Sick Venezuelans in Cuba under oil-for-medicine deal
HAVANA, Cuba (Reuters) -- Fifty Venezuelans with illnesses ranging from
addiction to bone cancer arrived in Cuba on Thursday to receive free treatment
under a new program in which Cuba will pay in part for oil supplies from
Venezuela by providing medical services.
The Venezuelans were the first to benefit from the cooperation accord signed
last month by Cuban President Fidel Castro and Venezuelan President Hugo
In a deal aimed at solving Cuba's chronic fuel shortages and cash-flow
Havana is allowed to pay partly in goods and services for the 53,000 barrels a
day being sent to the Caribbean island by oil-producing Venezuela.
The Venezuelan patients who arrived on Thursday will mostly stay at the
health spa that for most of this year housed Argentine football legend Diego
Maradona, who nearly died from heart problems linked to drug and alcohol
Cuba's health system is regarded as one of the best in the Third World,
Castro considers it among the greatest achievements of his government since the
1959 Cuban Revolution.
But since the Soviet collapse a decade ago, Cubans have been experiencing
shortage of medicines due to the communist-run island's economic crisis.
The Cuba-Venezuela cooperation accord underlined the strong personal
friendship and political alliance between Castro and Chavez, a left-leaning
populist who was just 4 years old at the time of Cuba's revolution.
Chavez's critics say he wants to take Venezuela down the same communist
as Cuba, something he strongly denies.
Copyright 2000 Reuters.