We believe that all the agreements that Venezuela concluded with other countries to be able to make donations, grant loans or carry out financial or other investments (e.g. service) without any form of repayment or benefit for the republic are “gifts”.
There are a number of considerations that are taken into account when the gifts are counted but these are mostly based on announcements made by the President Hugo Chávez, or, if there are none, announcements of high-ranking government officials. They are based on ideas reflected in plans and programs of various ministerial portfolios and/or organizations (such as PDVSA that issues reports on some investments or programs abroad).
Before March 2007 (date of the last update), the government of Hugo Chávez had spent almost 28 billion US dollars on foreign aid directed to more than 30 countries. Cuba received 7 billion 573 million 613 thousand dollars; thanks to that it ranks the first among the countries with the largest donations and/or benefits from the government of Hugo Chávez.
I. INTEGRAL COOPERATION ACCORD BETWEEN CUBA AND venezuela
The Presidents of Venezuela and Cuba, Hugo Chávez and Fidel Castro respectively, signed the Integral Cooperation Accord (Acuerdo de Cooperación Integral) on October 30th, 2000. Both governments agreed to create cooperation programs and projects whose implementation involves participation of public and private institutions of both countries, their universities and non-government organizations. According to the agreement, Cuba will provide services and technologies available to it to support the economic and social development program in Venezuela. The cooperation programs will be defined each year and they will include detailed information on the monetary amount, specifications, regulations and forms in which they are to be provided. The goods and services will be paid for by Venezuela according to the world price of oil and its derivatives (exchange of oil for technological and sport support).
This part of the agreement was amended in August 2001 upon request of the Cuban government. From this date on, Venezuela started to suspend the payments for technical and sports services received in 2001. As a result of this amendment, Venezuela had to cancel 10 million dollars.
Although the exchange program was suspended, the Caracas Energy Agreement (Acuerdo Energético de Caracas), by which Venezuela committed to sell 53 thousand barrels of oil a day to Cuba under special financing conditions, continued to be properly fulfilled and what is more, the amount destined to Cuba was raised to 92 thousand barrels a day in 2004.
SERVICES AND PRODUCTS OFFERED BY VENEZUELA TO CUBA:
92 thousand barrels a day
Venezuela has committed to providing Cuba with goods and services that involve technical assistance and support given by public and private entities and to supplying to Cuba crude oil and oil derivatives in the amount of 53 thousand barrels a day, which was later raised to 92 thousand barrels a day. The validity of this contract is 5 years and it can be extended upon mutual agreement of both countries.
The oil debt is divided in 2 parts: a short-term debt in hands of PDVSA and a 15-year long long-term debt with a 2 % interest rate endorsed by the corporation to the republic as soon as it receives the promissory notes guaranteeing the debt. For each consignment, Banco Nacional de Cuba issues 15 promissory notes that have a 2-year grace period and are payable annually apart from the third year.
However, the President Hugo Chávez and other governmental representatives have many times asserted that Cuba’s payments to Venezuela are realized through medical, sport and educational assistance (exchange). Venezuela is nevertheless obliged to pay for the services provided by such advisors. “The support provided to us by Cuba in healthcare is endless and it cannot be measured in the price of one barrel of oil”, said Rafael Ramírez, Minister (08/02/2007).
SERVICES AND PRODUCTS OFFERED BY CUBA TO VENEZUELA:
Cuba has offered to Venezuela technical support and expertise with the aim to contribute to the improvement, modernization and development of the system of agroindustrial production of sugar and its derivatives. In this regard, Cuba has promised to participate in the construction of three sugar plants, namely in Barinas (with the capacity of 7 thousand tons), Guárico (2,500 tons) and Apure (1,200 tons). Cuba has also agreed to organize postgraduate and training courses for experts in agroindustry and its derivatives.
The result of this contract was disastrous since only one of the three sugar plants that were to be built and were expected to be working by now has been completely finished. Still, it does not produce the expected amount of sugar. The one finished plant is Complejo Agroindustrial Ezequiel Zamora in Barinas, whose construction cost the exchequer as much as 3 billion 320 million bolivars. A group of Venezuelan military officers and civilians were accused of fraud together with one Cuban expert; they were immediately driven out of the country and the General Prosecution Office of Venezuela placed no responsibility on them, not even when they were designated by the community as those who have committed corruption.
