Venezuelans Celebrate 12 Years of Health Care Collaboration with Cuba

More than 53,000 Venezuelans have received free health care for chronic diseases in Cuba thanks to a bilateral agreement signed between the two Latin American nations that has increased social services and improved the quality of life for residents of the South American country.


“The Cuba-Venezuela pact is a program of solidarity”, said Venezuelan Health Minister Eugenia Sader during an interview with state television last Tuesday, the 12th anniversary of the initiative.

During the interview, Sader outlined the benefits received by Venezuelans with difficult to treat illnesses who would otherwise be unable to access the care necessary to handle their specific cases.

The Health Minister explained that when the accord was first signed, the limited health care infrastructure of Venezuela prevented individuals from receiving adequate attention.

“We didn’t have what we needed to attend to people. We didn’t have the capacity that we’ve generated today. This agreement is the product of solidarity with Cuba and Venezuela doesn’t pay a dollar for it. It is free assistance for Venezuelan patients”, she said.

Flights leave from Venezuela every Friday for Havana filled with patients who receive free care in Cuba, Sader informed. One of the patients who has received free treatment is Ana Gonzalez, an 11 year old born with short femur.

Ana has been traveling to Cuba for eight years and will receive her final operation in January of 2013 which will allow the youngster to initiate a process of unassisted mobility. According to the girl’s grandmother, Ana Rivero, the bilateral initiative has provided optimism after initial diagnoses recommended amputation.

“This program has meant a lot to us because through it, our hope has returned… It was free and the care was first rate”, Rivero said.

The Venezuela-Cuba pact that sends patients to the Caribbean island was one of the first such agreements to be signed between the two allied nations after Hugo Chavez became President in 1999.

Since 2000, the collaboration has continued to create programs including the social mission Barrio Adentro, which has brought thirty thousand medical professionals to Venezuela to boost free health treatment for residents of the OPEC member state.

Officials report that Barrio Adentro has carried out more than 745 million medical examinations over its 9-year history and has saved the lives of 1.5 million Venezuelans. Another 1.5 million Venezuelans have also received free eye surgery from Mission Miracle, a similar health care program founded in 2004 to provide cost free optical care to residents.