of the incompetence and/or indifference to their patient’s welfare by some of the Venezuelan doctors working in public hospitals (from today’s Ultimas Noticias). In Valencia, Venezuela’s third largest city, a women with a late term pregnancy went to the maternity hospital (Maternidad del Sur) because she was past due for her delivery. The woman, Sandra Escala, was in the 41st week of her pregnancy. However, at the maternity hospital she was turned away by the doctors because they claimed she didn’t need to have the delivery induced, it wasn’t time yet. Not happy with that answer she went to the Central Hospital of Valencia, where she was examined and it was determined that delivery should be induced.

She went back to the maternity hospital with the intent of having that done. But again, the doctors there refused saying that they didn’t agree with the report from the other hospital. She then had a sonogram done on her own but the doctors at the maternity hospital still insisted that she didn’t need to have an induced delivery and that she should come back the following Monday. She did, at which time she delivered a dead baby that supposedly suffocated from its own umbilical cord choking it.

Currently the case is under investigation to determine why the doctors at the maternity hospital didn’t induce delivery and why they didn’t notice the problem with the umbilical cord even with the sonogram (which they didn’t do!!). So what do we have here – just another routine case of the doctors in the public hospitals not caring about their own patients. Worse yet, this sort of thing occurs daily. I can’t wait until the doctors trained in Cuba show up. Hopefully that will put an end to this disgrace. Or, as I said before lets not wait. Lets put the Cubans in the public Hospitals right now. We can call it Mission Barrio Adentro IV.


On the electoral front it was reported in Ultimas Noticias that an agreement will be signed between Venezuela and the O.A.S. for that organization to come to Venezuela in December to observe the elections for the National Assembly. It was announced that the vote monitoring would be “integral” this time meaning that not only will the actual voting on election day be monitored but all the processes and procedures leading up to it. Sounds good to me. The more thoroughly the elections are observed the more bizarre the theories the opposition has to come up with to try to discredit them. And I do enjoy watching themselves look very, very foolish (especially Tulio Alvarez - he's so foolish he deserves his own post before too long)

It was also mentioned that Donald Alexander Lamont from Great Britain will be coming to Venezuela on September 12th to work out the details of the European Union having an observation group for the elections as well.


On the economic front the good news just keeps on coming. First the National Institute of Statistics reports that it expects unemployment to be down in single digits by the end of the year. It bases this in part on the drop of 3.7 percentage points in unemployment from 15.5% in June 2004 to 11.8% in June 2005. Given the very strong second quarter GPD growth of over 11% it expects the downward trend in unemployment to continue and for it to be in single digits by December.

Also, tax collections have increased sharply this year. The budget for non-oil tax revenue had been 27 trillion bolivars but it appears the actual collection will be 38 trillion. The is a tremendous boon for the government. But it is also helping Venezuelan taxpayers. The value added tax will be reduced from 15% to 14% for the last 3 months of the year. Additionally, household furnishings and appliances will now be completely exempt from the value added tax. So the spectacular “Chavez boom” that Venezuela has seen over the past couple of years is benefiting job seekers, tax payers, and the governments generous social programs. A win, win, win situation. No wonder Chavez is so popular.


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