The first report I saw came from the Italian news agency ANSA on April 22.
“La Paz, April 22.— A commission of deputies are to investigate the case of Bolivian scholarship student who died in Cuba, and whose body was repatriated without several vital organs, including the brain.
“Guillermo Mendoza, president of the Chamber’s Social Policy Commission, announced that he would ask the Foreign Ministry for all facts on the case, according to the Catholic news agency Fides.
“The family of Beatriz Porco Calle, who was studying in Cuba on a scholarship, claimed that Cuban Embassy officials delivered her body without her eyes, tongue, teeth or other vital organs, including her brain, without any explanation whatsoever.
“Deputy Mendoza said he would carry out ‘a thorough review’ of Cuban legislation on organ transplants and of the agreements signed by Bolivian scholarship students when they travel to Cuba.”
The Spanish news agency EFE has a similar article, but which adds,
“…the family of the young woman demanded compensation from the Cuban Embassy in Bolivia, and when it was denied, ‘threatened to go to the press.’”
“I think the families have gone too far in asking for ‘compensation,’ said the (Bolivian) foreign minister, who affirmed that his government had done ‘humanitarian work’ in this case,”
the article said.
For any observer of reality, not much more was needed. Everything could be deduced about what had happened.
Despite that, I inquired about the formal paperwork, I asked for details and clarification in order to respond to this alleged and inhuman plunder of a corpse. I asked in addition for specific information, with exact figures, on our medical cooperation with Bolivia, a country of our America that the empire would like to destroy.
Since the election of Evo Morales, an Indian through-and-through, in long-suffering Bolivia, we have offered support in public health and education. I remember that afternoon very well. We were convinced that we could save many thousands of lives every year and restore the vision and full health to countless people, at no cost whatsoever to that nation. An intensive, proven comprehensive literacy program was to be implemented immediately in several languages, including the one most spoken: Spanish.
In Bolivia, 119 Cuban teachers worked with the goal of transmitting their experience and knowledge, in order to declare it a territory free of illiteracy in just two-and-a-half years. From the start, our country provided the equipment and educational materials necessary to meet this challenge: 30,000 21-inch televisions imported from China; an equal number of VCRs, with 16,459 transformers and 2,000 photovoltaic systems, which comprised a whole network for the subsequent educational courses throughout the day; 1.359 million flashcards for teaching people to read and write in Spanish, Quechua and Aymara; reading booklets and other materials that I will leave out so that this list will not be an endless one. Some solar panels from our reserves for war were sent to Bolivia. The likewise free transport of those materials was officially guaranteed by Cuba to Evo during a visit to our country a few weeks after his victory.
For its part, Venezuela, which had just been declared a territory free of illiteracy using the “Yes, I Can Do It” method, joined the program.
In Bolivia, 23,727 literacy stations were created, with 76.6% of illiterate people joining up, and 62% of those who did not learn to read and write in elementary school are now able to do so; they were not charged a single centavo.
It was, however, in the healthcare field where the greatest cooperation efforts with that nation were made, there where Che and other Cuban and Latin American comrades and a young German internationalist died. In that sphere, no country can compete with Cuba today and perhaps not for quite some time. It is a form of free collaboration with the poorest, and at the same time a source for exporting services to other countries in the world that have many more resources available. In Latin America especially, and in the Caribbean, we have provided free cooperation in that field to the neediest.
There are 1,852 compatriots working ardently in Bolivia; of those, 1,226 are doctors; 250 are specialized nurses; 119 are health technicians; nine are dentists; and 86 are professionals and technicians in other fields; plus 102 selected people, dedicated to the vital services of all types needed by Cuban brigades abroad and patients admitted.
The Cuban Medical Brigade is working in 215 municipalities in Bolivia’s nine departments, attending to modest people and those who ask for their services. They have optimal equipment, donated by our country. In 18 ophthalmological surgical posts, 186,508 patients have received eye surgery. Their capacity easily exceeds 130,000 annually.
Our doctors have now provided almost 12 million consultations since the first ones arrived in Bolivia. Just by calculating, the number of lives saved may be estimated, given that, generally, their patients were not receiving any attention at all.
Perhaps the most striking aspect of our medical cooperation lies in the education of 5,291 young Bolivians who are studying medicine in Cuba, including 621 at the Latin American School of Medicine, where three classes have graduated with excellent results, and 4,670 from the new program. I am not exaggerating when I say that the firmest and most combative friends of Cuba in Latin America, and of course in Bolivia, include the families whose sons and daughters are studying that specialty in our country.
The number of the passport carried by the young student Beatriz Porco Calle, 22 years old, to whom the news article refers, was 5968246; she was from the department of Oruro, Samara province, municipality of Curahuara de Carangas, rural community of Toypicollana, of indigenous descent and Christian Adventist religion. She was doing well in her second year of medical school, at the Miguel Sandarán Corzo Faculty in Matanzas.
She suddenly fainted on March 6 in the bathroom of her dorm. Doctors and professors decided to take her immediately to the provincial hospital. The physical exam did not reveal anything that could explain the reason, nor did the laboratory analysis and other tests, including a CT scan. She recovered well and was released. She presented migraines and dizziness shortly afterwards. Further medical investigation. She felt stressed. The appropriate medications for such situations were applied. On March 23, at 7:30 p.m., loss of consciousness again. Once again to the emergency room, accompanied by a professor; intensive care, where she was diagnosed before dying with what is known as brain death.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Bolivian ambassador were notified, and they prepared travel documentation in case of death, which is what occurred almost one week later, on the 28th.
She was sent to the National Institute of Legal Medicine, which was obliged to do an autopsy to establish the cause of death. The pertinent paperwork was strictly followed. The student’s boyfriend and other classmates collected her belongings and sealed the baggage. In the Faculty, a mass on March 31. The Institute’s literal diagnosis: “death by endocraneal hypertension, hemorrhagic cerebrovascular disease due to congenital cerebral vascular malformation within the meninges.” In that case, the extraction of the visceral block and the taking of relevant samples were inevitable.
A professor from her Faculty accompanied the body to Bolivia until it was given to her relatives. The Cuban Medical Mission paid for the cost of shipping the body to her hometown and for the funeral.
It is hard to write about this. Even harder to read the cables that are transmitting throughout the world the idea of a body stripped of its organs, obliging Cuba to provide these explanations.
What happened is quite clear. The empire needs to counteract truths about Cuba that it cannot bear. It schemes and encourages relatives to demand compensation; it assigns the task, as may be seen in one of the cables, and sends a repugnant lie around the world via a parliamentary deputy and the Fides news agency. From there, the demolition machine of its media and media techniques.
In our own country — I do not hesitate to say this — there are insensitive people, with scarce knowledge of certain realities, who will quickly and unthinkingly respond by saying, “we shouldn’t be helping Bolivia.” They will never understand that both in politics and in revolution, the alternative to an erroneous or mistaken strategy is defeat.
Fidel Castro Ruz
April 24, 2008