While hitchhiking through Venezuela last year, my friend Amelia Opalinska and I visited a number of Barrio Adentro (Inside the Barrio) clinics, part of the joint Venezuelan-Cuban health initiative begun by Hugo Chávez. The clinics, it turned out, offered free services not only to sick Venezuelans but also to non-sick foreigners who were merely intrigued by the concept of not having to pay for medical procedures—and by clinical decorative schemes, which included portraits of Latin American revolutionaries as well as colorful construction paper calendars advertising the birthdays of staff members, Hugo Chávez, and Fidel Castro.
The effectiveness of Venezuelan-Cuban medical cooperation has been demonstrated by post-earthquake aid to Haiti, whose oil debt to Venezuela has also been cancelled by Chávez. Other purveyors of aid have however sought to downplay contributions made by nations less predisposed to view natural disasters as a moneymaking opportunity.
As for proponents of disease as a moneymaking opportunity, these include the Florida-based Solidaridad sin Fronteras (SSF) organization. In addition to boasting a medical contingent in Haiti, SSF also operates the rebelliously-named Barrio Afuera (Outside the Barrio) program, according to which the appropriate prescription for global ills involves actively encouraging Venezuelan-employed Cuban medical doctors to desert to the United States.
Click here to read a short article I wrote for PULSE last May on our experience at Barrio Adentro clinics in Venezuela; a series of Amelia’s photographs from the clinics appears below.