A joint declaration by the presidents of Brazil, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, and Chile, Ricardo Lagos, last week, in Santiago, Chile, recommends the “opening of a dialogue with Cuba by the Rio Group.” The Rio Group is formed by 19 South and Central American countries.
Lula and Lagos also reaffirmed “the absolute pertinence of the Rio Group as a permanent instrument for political consultations and conversations with other States and groups of countries.
The Brazilian Minister of Foreign Relations, Celso Amorim, stated that one of the outstanding points of the declaration “is the affirmation of ties with Latin America.”
According to Amorim, “many people had their doubts, saying that Chile was more concerned about its links to the North, to the FTAA, and this is an affirmation of its commitment to the Latin American community.”
The Cuban government wants to expand the number of mixed Cuban-Brazilian companies. Although Cuba has approximately 400 joint-capital firms with various countries around the world, the partnership with Brazilian entrepreneurs has so far resulted in the constitution of only 2 mixed companies.
They are Busscar, which manufactures tourist buses, and Souza Cruz, which makes cigarillos. This information comes from the Cuban Ambassador to Brazil, Pedro Nuí±es Mosquera.
Expanding joint investments and bilateral trade was the principal theme of “Expo-Cuba” and the “Cuba-Brazil Business Encounter,” events that took place in May in the Rio de Janeiro Federation of Industries (Firjan), under the sponsorship of the International Business Center of Brazil, together with the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Trade.
According to data provided by the Firjan, trade between Brazil and Cuba amounted to approximately US$ 91 million in 2003. Brazil exported US$ 71 million, which represent 0.1% of the country’s total foreign sales. Imported goods from Cuba totaled US$ 22 million.
The chief Brazilian products purchased by Cuba last year were soy oil (US$ 2.1 million), chicken parts (US$ 1.9 million), and automobiles (US$ 945 thousand). For its part, Cuba sold nickel, cigars, medicines for human and animal care, naphtha, educational programs, cigarettes, and cement to Brazil.
Medical students who studied in Cuban universities should soon be able to have their diplomas recognized as valid for the exercise of the profession in Brazil.
A commission comprising five Cuban specialists met yesterday in April with representatives of the Secretariat of Higher Education of the Ministry of Education (Sesu/MEC) to discuss mutual recognition of diplomas.
Last year, during a trip by President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva to Cuba, protocols of intention were signed in the areas of technical and scientific cooperation and the endorsement of diplomas.
Then, early this year, the Brazilian team visited the principal Cuban schools of medicine, to assess the conditions for validating the degrees.
“The team was in the capital, Havana, and at the universities of Santa Clara and Cientuegos (cities in the interior), to check on the progress of the courses, mass medical care, and hospitals and walk-in clinics,” disclosed the head of Sesu’s Division of International Affairs, Professor Arsênio Becker.
According to Becker, Cuban medical training is, from early on, integrated with health care, and students begin their internship right away in the first year of medical school.
The Brazilian model is different, divided into two parts: an academic phase and another one, close to graduation, for internship. “Training in Cuba, different from ours, is integrated with medical assistance,” he said.
Despite the existence of two different models of apprenticeship, for Cuba’s First Secretary of Technical and Scientific Collaboration in Health, Filisberto Perez , the two countries can accept each other’s diplomas without drawbacks.
“Evidently we shall not allow poor physicians to practice in our country, just as it is fundamental for Brazil make sure that Cuban students submit to an evaluation here,” Perez affirmed.
During their sojourn in Brazil, the Cuban specialists visited installations of the Paulista School of Medicine that are part of the University of São Paulo (USP) in São Paulo and in the city of Marília, in the interior of the state. They also visited the University of Brasília and the Ministry of Health to examine the facilities.
Professor Becker recalled that the government’s intention is to evaluate the students who come from Cuba by means of a specific test. Currently, in order to obtain certification, would-be graduates must undergo a rigorous evaluation until their professional registration is granted.
For the Cubans, the examination would be less complicated. “We are not talking about automatic acceptance, but rather a special model for recognizing the Cuban diploma, unlike the one traditionally adopted by universities,” he explained.
The MEC is also studying the possibility of restricting the application of automatic accreditation to students trained at the Latin American School of Medical Sciences, which is also located in Cuba and will graduate its first class in 2005.
At present, there are about 550 Brazilians studying medicine in Cuba and another 180 who have already graduated but are unable to practice medicine.
According to Professor Becker, the Federal Council of Medicine (CFM), which was initially opposed to accepting the diplomas, participated in various meetings with the MEC and concurred with the application of a national examination for holders of Cuban diplomas.