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This April 16 was commemorated in Venezuela for more than one reason. The date marks the realization of a dream of Fidel and Chávez: the Barrio Adentro Mission, whose 14-year history makes it a unique achievement

The Barrio Adentro (Inside the Neighborhood) Mission has made it possible to guarantee medical care for the poorest sectors of the Venezuelan population. 

CARACAS.— Cuban collaborators in all social missions working in Venezuela celebrated two important events this April 16: the 56th anniversary of the declaration of the socialist character of the Cuban Revolution, and 14 years since the creation of one of the most beautiful initiatives in the history of the two peoples: the Misión Barrio Adentro (Inside the Neighborhood Mission).

Dr. Roberto González Martín, head of the Cuban Medical Mission in Venezuela, told reporters that this is an immense task, which has seen 135,000 Cuban health specialists offer their services in the country. “There is no other (mission) that equals it in the whole world; it was built by Fidel and Chávez, who left it written in the Plan for the Homeland.

“When you read the Plan for the Homeland,” the doctor reflected, “you realize what a unique system means in a country like this, where there is primary, secondary health care, institutes, private medicine. You realize – because the population tells us, because it is reflected in surveys and also the leaders of the Revolution tell us so – that it is a miracle, never seen in the sphere of solidarity.”

Roberto González noted that “more and more Venezuelans tell us ‘look, I had my family, my mother, in a clinic but I ran out of money, I ran out of money, I need you to help me,’ and we welcome them and treat them, and more and more thank us. That’s why I say that the Venezuelan Revolution has the strength of all its missions.”

The head of the Mission can not forget how when in 2002, the opposition attempted to perpetrate a coup against President Hugo Chávez, the people gratefully descended from the hillsides of Caracas, the same people who had never seen a doctor until the Revolution arrived, who did not know of any previous governments concerned with their problems. They went down to the Miraflores Presidential Palace, and managed to defeat the coup while those behind it fled.

An ophthalmology consultation at the Tulio Pineda Comprehensive Diagnostic Center (CDI), part of the Barrio Adentro Mission, located in San Juan de los Morros, Guarico State, Venezuela. Photo: Yander Zamora

Nor can he help but recall that when the Barrio Adentro Mission began, 57% of the population had no access to health care services. For this reason, the mission was based in areas of extreme poverty. It was a glorious period, the health professional noted, as Cubans provided care for more than two million people in addition to those who were already being treated.

As the mission started out, Roberto highlighted, it was a dream to think that Venezuela, with more than 32 million inhabitants, would now be within days of achieving 100 percent primary health care coverage. In order to achieve such a feat, many human resources were required: “The first thing the Revolution did was to train them (Venezuelan health professionals). The ones here trained alongside our collaborators.

“At the beginning we were the only teachers, but over time those (Venezuelan) doctors who have since graduated, and are already specialists, are training the new generations together with our forces.”

This sister nation now has 22,000 new medical graduates; 8,000 of whom are specialists. More than 32,000 medical students are currently undertaking their undergraduate studies, as a continuity of everything that has been achieved by the Mission.

Reaching one hundred percent primary health care coverage, which would make Venezuela the second country in the world (after Cuba) to achieve such a feat, is not the final goal, as Roberto explained, but an inspirational step to further advance the efforts to improve human wellbeing.