Saturday, September 17, 2005

Seeing things clearly 

The list of Chavez’s social programs is getting to be quite long. After all, the programs are involved in everything from literacy campaigns, to health care, to housing, to higher education. So extensive and popular are they that a) even the opposition says they’d keep some of them if they were to win an election and b) they have been praised by international experts for improving the lives of the poor.

One Mission that hasn’t been played up much is Mision Milagro – or Mission Miracle. It is a program that sends low income Venezuelan’s needing eye surgery to Cuba. Without access to this program many of these people would undoutably be forced to live with vision problems the rest of their lives, possibly even losing their vision altogether. So it should come as no surprise that is has become a popular program as related in this article from Reuters (actually found on an anti-Castro blog no less):

HAVANA, Sept 16 (Reuters) - Venezuelans are flocking to Havana by the planeload for free eye operations under a medical program funded by their country that is helping Cuba pay for oil imports and keep its socialist economy afloat.
More than 70,000 Venezuelans have been operated on for cataracts and other eye ailments this year and the goal is 150,000 by the end of 2005, a Cuban health official said on Friday.
Operation Miracle, a new program cementing the alliance between the left-wing governments of communist Cuba and oil-producing Venezuela, is restoring the vision of poor Venezuelans.
It has turned Cuban hospitals into production lines for eye surgery, jamming corridors with patients awaiting their turn.
"It's so wonderful for us. We could not afford this in Venezuela," said Fabiola, who was accompanying her 75-year-old mother from the city of Maracaibo for a cataract operation.
"This is how (Venezuelan President Hugo) Chavez helps the poor," she said in a crowded waiting room at Havana's Pando Ferrer Eye Hospital. She declined to give her last name.
On Aug. 20, a record 1,648 eye operations at some 20 hospitals were performed in one day, the health official said.
Hotels and educational campuses have been taken over to house Venezuelan patients who get free air travel to Cuba, lodging and food while they are in Havana, courtesy of the Venezuelan state.
They are driven around in new buses from China, often escorted by police on motorcycles.
The VIP treatment underscores the priority President Fidel Castro has given to a program that is paying for vital shipments of 90,000 barrels a day of Venezuelan oil and gasoline, which represents an energy bill that exceeds $1.5 billion a year at today's high prices.

Its great that Venezuela is able to do this. Whats more, even some other countries are getting in on it for their poorer citizens. Kudos to both Venezuela and Cuba for this out of the box type thinking that helps improve the lives of people who are otherwise ignored and neglected.


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