Americas: Venezuela's Hugo Chavez is dying of cancer in Havana, in a live demonstration of Cuba's vaunted socialized medical care. He went there instead of Brazil because he wanted to make a political statement. What irony.
As party cronies hover at his bedside, Cuban officials bark orders to the government in Caracas, and red-shirted Chavistas hold vigils, all signs are pointing to an imminent exit for the Venezuelan leader who controls a huge part of the world's oil.
He's going out exactly as he wouldn't have liked — helpless and at the mercy of doctors, a far cry from the blaze of heroic socialist glory he might have preferred.
Most galling for him: It didn't have to happen this way.
His expected demise will be entirely due to his gullibility to leftist propaganda and bad choices that came of it.
"In July 2011, during (a)... summit in Caracas, Brazil's President, Dilma Rousseff, told a few of her colleagues — in private — that Chavez was likely to die as a result of 'his excessive paranoia rather than as a consequence of his serious — yet treatable — cancer,'" wrote Venezuelan consultant Pedro Burelli in a newsletter.
"What she meant to say," Burelli added, "was that by choosing secrecy in Cuba over medical competence at the Sirio-Libanese Hospital in Sao Paulo (where she had been treated successfully for lymphatic cancer) Chavez had condemned himself to a shorter life."
Burelli noted that it corresponded to his own sources, who told him that Chavez's chosen successor, Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro, flew to Brasilia to meet with Rousseff and her oncologist.
He presented the diagnoses from Caracas and Havana and the Brazilian specialist "considered it treatable under world-class protocols available in his center."
Maduro signaled interest. But the Chavista regime then demanded to pretty much take over the 400-bed hospital, which the Brazilians rejected. "From that moment on the patient was doomed," Burelli wrote.
According to a 2011 report in the Wall Street Journal, Chavez chose Cuban medical care over the world-class treatment in Brazil for "political" reasons.
"While Mr. Chavez often lauds Cuban doctors, switching from Cuban to Brazilian care would have suggested the Cubans aren't capable of world class care."
And that's pretty much the nub of it, the incredible desire of Chavez, common to all the left, to defend the myth of Cuba's top-down health care system as superior to health care in free markets.
Praising CastroCare was a prominent feature of Michael Moore's 2008 phony "documentary," "Sicko," which provided a shot in the arm for efforts to set up a socialized health care system in the U.S. — including the costly monstrosity known as ObamaCare.
President Obama's campaign website continues to feature events that were held "to provide us with the motivation to continue the fight for health insurance reform."
As Chavez suffers through four surgeries in Cuba, it's instructive to note it was the Brazilian hospital — a teaching institution with top-of-the-line tomotherapy equipment, 2,000 doctors, and a record of success for beating cancer — that cured Rousseff as well as then-President Fernando Lugo of Paraguay. But it gets no recognition from the likes of Moore, who still promotes CastroCare on his Web site, while ignoring the private U.S. hospitals the Brazilians model themselves after.
Who knows, had he done so, Chavez might have lived.
Cuba by contrast, remains substandard, with average Cubans forced to bring their own bandages, water and sheets to hospitals that haven't seen repairs in years.
Recent reports say Cuba cut medical spending from $209 million in 2009 to $190 million last year — "bending the cost curve" by giving less care. Sound familiar?
For wealthy foreigners like Chavez, Cuban officials often misstate their abilities to cure, according to Cuban dissident and top neurosurgeon Dr. Hilda Molina, while left-wing sites such as MRZine praise CastroCare because it doesn't invest in fancy equipment.
As Chavez dies, Cuba itself may go down too if Venezuela's energy subsidies end. Cuba's regime, ironically, might be the last victim of its own foul health system.
LA GUAIRA, Venezuela — Ever since her home was washed away in the devastating mudslides that killed thousands along Venezuela’s coast in 1999, ]during President Hugo Chávez’s first year in office, Graciela Pineda waited for him to carry out his vow to rebuild.
