Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez could be forgiven if on New Year’s Eve he is lamenting his previous allegations against the American government supporting a failed coup attempt against his government in 2002 and his subsequent breaking of diplomatic relations with the US in September 2008. Why? Because tonight is at a hospital in Havana Cuba fighting for his life with what Venezuelan government officials describe as “his bout with cancer taking a turn for the worse”. Contrary to filmmaker Michael Moore’s claims that Cuban hospitals deliver far better health care for much less money than those in America, the truth is that they do not. Even with the favored treatment that Chavez will receive in Cuba as a foreign leader who has pumped hundreds of millions of dollars into the coffers of that country, their health professionals and their medical equipment are no match for what would be available in the United States, or in Canada for that matter.
Cuba is fond of publishing statistics about its health care system that present a rosy picture. But there is no independent method permitting verification of any of their claims, and, of course, public criticism of the government is a crime in Cuba. Recent exposés on American television by 20/20 and Fox News demonstrate that the intrusion of Cuban politics into medical treatment and health care decision-making has had a serious and detrimental effect on healthcare there.
Chavez for months did not acknowledge the exact nature of his illness, other than to say that he has cancer of an unknown type and unknown location. Before his latest trip to Cuba for treatment, however, he did acknowledge that his condition has deteriorated. Indeed, he suggested a successor to his position in the event of his demise. Sunday, December 30, 2012 Vice President Nicolas Maduro said from Havana that Chavez now faces “new complications” due to a respiratory infection that has arisen since his last operation. This operation was his 4th in Cuba. He also described Chavez’s condition as “delicate.” Many New Year’s Eve celebrations are reportedly being canceled based on the increasingly bleak outlook for his survival. Instead of celebrating they are being asked by government officials to pray for Chavez.
Praise is due President Obama for his efforts to re-open diplomatic relations with Venezuela following the long, harsh rhetoric between former President George W. Bush and Chavez. President Obama began his efforts in the summer of 2009 and his efforts have continued to the present date. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton advanced the US efforts by having Roberta Jacobson, a top US State Department official in charge of Latin-American affairs, begin dialogue with Vice President Maduro. It seems that those discussions have been largely successful. Now, whether or not Chavez succeeds in his battle with cancer, diplomatic relations between the two countries will likely continue. It is a pity, however, that Chavez is apparently still not comfortable seeking out and receiving the best healthcare in the world–available exclusively in the United States of America.