There is perhaps no worse political disaster for the government of Cuba than the death of President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela. After the Soviet Union collapsed and ceased to subsidize the Castro regime, the government of Cuba went through a very difficult period. That is, until President Chávez picked up the tab.
While the real amount of the subsidy is unknown, Venezuela does send more than 115,000 barrels of oil a day to the refinery at Cienfuegos and pays for tens of thousands of Cuban doctors and sports trainers who are deployed all over Latin America. The true amount is probably significantly north of five billion dollars a year.
If there was anybody that could expect the very best Cuban medicine had to offer, it was the Castro's five billion dollar man. This makes the upcoming death of Chávez that much more embarrassing for the Castros, because the velocity at which the strongman has deteriorated is due in no small part to the incompetence of the Cuban doctors at Cimeq - the hospital of choice for the communist party leaders.
According to Dr. Jose Marquina, who has become well known for having the only information on the Venezuelan president's condition that has proved over time to be accurate, the Cuban doctors are at least partially at fault for the Venezuelan leader's imminent demise. He has said that the Cubans misdiagnosed the cancer, treating Chávez with chemotherapy and other treatments designed for the wrong type of cancer. This made the disease resistant and impossible to treat, while causing other complications which affected not only Chávez's life expectancy but also the quality of what life remained.
If President Chávez, with an unlimited wallet and access to the best Cuban medicine has to offer —as the VIP of Havana's Cimeq hospital, the hospital of the communist party leadership and Fidel himself — was assassinated by Cuban mal-practice, it begs the question what can ordinary Cubans hope for from their dilapidated dictatorship?
For Americans, subject for years to endless waves of Cuban propaganda through movies like Michael Moore's "Sicko," among so many others, at very least we now know the truth about the island dictatorship's archaic medical infrastructure. Maybe now we can turn that particular page in Cuba's ongoing propaganda war.
Joel D. Hirst is a Principal at Cordoba Group International and author of "El Teniente de San Porfirio," a novel on Socialist Venezuela by Grito Sagrado Press. On Twitter: www.twitter.com/joelhirst