“It’s been 13 years, waiting and waiting, and we’ve gotten nothing,” said Ms. Pineda, 50, who lives as a squatter with eight members of her family, crammed into a derelict apartment in a wasteland of debris and vacant lots in a once upscale neighborhood called Los Corales. Across the street, a building leans cracked and crumpled, threatening to tumble onto the road.
And yet Ms. Pineda remained loyal to Mr. Chávez to the end, voting for him again in October when he won another six-year term — and crying for him on Tuesday when he died.
“Who wouldn’t cry for a president like him?” she said. “Everything here was Chávez. He was our country.”
Despite a rocky economic record and strings of broken or half-filled promises during his 14 years in office, the fundamental legacy of Mr. Chávez is not made of concrete and steel, highways and houses, but something less tangible: he has changed the way Venezuelans think about themselves and their country.
“He has made people who didn’t feel they were part of democracy before feel like they’re part of the system,” said Joy Olson, director of the Washington Office on Latin America, an advocacy group. “That hasn’t happened in very many countries. If you look at the United States, poor people don’t feel like they’re very much a part of the system, and he did that.”
The dynamic was on full display Wednesday as enormous crowds thronged the streets to watch Mr. Chávez’s modest brown wood coffin, covered in a Venezuelan flag, being carried through the capital, Caracas.
As the procession traveled from the hospital where he died to the military academy where he studied as a young, unheralded cadet, hundreds of thousands of mourners — many dressed in his movement’s characteristic red shirt — chanted, cried, tossed flowers or held up cellphones to photograph the coffin as it passed. The procession stretched for miles, a river of red with drivers and motorcyclists trailing behind in an impromptu cortege.
“Chávez opened our eyes,” said Carlos Pérez, 58, a cookie salesman who drove into town with his wife and took part in the caravan. “We used to be stepped on. We felt humiliated.”
Of course, Mr. Chávez’s government made its imprint in material ways as well. After long neglecting a housing shortage it has built tens of thousands of new homes and apartments in the last two years, and as a counterpoint to the neglect here in Los Corales, a small, well-run hospital in a nearby neighborhood called Macuto has become a symbol of rebirth after the 1999 mudslides.
A maternity hospital before the tragedy, it has expanded, with more than 200 babies born there each month and doctors performing hundreds of vital operations, including eye and breast cancer surgery. Its services are free.
But the hospital, which officials said was one of only three in a state of 352,000 people, is also an example of the contradictions of Mr. Chávez’s revolution: it took more than a decade to get it fully back in operation.
“It was very slow,” said Dr. Luz Stella Antolinez, the hospital director, who opened the facility in October 2010. “What was missing was the will to get things done.”
Still, Dr. Antolinez called Mr. Chávez a historical figure with the stature of Simón Bolívar, the South American independence hero, or even Joan of Arc.
“He changed our consciousness,” Dr. Antolinez said. “Venezuela will not go back to what it was. All these millions of people, for 14 years the president spoke to them, now they know they are worth something.”
Ideologically, Mr. Chávez was something of a chameleon, taking on and shedding policies and programs as they suited him.
He was a self-described socialist who expropriated private businesses and property but looked the other way as opportunists enriched themselves off government contracts.
He preached about economic independence and created chains of subsidized grocery stores but neglected agriculture and relied heavily on imported food.
He excoriated capitalists and lectured about service to the country but tolerated or ignored widespread corruption.
He condemned the United States at every turn but depended on it to buy the oil that made his movement possible. He spoke of a people’s right to self-determination but allied himself with tyrants in Libya, Syria and Iran.
Mr. Chávez mined and deepened the divide between the masses of Venezuela’s poor and the middle and upper classes, presiding over a bitterly divided country. He mercilessly taunted and insulted those who disagreed with him, calling them fascists, good-for-nothings, traitors, oligarchs, reactionaries and puppets of the United States.
And he warned ceaselessly of enemies, inside and outside the country, who he said were poised to take away from the poor the benefits they had received under his government.
Conditions for the poor have certainly improved over the last decade and a half, and the ranks of the poor have shrunk. Government programs have given poor people access to low-cost food and free health care and have knocked down barriers to higher education, though many of those programs are plagued by inefficiencies and long waits.
