In the last two months 162 aggressions against Cuban doctors in Venezuela have been registered. A few days ago, the Venezuelan government gave a medal to two of these people, who were almost burnt alive during an opposition attack on a medical centre in Lara state (1).
These attacks are the result of a huge campaign against Cuba created by the private Venezuelan media – 80% of the media in Venezuela, and totally opposition (2). The campaign has then been broadened by ally international mass media. Over the last two months the message of the supposed Cuban interference in Venezuela has intensified (3). The almost daily publication of rumours, accusations without any basis, and testimonies – some quite insane (4) – of supposed ex intelligence agents (5) have lead many people to firmly believe that it is the Cuban government which makes the main political decisions in Venezuela, or that the Cuban doctors are in reality, agents or spies (6).
In Venezuela there are over 30,000 Cuban doctors (7). They treat around 11 million people, mainly in the working class barrios which, years ago, lacked the most basic health services. Even though the doctors were first deployed on a large scale in 2003 with the inauguration of the Mission Barrio Adentro, the first doctors had already arrived in 1999 as humanitarian personnel after the grave floods in Vargas state (8).
But the violent attacks against Cuban personnel aren’t new (9). They have been happening for over ten years, in each destabilisation offensive by the opposition. In April 2013, after Nicolas Maduro’s electoral victory, 25 doctors’ surgeries where Cubans worked were attacked (10). Curiously, in October that year, the Spanish daily El Pais published a report on attacks on overseas volunteer workers and collaborators (11). It spoke of 274 victims of some kind of aggression. But it made no mention of the attacks on Cuban staff. Or of Venezuela. The volunteers it mentioned were from, exclusively, the so called first world, in accordance with the habitual neo-colonial mentality of the Western media. It is something that is better understood once the source of the information is known: the so called Aid Worker Security Database, a project financed by USAID and other Western institutions. On its website, in the section dedicated to media references, there also isn’t a single reference to attacks on Cubans (13).
This same mentality is what leads the media to ignore the huge programs of cooperation between countries of the South (developing or third world countries) that Cuba is leading. Just in terms of health, 50,000 professionals from the island are developing assistance programs to disadvantaged populations in 66 countries (14). So of course, the same media that has never reported on this Cuban cooperation of an extraordinary size, has specialised sections on “cooperation” basically dedicated to praising the work – in many cases anecdotal- of certain European NGOs (15). One example: in April this year the Spanish daily El Mundo published a whole page on support for an orphanage in Haiti which cares for forty children (16). But that newspaper has never once published anything about the fourteen years of Cuban cooperation in Haiti, which has seen 320,000 people become literate and 367,000 people operated on, to just cite two figures (17).
In the last few weeks, El Pais has published reports and articles that try to denigrate the solidarity work of Cuba in Venezuela (18) (19). In contrast, during the same period, it published at least three works, in propagandistic code, about the support by Queen Sofia [of Spain] for Spanish cooperation projects in Guatemala – projects with a limited impact, if we compare them to the Cuban programs in Venezuela (20) (21) (22).
The thing is, Cuba’s cooperation in Venezuela, and in other countries, makes the schemes built up by Western media shaky. Cuba doesn’t undertake mere help. It contributes to the construction of long lasting public health systems in other countries of the South (23). Health systems which generally were abandoned or unattended to by decades of neoliberalism and state budget cut policies. And that’s where the explanation lies – the clear ideological route – of so many slander campaigns against Cuban solidarity in the world.
Translation by Tamara Pearson for Venezuelanalysis.com