Cuba agreed to provide training to hotel management personnel and other staff employed in tourism, of middle and basic levels; training in promotion and marketing of tourist services and in quality control related to such services. Cuba has also offered to participate in the establishment of a binational hotel/school in Venezuela and to provide support in promoting and marketing tourist destinations and services.
In March 2007, Venezuela and Cuba agreed to extend the binational agreement (Convenio Integral Binacional) in this field by embarking on two projects: one focusing on the development of tourism in the most important coastal areas and the other aiming at providing trainings to communities and service providers. The agreement on tourism is worth 7.5 billion; its first phase will begin in 10 months and requires an investment of 3.5 billion bolivars.
Agriculture and Food
Technical support projects for the production of various crops for human consumption including vegetables and plants grown using organoponic farming; projects and technical support for draining and irrigation systems; construction of factories for the production of organic fertilizers; technical assistance in establishing medical production; technical assistance in developing the Special Program for Food Security (Programa Especial de Seguridad Alimentaria – PESA) under the auspices of FAO; promotion of agrarian and cattle cooperatives; postgraduate courses in Cuba specializing in forestry, agriculture, pig breeding and other fields; and technical support in citrus production.
PESA Project:Even when the general project counted with cultivating 1,000 hectares in Caracas, only two pilot projects for organoponic farming were developed in the city of Caracas: Bolívar I and Bolívar II. They were a total failure. Although Bolívar II is still active, the production of vegetables and plants it yields is not put on market. The most successful Venezuelan experience in this respect was observed in the state of Cojedes, where it was possible to grow several of these crops. As for micro-gardens (system of growing plants in boxes devised for families living in cities), they had a very low impact on urban population. The total investment in the project: was 885 thousand dollars.
In July 2006, Elías Jaua, Minister of Agriculture and Land, announced that 4,000 Cuban experts would come to Venezuela to assist to local farmers with the aim to reduce the costs of agricultural production. 2,000 of these have already come to Venezuela.
Sale of Products
Cuba has committed to sell to Venezuela generic drugs, vaccinations, pesticides and medical equipment. Of the 106 generic drugs (medicines) that are imported from Cuba, 12 products are of dubious quality and in spite of the fact that their administration has not been approved by competent authorities, they are distributed to public by Misión Barrio Adentro.
On September 17th, 2001, the first batch of Cuban medicaments and equipment worth 20 million 681 thousand 175 dollars was delivered to Venezuela. These products were severely criticized by the Venezuelan Medical Federation and by the Venezuelan Network of Scientific Medical Societies which claimed that a great part of this equipment was obsolete and rather basic from the technological point of view. The National Sanitary Institute (an authority responsible for approving all medicaments used in the country) had not approved the medicaments, some of which were obviously more expensive than similar products offered by other suppliers. The exact amount of medicaments that come to Venezuela from Cuba is not known at the moment, nor is the total investment that has been made in this respect.
Cuba has offered its technical assistance in carrying out projects and works related to the development of national railway system.
Cuba has committed to provide professional support focusing on the following fields: optimization of education and training of teachers for preschool, special, primary, secondary and technical-vocational education and improvement of the education system at these levels and types of schools; consolidation of Bolivarian Schools (Escuelas Bolivarianas); methodologies for literacy teaching of individuals, groups or through mass communication.
As a result of this agreement, approximately 400 Cuban advisors are currently staying in the country. They are incorporated in different educational missions carried out by the Venezuelan government.
In relation to the conditions of the “Bolivarian Schools” where the intervention of Cuban professionals was really significant, the Ministry of Education and Sport carried out an evaluation through Sinea – Sistema Nacional de Medición y Evaluación del Aprendizaje (National System for Measurement and Evaluation of Learning) in 2003. It was the only evaluation applied to the program of Bolivarian schools (created in 1999) and the first one that the national education system was subjected to by the government. Its results were never published. They reveal that the main objective of the project – improve the quality of education – has not been achieved.
It is a paradox that the program of Bolivarian Schools, which was created to improve quality, is the one that has scored the lowest in the evaluation. An academic proposal cannot consist only of numbers related to the amount of investment and the assumed increase in the number of enrolled students. The Bolivarian Schools, “whose levels can be worse than those of 2003” reflect shortcomings which result from a diversion from the project. The project started with 500 schools. Their whole staff converted to Bolivarian overnight, destroying all the educational process that used to be divided in stages, notwithstanding the fact that it used to have political connotations.
