Cuba’s total harvesting of Bolivian student’s organs angers family, state
SANTA CRUZ, Bolivia — A young Bolivian medical student, who died of an apparent brain hemorrhage while in Cuba on a governmentsponsored scholarship this spring, was returned to her family in Bolivia with all of her organs missing, touching off controversy about Cuba’s growing presence in Bolivia.
The case of Beatriz Porco Calle has shocked the Bolivian public, which has generally welcomed medical and educational cooperation that Cuba has offered through official agreements with Bolivia’s leftist president, Evo Morales.
“They took out everything,” said Miss Porco Calle’s horrified sister, Sofia, who showed the body stuffed with sponge cotton and then stitched back up to TV cameras.
“Her lungs, kidneys, liver, ovaries down her vagina are gone. They even pulled out her tongue and her teeth,” said Sofia Porco Calle, who accuses the Cuban government of trying to cover up the scandal to conceal its role in organ trafficking.
Cuban socialized medicine has been a showcase achievement of Fidel Castro’s revolution and served as an important tool of Cuba’s international diplomacy to gain influence in the Third World.
There are about 30,000 Cuban doctors conducting humanitarian missions and emergency relief work in Africa and Latin America.
Cuban doctors were recently called in to handle an epidemic of dengue fever in Brazil.
Close to 2,000 Cuban medics have been sent to Bolivia since Mr. Morales became president in 2006, establishing clinics in remote areas and treating thousands of patients in poor rural communities.
Beatriz Porco Calle, a promising student, who had finished at the top of her class in her home province of Oruro, was among 1,000 Bolivian medical students who had gone to Cuba to receive free medical training through scholarship grants arranged between the two governments.
Bolivia’s medical association has publicly called for an official investigation into her death, point- ing to the “strange way it’s been handled.”
Dr. Gueider Salas, who heads the association in Santa Cruz, said the Cuban government has not offered any satisfactory explanation.
He blames a “lack of professional controls over Cuban medical activities” and thinks the Cuban government could be trying to hide the cause of her death.
Cuba’s ambassador to Bolivia, Rafael Dausa, said the Porco Calle family is stirring up the controversy to get a financial indemnity. He insists the treatment of the woman’s body is “normal.”
“We carried all the costs of transferring the body, legal procedures, certificates [. . . ] and even the silk thread to sewn up the cadaver. We did it as a gesture of solidarity and transparency with a Bolivian family,” Mr. Dausa said.
According to Sofia Porco Calle, the Cuban Embassy tried to apply pressures through local government officials to keep her family silent. “Our fear was that my sister’s cadaver would get thrown away, and we wouldn’t receive it.”