Cuba’s to­tal har­vest­ing of Bo­li­vian stu­dent’s or­gans angers fam­ily, state

The Washington Times Weekly - - World - By Martin Arostegui

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.”

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