Venezuela has the world’s largest reserves of crude oil, and the economy rises and falls with the oil industry. When Mr. Chávez first took office, oil was selling for less than $10 a barrel. This year it has sold for more than $100.
Those oil riches have fueled his movement, but critics say his policies, including the expropriation of private companies and price controls, have hobbled the economy, led to shortages of basic goods and created a system that cannot be sustained. Oil production has stagnated, and the state-run oil company has failed to make the enormous investments needed to increase it. A blast at a refinery in August killed dozens of people and raised questions about maintenance and safety.
Investment in other crucial areas of the economy, including the electrical network, has been deficient and in much of the country there are regular power failures. Roads and bridges are in bad shape, bottlenecks at ports are common and, despite the sustained increase in oil prices, the country has the lowest cumulative rate of economic growth among the seven largest economies in South America since 1999, according to United Nations data.
Mr. Chávez named his movement after his hero, Bolívar, and vowed to created what he called 21st-century socialism. But exactly what that is can be hard to define.
“There’s not a lot of ideological coherence in Chavismo,” said Michael Shifter, president of the Inter-American Dialogue, a Washington policy group. “It is a mood, a sensibility, a real rejection of the traditional political order, a concern for greater social justice, greater participation by those who are excluded.”
Mr. Chávez prided himself on winning election after election, and his government put in place a digital voting system that is considered generally free of fraud. His opponents called Venezuela’s elections free but not fair, pointing to huge government resources spent on his campaigns.
Mr. Chávez also did away with the democratic separation of powers. A pliant legislature granted him the power to dictate laws on his own. And he dominated the judiciary, where loyal judges dependably ruled in his favor. He used government-run television and radio stations as part of a powerful propaganda machine and forced the country’s most-viewed broadcaster, RCTV, which vigorously promoted an opposition agenda, off the air.
The corollary to Mr. Chávez’s aggressive advocacy for the poor at home was his attack on the United States.
With a defiant anti-imperialist discourse, he led a group of nations, including Cuba, Nicaragua, Ecuador and Bolivia, with leftist governments dedicated to diminishing American influence. And he helped form and strengthen broader regional groups, like Unasur, an organization of South American nations, that stressed Latin American identity and tilted the balance further away from the United States.
Meanwhile, this coastal city continues to struggle on its long road to recovery from the 1999 mudslides. Two large waterfront hotels that once provided hundreds of jobs and drew millions of tourism dollars have never reopened. A plan to rehabilitate them in time for the South American Beach Games, scheduled to take place here in December, was recently abandoned, according to local news reports. For many, the vacant rooms are yet another symbol of broken promises. But for others, they are an unlikely sign of Mr. Chávez’s empowerment of the poor and his rejection of an international order dominated by the rich.
Benjamín José Astudillo, 50, whose family runs a small restaurant on the beach, near a stretch of sand once reserved for guests of the Sheraton, said Mr. Chávez wanted the beach to be for Venezuelans, not “the gringos.” He added, “The gringos aren’t going to come here anymore.”
I cant wait till this quality of life is right here in the USA. Oh wait, you can go to any inner city and see these wonderful policys in action right now.
Maybe he was great for that country, But I wouldnt want to live there, in fact Id rather be poor here, than middle class there.
But look, thats my opinion, and you have yours. And for now we are allowed to speak freely of our opinions, that is until the policys of the the 3rd world are fully embraced here, then we might need to have this convo person to person where nobody else can hear. Or else we could be destroyed by drones.
Maybe certain people on here like the Communist policys, but for some reason, I think they believe they would be on the elite side with the policy makers, but in fact they would be on the losing side, the victims of it.
For now Im gonna choose to make as much money as I can for my family, not sit by while the Govt figures out how to provide me with free food, and all my basic needs. Id rather figure that out for myself.
maybe he was GREAT for his people, but his policys are shit for my life, and overall for this country. But I get the feeling many people would love those policys enacted here in the states.
