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Morales says Cuban doctors top U.S. medical aid

Morales says Cuban doctors top U.S. medical aid

President Evo Morales on Friday acknowledged the positive effects of American aid in Bolivia, but said that Cuban doctors had brought greater benefits than their U.S. counterparts.
A bipartisan delegation led by incoming Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid met with Morales for more than an hour on Thursday and they asked the populist leader to better recognize U.S. aid for South America's poorest country.
But in a Friday interview with Bolivian radio network Fides, Morales said the U.S. medical aid was outshone by that of Cuban President Fidel Castro, who has sent Bolivia some 1,700 doctors and paramedics this year alone, setting up free hospitals and eye clinics throughout Bolivia.
Morales said the senators had told him "that we should value their doctors. We do value the American doctors that are here in Bolivia. And they help us. But their impact is not as great as the opthamology centers" set up by Cuba.
The United States sent an estimated US$145 million (euro110 million) in total aid to Bolivia in 2006, with US$17 million (euro13 million) set aside for medical programs. Free clinics hosted by U.S. military doctors treated some 12,000 Bolivians this year, according to figures provided by the U.S. Embassy in La Paz.
"We believe that we need this government to recognize what we as a country have done for Bolivia," Reid told The Associated Press after Thursday's meeting, citing not only medical programs but support for developing new exports such as coffee and hearts of palm. "I don't think they've done that enough."
Since Morales' election a year ago as Bolivia's first Indian president, he has expanded the country's ties with Castro.
Morales on Friday commended Cuba for its generosity in the face of long-running U.S. sanctions against the island nation.
"The country most attacked by the empire is the country that most helps the people," Morales said.
During the short visit, neither Morales or the senators publicly mentioned the case of Amauris Sanmartino, a dissident Cuban doctor set to be deported from Bolivia for criticizing Morales' close ties to Havana.
Sanmartino fled Cuba in 2000 on a boat bound for Florida. Picked up by U.S. immigration authorities, the group was taken to Guantanamo Bay before U.S. officials helped find them a home in Bolivia.
Sanmartino has expressed a desire to be sent to Miami, but both U.S. and Bolivian officials have expressed doubts that the United States would accept him.
Joining Reid on the trip were incoming Majority Whip Richard Durbin, a Democrat from Illinois; Sen. Kent Conrad, a Democrat from North Dakota; Sen. Judd Gregg, a Republican from New Hampshire; Sen. Robert Bennett, a Republican from Utah, and Colorado Democrat Ken Salazar.
The U.S. delegation left Bolivia Friday for Ecuador, where it was to meet with populist President-elect Rafael Correa. The senators will then travel to Peru for talks with center-left President Alan Garcia on Jan. 2.


Updated : 2021-06-13 03:50 GMT+08:00