Venezuela Begins Construction of Six New Hospitals

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez inaugurated the construction of six new hospitals across the country on his national TV and radio program Aló Presidente Sunday. Chavez also criticized increased consumption of imported luxury goods.
Venezuela President Hugo Chavez during his TV show Aló Presidente on Sunday.

Mérida, October 1, 2007 ( Venezuelan
President Hugo Chavez inaugurated the construction of six new hospitals across
the country on his national TV and radio program Aló Presidente yesterday. The president praised the results of his
government's health program, Barrio Adentro, and promised to continue
increasing access to health care and education in the country. Chavez also
criticized increased consumption of imported luxury goods, and threatened to
tighten controls on the importation of these goods.

"Today we are beginning the construction of 15
hospitals that are going to have two purposes. They are all going to be general
hospitals, but each one of them is going to have a different specialty,"
said Chavez from the hospital construction site in central state of Barinas.

As part of the fourth phase of the national health system
Barrio Adentro, the government has announced the construction of 15 advanced
general hospitals, each with a different specialty. On Sunday the president
inaugurated the construction of the first six of these hospitals to be finished
over the next two years. These six will be specialized in toxicology, oncology,
gastroenterology, urology, cardiology, and maternity, and will be spread out in
six different states around the country.

Chavez hosted his TV and radio show from his home state of
Barinas where he inaugurated the construction of the hospital to be built
there. Specializing in toxicology, this hospital will have a total of 170 beds
for general medicine, 30 beds for special cases, operating rooms, emergency
room, intensive care, diagnostics, a heart care unit, a helicopter landing pad,
and a hotel. The hospital will require an investment of Bs. 2.5 trillion (US$
1.2 billion), much of which will come from the Fonden development fund.

"This hospital is going to be the same as the Infant Cardiology
Hospital [in Caracas], as will all of the 15 hospitals
that we are announcing. This is Barrio Adentro 4, the third level of integrated
health care for all the people of Venezuela," said Chavez.

President Chavez went on to acknowledge the contributions of
the more than 30,000 Cuban medical personnel that staff the Barrio Adentro
health program across the country. Chavez assured that the Cuban doctors who have
been working in the country over the last five years have saved more lives than
in all of Venezuelan history and stressed that their aid has been worth
"much more" than what Venezuela sends Cuba in oil.

The president read some statistics about the Barrio Adentro
health program, explaining that in 2007 the infant mortality rate dropped by
almost 25 percent, saving the lives of some 1200 infants. Around 60 million
medical treatments have been carried out, according to the statistics, and
nearly 9 million people are receiving permanent rehabilitation through the
program. In Caracas
infant mortality decreased by 75 percent, according to government statistics.

Chavez criticized those who have accused him of "giving
money to Cuba,"
calling them "foolish."

"If someone could add it up, dollar by dollar, cent by
cent, what is worth more? The barrels of petroleum that we sell to Cuba,
or this?" he asked, referring to the contributions of the Cuban medical

Chavez also warned private health clinics again about their
prices. The Chavez government has been trying to apply price controls to the
private clinics in the country, but Chavez admitted on Sunday that he had been
"letting it go" lately to allow them to adjust. He assured that he
would be forced to take further measures if the private medical sector did not
follow the regulations.

He also warned private schools about following the national
school curriculum that was released by the Ministry of Education recently.

"Any school that doesn't abide by the new curriculum,
nationalize it," said Chavez to his ministers.

Chavez went on to criticize excess consumption of luxury
goods in the country, for which he said currency controls will have to be
tightened. Although the president assured that the economic growth is
continuing, he criticized the amount of resources being spent on luxury goods
such as whiskey and Hummer vehicles.

"Let's tighten the controls because the currency
controls have gotten too relaxed," he said to his ministers. "What
country is this anyway, and what revolution is this? The revolution of whiskey,
of hummers? No, this is a real
revolution my friend, for real!"

Chavez stressed that the nation's international reserves
must be used on social projects and productive projects, and not on
"consumption that is just as disturbing for the government as for
society." The Chavez government controls imports through exchange
controls, exchanging a limited amount of Bolivars to dollars to be used by
importers on the international market. He assured that "not one
dollar" would be approved for importing Hummers into the country. He also
assured limits would be put on the importation of whiskey.

"I am not willing to keep giving out dollars to
import whiskey in the amounts that we are giving out. Everything that it has
cost us to recover the economy, blood, sweat and tears, just to give dollars to
the rich so they can buy Hummers and drink whiskey and whatever else? No
way!" he said.