Sending up to 3,000 managers and other professionals and experts in various sport disciplines and physical education,with the aim to support Venezuela in this field and to contribute to its development. The possibility of training Venezuelan managers, physical education teachers and other sport professionals and experts in Cuba was also considered.
Health Care Services and Staff Training in Cuba
Cuba has committed to offer postgraduate studies in General Medicine; education of healthcare personnel and other healthcare specialists through intensive courses to contribute to the improvement of healthcare services and extending the scope of healthcare services in isolated areas of Venezuela; treatment of addictions in Cuban therapeutic institutions; specialized medical check-ups and potential therapeutic treatments of Venezuelan oil workers and experts; and other services.
In June 2006, there were 26,600 Cuban doctors in Venezuela (Ricardo Lage, Cuban Vice-President), whom the Venezuelan government not only provided with accommodation and maintenance but also paid them a salary of about 200 to 400 dollars.
From the 26,600 doctors in 2006 only 1,400 provided their curricula and accreditations to Venezuelan College of Doctors.
Only 1,794 Venezuelan doctors were involved in the Misión Barrio Adentro. The President of the College of Doctors justified the number by saying it is an “issue of education”.
In March 2007, there were 1,420 Cuban tutors certified at the highest level in General Comprehensive Medicine who were in charge of training of 1,023 Venezuelan general practitioners (recently graduated, in only 2 years and a half). Even though Dr. Fernando Biando (Colegio de Médicos del Distrito Metropolitano de Caracas) assured us in 2006 that these physicians would gradually substitute the Cuban doctors, in 2007 he said: “there are no plans to substitute them for now since general practitioners will fill vacant positions in Venezuelan primary health care”.
In April 2007, Latin American School of Medical Sciences (ELAM) was opened in Venezuela where the first cohort of 631 Latin American students including 100 Cubans is going to study. The aim of this project is to educate 200 thousand general practitioners from Latin America and the Caribbean in 10 years. The amount that the country is going to invest in the project in order to fulfil its objective is not known yet but the costs of purchasing the buildings have so far reached 18 billion bolivars. What is more, the students will receive free education, learning material, accommodation, food and a maintenance bonus after they gain the degree.
On November 30th, 2000, the first flight from Venezuela to Cuba was dispatched within the Program of Treatment of Venezuelan Patients in Cuba. 14,539 patients and 11,675 of their companions have been attended so far. Nevertheless, a great part of the treatments that these patients undergo costs Venezuela more than it would cost if these patients were treated in the country.
The organization Solidaridad Sin Fronteras – SSF (Solidarity without Borders) claims that about 500 Cuban doctors from Misión Barrio Adentro have fled from Venezuela. Some of these doctors have reported that, among other things, they were mistreated by their Cuban supervisors who forbade them to go out of their flats after 5pm and forced them to falsify medical histories to exaggerate the statistical data; some doctors were treated as prisoners for trying to escape; treatment was provided to Colombian guerrilla fighters wounded along the frontier; there were 10,000 Cuban security agents, policemen and soldiers appointed to the mission to provide protection and track Cuban doctors who are in the country etc.
II. BOLIVARIAN ALTERNATIVE FOR LATIN AMERICA AND THE CARRIBEAN (ALBA)
The joint declaration on the ALBA was signed by the President Hugo Chávez and his Cuban counterpart in the city of La Habana, Cuba, on December 14th, 2004.
THE FOLLOWING FACTS ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT PARTS OF THIS DOCUMENT:
· Opening of 600 Integral Diagnostic Centres (Centros Diagnósticos Integra, CDI), 600 Rehabilitation and Physiotherapy Centres (Salas de Rehabilitación y fisioterapia, SRI) and 35 High Technology Centres (Centros de Alta Tecnología, CAT).
In March 2007, only 307 CDIs, 406 SRIs and 11 CATs in the whole country had started to operate.
· Education of 40 thousand doctors and 5 thousand experts in medical technologies in Venezuela within Programa Barrio Adentro II.
· 100 thousand surgical interventions to Venezuelan patients in 2005.
Until August 2005, only 50 thousand Venezuelans had received treatment in this respect while in the so called “Compromiso Sandino”, an agreement that the countries signed in August 2005, 315 thousand Latin Americans were attended in both Venezuelan and Cuban ophthalmologic centres.
· Education in Cuba provided to 10 thousand bachelors who completed Misión Ribas with specialization in Medicine and Nursing.
