Juan Diego Vásquez, in a National Assembly archive photo.
A simple loaded question should have elicited a simple candid answer
So, after barrages of insulting interruptions from his PRD colleagues, Juan Diego Vásquez, the independent from San Miguelito who got the most votes in that multi-member circuit, asked the health minister a simple question:
Do you pay the Cuban doctors?
At that point a recess was called. The question was never answered.
From the minister, the Panamanian people did get a defense of why the Cubans were brought in. Actually, it was a pretty sound explanation and a defense against charges in the air but not especially raised in the National Assembly chamber.
The United States government, and more so the ultra-right-wing Cuban exile movement based in the USA, objects to any country employing Cuban medical help. The basic reason is a failed 70-year embargo designed to crush the Cuban economy and bring about a government in Havana more amenable to doing what the government in Washington tells it to do.
Like Barack Obama before him, Joe Biden is moving away from the old policy. The exile leaders are scions of an organization founded by Fidel Castro’s ex-brother-in-law. That guy, who back in his influential days in Havana aligned himself with dictator Fulgenjcio Batista and mobster Meyer Lansky, held forth the promises of restored privileges. His movement will do ANYTHING toward that end – break into Democratic Party offices, bomb civilian airliners out of the sky, plot to blow up the University of Panama central campus, sign onto the QAnon weirdness, support the violent overthrow of the elected US government. And they certainly don’t mind the additional deaths of Panamanians if the Havana government’s revenues can be reduced.
Cuba earns foreign exchange cash by exporting the services of highly skilled and poorly paid physicians. In this way Cuba also earns debts of gratitude from people in places where plagues, wars and famines are ravaging the population.
So it is, actually, a labor rights issue. Shouldn’t Cuban doctors be paid something like a global prevailing wage?
But coming from Washington, whose decades of neoliberal economic policies have been precisely about chases around the planet for the cheapest possible labor, the argument about Cuban doctors’ pay is grotesquely hypocritical. Let’s hope that an attempt to gain some sympathy in Washington and Miami was not the purpose of Mr. Vásquez’’s question. That would imply a disrespect for Panama’s sovereign right to make its own decisions in a time of crisis.
Set aside mind reading about motives, though. An elected legislator has a right to ask a question about Panama’s international financial dealings, and the people of Panama have a right to a straightforward answer.
That we were denied this is but one marker on a road toward a failed administration.
Timeline of a day of shame
Yes, everyone knows that the Republicans will vote to acquit Trump. But the record will have been made, and then on appeal the question will be whether the US electorate will acquit the Republicans.
Photo by John Mathew Smith & www.celebrity-photos.com
Among poor people, there’s not any question about women being strong — even stronger than men — they work in the fields right along with the men. When your survival is at stake, you don’t have these questions about yourself like middle-class women do.
Bear in mind…
No one can build his security upon the nobleness of another person.
The important thing in science is not so much to obtain new facts as to discover new ways of thinking about them.
Sir William Bragg
Rarely do great beauty and great virtue dwell together.
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