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Bolivian doctors fighting for socialism (2)

By Andre Vltchek (People's Daily Online)

15:18, June 18, 2012

Program for the families. (People's Daily Online/ Andre Vltchek)

Most of the stories were simple and they spoke of pain, of simple and faithful women being abandoned by their husbands and spouses, for no apparent reason when they were pregnant or when other women crossed their path. But there were also other stories, those of injustice and abuse, of social wrongs, full of outrage and rebelliousness.

“Two of my children died when they were little”, said one of the mothers facing me defiantly as if I had been designated to bear at least some part of the responsibility. She showed me with her harsh, hard-working hands how small they were: “that little”, she kept repeating in disbelief, “that tiny”. Then looking straight to my eyes: “Why?”

I knew why and so did she. There was nothing to be said, but looking at me she somehow knew that I heard what she was saying and that her words would be carried from this square to the wide world.

A few meters away, the mobile clinics were parked at the kerb - several of them. They were actually huge ingeniously converted trucks. I went up the stairs of one of them, knocked at the door. Someone opened and I was let inside where a woman was giving her full breast to her baby, while the doctor and a nurse were showering her with medical advice.

And here, what stunned me was the trust – absolute and powerfully expressed: between the mother and the doctor, the nurse and the woman and between all of them and me. It took me just a few seconds to explain what I was doing here. We exchanged polite greetings. I asked whether I could film. “Yes, of course”, all of them nodded. It was up to me to set the limits. I was expected to be discreet, but I was not told to be. It was understood that all of us were gathering here for an important reason: to help Bolivia and its people. The doctor was probably Cuban, and the nurse was local. I did not ask; it did not matter. A true internationalist should not care much about one’s geographical, cultural or other roots.

What mattered though was that right in front of my eyes something that would be unimaginable just a few years ago was suddenly taking place: in once impoverished and racially divided and classist Bolivia, a white man, a doctor, was looking with simple warmth and human compassion at a suffering indigenous woman breastfeeding her baby, asking her “When did you feel pain the last time, mother?”

He behaved in a simple, kind, decent and humane way, but in a world increasingly kidnapped by financial and personal interests his humanism felt like some extreme, like a reminder of different era. He was a doctor and he behaved like one, as doctors were expected to behave in the not so distant past. But here as in so many other places all over the world, it had been so common instead of inquiring, “Where does i t hurt?” to ask for the credit card number or cash deposit, that normal behavior felt something of an anomaly.

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