Subject: Fidel announces expansion of cooperation with Timor Leste


Havana. December 14, 2005

Fidel announces expansion of cooperation with Timor Leste

• Premier Mari Bim Amude Alkatiri in Havana

• Another 400 youth from this nation to join the 199 are already studying Medicine in Cuba

PRESIDENT Fidel Castro has confirmed that Cuba is prepared to receive another 400 young people from Timor Leste for medical training, and to extend the new literacy method Yo sí puedo (Yes, I can do it) to that country.

Accompanied by Prime Minister Mari Bim Amude Alkatiri, Fidel met with the 199 medical students who are taking a preparatory course at the Cojímar Social Work College.

He also announced that a group of 300 doctors are to travel to Timor Leste to offer aid services and contribute to the training of health professionals, and that a few days ago Cuban professors helped to open a Faculty of Medicine in Dili, the country’s capital.

He explained the goal of reaching one doctor per thousand inhabitants, in hopes of reducing as much as possible, the high indices of infant and maternal mortality, terrible diseases and epidemics inherited from colonialism.

Fidel said that his conversations with Mari Bim Amude Alkatari were very interesting and that they gave him a deeper understanding of the history of these valiant people, their resistance and desire for independence in the face of Portuguese colonialism, and the many attempts to destroy their sovereignty.

He not only detailed some of the consequences left by colonialism in Third World nations, but the hegemonic pretensions of U.S. imperialism, which is not content with invading countries like Iraq, but also has to impose its ideology and culture on them.

Fidel explained that in official talks with the Timorese Premier, they spoke of Cuba’s cooperation with Africa ­ where many combatants gave up their lives fighting apartheid ­ of medical assistance to Pakistan and Guatemala, and of plans to train health professionals.

He stated that there are 12,000 students in the Latin American School of Medicine and in the next three months there will be 20,000 youth from the region, and he emphasized that 60 Cuban physicians are now working in Timor Leste.

Fidel also announced that two technical experts have gone to Dili to establish the use of the new literacy method that will allow the rapid teaching of reading and writing in Portuguese, in a country where 50% of the population is illiterate.

Regarding the progress of Operation Miracle, he said that this year more than 200,000 people will have been undergone operations on the island, among them 156,000 Venezuelans, 15,000 Caribbeans and 35,000 Cubans, and announced that it is hoped to extend the program to help the people of Timor Leste.

In the Tetum language, Mari Bim Amude Alkatiri gave thanks for Cuban assistance in the areas of health and education, with its new literacy method, and asked the medical students to be diligent, given that their country awaits them and has placed great hope in them.

He expressed what a privilege it is to be able to train as medical professionals in a country whose education level is comparable to that of developed countries, and demonstrating what can be accomplished despite having few natural resources.

The prime minister explained that Timor Leste is poor even though it has oil and gas because, as a consequence of illiteracy inherited from colonialism, it has no human capital.

During his stay in Cuba, Alkatiri visited the Pando Ferrer National Ophthalmology Institute, accompanied by the Minister of Public Health José R. Balaguer. This institution has carried out more than 50,000 of the 170,000-plus operations that have been performed throughout Cuba as part of Operation Miracle.

The premier also visited the19th of April Polyclinic in the Havana municipality of Plaza de la Revolución and the historical quarter of Old Havana.

Before leaving for his country, Alkatiri expressed his great satisfaction over the success of the visit, which exceeded all his expectations.

A small country of more than 770,000 inhabitants, the Democratic Republic of Timor Leste is located in South East Asia and covers the eastern half of Timor Island, the neighboring islands of Atauro and Jaco, as well as Oecussi-Ambeno, a political enclave of East Timor situated on the western side of the island.

Formerly called Portuguese Timor, after a complex process and a UN sponsored referendum for self-determination, it gained its independence on May 20, 2002 and has confronted great challenges in the reconstruction of its infrastructure and the consolidation of a youthful governmental administration.

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