CARACAS, VENEZUELA--President Hugo Chavez has finally come home to Miraflores, but at the same time, on his return from Cuba, supporters fear that the country could face a whopping medical bill.
Thousands, perhaps even a gazillion, turned out at the presidential palace yesterday to witness a show of strength after a nearly month-long hiatus, but many in the crowd wondered how Venezuela would foot a bill that is feared to break the 400 bolivar mark ($93.02).
Venezuela's Finance Minister, Jorge Giordani, could only speculate when asked what the Cuban hospital may charge to treat the president's cancer. "We know Cuban doctors earn, on average, 100 bolivars ($23.25) per month. Hospital rooms can cost anywhere from five to 10 bolivars per day ($1.16 and $2.32) per day depending on how many patients are in a room. Then there are the nurses. And there were a lot of nurses."
Minister of Health, Eugenia Sader, in response to the question: "Why Cuba?": "President Chavez felt the seriousness of his illness forewent his competitive urges when dealing with Venezuelan hospital staff." Because nurses and porters are often not paid on time, it is a common requirement for patients in Venezuelan hospitals to barter with staff for such things as clean bedding, syringes, and surgical instruments.
Sader remarked that after a few days of bed rest, the president could, on a part-time basis, resume his duties such as verbally bashing the "Evil Empire" (the U.S.). The Socialist International reports that other duties will most likely include suppressing dissent, interfering with freedom of the press, mismanaging the economy and, if he's really feeling better, threatening peace to the region.