· Provision of health care to Venezuelan patients in Cuba.
OTHER AGREEMENTS WITHIN THE ALBA
Energy Revolution Mission
In November 2006, the Energy Revolution Mission was started within the ALBA. Its first stage involved the substitution of 52 million light bulbs; the final step was the installation of devices for the generation of 1000 MW.
Out of the 2,791 brigadiers who provided support to this mission in its first stage, 1,193 were Cuban “social workers” and 1,598 were Venezuelans. When the mission was in progress, they received a maintenance bonus and Venezuela saw to it that they were provided with accommodation during their stay.
In some of the states of the country, a series of frauds occurred in connection with this bulb mission. Light bulbs were sometimes sold to communities or companies. What is more, Cuban “social workers” left on April 13th, 2007, without meeting the objective to substitute 52 million bulbs.
But the description of the most serious fact is still to follow:
One of the most important factories manufacturing energy-saving bulbs in China received an order from Venezuela to produce goods it manufactures (bulbs) worth 100 million dollars. They were sent directly to Cuba to make sure that the promise of the President Hugo Chávez to “illuminate the island as a lighthouse, as a lighthouse that equals Fidel, a lighthouse that has illuminated me” is fulfilled. The amount of purchased bulbs was much higher than needed and the surplus was then sold on (by Cuba) to other Caribbean islands and even to our country.
This is the Energy Mission, an enormous expenditure drawn from our budget. What is more, a new purchase was made worth 150 million dollars that were paid to Vietnam.
The consignment was sent to Cuba and it is equivalent to a 5-6 years’ consumption of bulbs in Venezuela. The products that were sent to Venezuela are overpriced.
It is hard to establish an exact number of Cubans in Venezuela due to the lack of reliable sources of information. Concluding form our research, estimated 34.767 Cubans in total has been operating in Venezuela so far. Venezuela provides the majority of them housing and regular sallary, in some cases up to 400 USD.
III. OTHER INTERESTING AGREEMENTS
AGREEMENT ON HELP IN PENAL MATTERS: This agreement was signed by the government of Venezuela and Cuba and published in the Official Gazette on December 22nd, 2004.
The danger lies in the pronounced difference between Cuban and Venezuelan penal systems – as an example we can mention the use of death penalty in Cuba and its abolition in Venezuela. Therefore, are there are there any guarantees for Venezuelans interrogated in Cuba for crimes; punished or deprived of liberty? Are there any guarantees for the possibilities put forward in the agreement? The text of the agreement is very general and the agreement is not limited to providing support while carrying out the investigation but allows interventions when the crimes in question are not considered crimes according to the legislation of one of the two countries.
IV. TRADE RELATIONS BETWEEN CUBA AND VENEZUELA
Cuba nowadays trades with approximately 170 countries around the world. Cuban exports depend to a great extent on its traditional products. Only six of them (sugar, nickel, tobacco, seafood, coffee and rum) form about 80 % of its exports.
On the other hand, 75 % of the trade exchange is formed by imports, whose main part is fuel and oil, food, machines and chemical equipment and products.
Latin America and the Caribbean have the leading position, forming 73 % of the total exchange (which was even exceeded in 2005). From the countries in this area it is the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela that has again started to rank number one among the Cuban trade partners as a result of the various agreements signed by both countries in adherence to the ALBA principles.
80 % of the trade balance between the two countries is formed by Cuban purchases of Venezuelan goods and services. It is expected that for 2007 the government of Venezuela hopes to triple the exports of Venezuelan products and services to Cuba. Goods and services that include mainly construction materials, confectionery, shoes, textiles and chemical products plus the so valued 90 thousand barrels of oil a day.
Although the trade relations between Venezuela and Cuba are now at their peak, the situation was different in past. In 1998 and before, the average of the trade exchange between these two countries was 450 million dollars of which the exports from Cuba to Venezuela hardly reached around one million dollars.
This situation changed after Hugo Chávez was elected President of Venezuela. He cultivates friendly and very close relations with his Cuban counterpart, Fidel Castro. The Integral Cooperation Accord signed in October 2000 sealed the beginning of mutual trade exchange that is still on the increase. From 2000 to 2006 it grew from 902 million dollars to 2,640 million dollars, which is a 190 % increase when compared to 2000 and a 480 % increase when compared to the period before Hugo Chávez was elected President.