And if I had Chavez money I would never seek out Cuba for cancer treatment. I bet you wouldnt either!
If your child got cancer (God forbid), and you had access to the best healthcare, would you fly your kid to cuba to be treated? LOL come on now seriously....
You act like all cancer is the same. Omar Henry, an American boxer at the age of 23 in great physical shape checked in to the hospital of stomach pain, just a few months later he was dead. Best doctors he could get in America couldn't save him.
You talk about choices yet seem to criticize Chavez on his CHOICE of treatment. Interesting.
Further it all depends on what kind of cancer one has. Some cancer is obviously a lot easier to treat than others and have higher survival rates. Other types of cancer, such as pancreatic cancer and Colon cancer, are practically a death sentence. Doesn't matter what doctors or medicine you have available. On top of this it depends on when the cancer is detected. Obviously the earlier it's detected the higher chance you have. If the cancer has already spread, you're fucked, period. Lastly it can also depend on your health & lifestyle.
But this is missing the point. America may have the best medicine, the best technology but that's only available to you if you can afford it. Millions and millions of Americans are in massive debt to do medical bills. Others simply cannot get the treatment they need because they either don't have insurance and can't afford it or have insurance and they still can't afford it. People have literally been denied treatment at hospitals and died. This is a problem with the healthcare SYSTEM. This would also never happen in Cuba as again, healthcare is free to all.
Another thing we must consider is the embargo on Cuba which prevents Cuba from receiving medicine and medical equipment from the US as well as certain other countries. The majority of the biggest pharmaceutical companies are US based and Cuba does not have access to these drugs thanks to the pointless embargo that is designed to hurt Cuba (which sadly hurts the people of Cuba the most). This has made Cuba take alternative methods in their healthcare, in particular they focus on PREVENTION and the promotion and education of healthy lifestyles (such as natural, organic foods, etc.). So while they lack certain modern technology and drugs, the system is better. When you have a for profit healthcare system such as what we have in the US, the true intentions are always going to be about maximizing profits, and that is a major conflict when it comes to the well being of Americans.
I think it was 2007 when I got into an accident after passing out/falling asleep. Woke up the next day in the hospital, nothing was broken, I felt no pain from the accident or anything. I got my shit and left walking.
I did end up losing the car to the accident tho, and I wasn't working at the time.
needless to say, a week later I got a letter in the mail from the hospital with a bill of $17,500 for my one night stay there.
I dont have insurance, havent had it since I turned 18 years old.
I have applied to get medicare a few times, and either they dont respond to the forms I fill out and mail, or their office phone rings for eternity and nobody ever picks up.
Why didnt you pull over before you fell asleep? If Im driving and falling asleep I pull over and do jumping jacks. Cuz one can only expect something bads gonna happen if you fall asleep behind the wheel.
I dont know anyone who is able bodied and works who doesnt have healthcare unless its personal choice.
If your a poor single mom working at wal mart, healthcare can be sought for free for your children. There are inexpensive plans to be found if you really look.
If your injured at work you get L&I....
If you make decent money you should be able to afford healthcare if you want it.
If someone comes down with cancer I feel like there should be a safety net if they cant afford treatment. But please do not force me to take govt healthcare, or pay a portion of yours.
Changes need to be made indeed. But no one is denied healthcare in America. And I was happy with having the choice of healthcare or no healthcare.
if your poor and cant afford insurance maybe take a look at the reason why your poor.
wow you really have no clue what you're talking about.
About 44 million people in this country have no health insurance, and another 38 million have inadequate health insurance. This means that nearly one-third of Americans face each day without the security of knowing that, if and when they need it, medical care is available to them and their families.source
I myself have what is considered "very good" insurance provided by my employer. That still didn't prevent me from spending $20,000 out of my own pocket from medical bills over the past 2 and a half years.
I have also had four different doctors recommend specific treatment that they believe I need, only for my insurance company to deny the claim. This treatment I need would cost me about $12,000 to $15,000 a year and it's simply not something I can afford right now.
I can also post hundreds of links of specific examples of people who have been denied treatment, even in the ER.