Mexican government competes with Venezuela in offering free eye surgery |

Mexican government competes with Venezuela in offering free eye surgery

Associated Press Writer

MEXICO CITY – The Mexican government has offered free eye surgery to 90 Mayan Indians who were planning to get treatment in Venezuela, courtesy of the leftist government of Hugo Chavez.A team of Mexican doctors will go next week to the Indians’ home town of Felipe Carrillo Puerto in the southeastern state of Quintana Roo to give eye revisions, said Alfredo Caamal, head of the government’s Indian development program in Quintana Roo.The patients will then be given appointments to have surgery in the state capital of Chetumal, he said.Surgery will also be offered to other poor Mayan Indian in the region.The Indians have been planning to visit Venezuela to receive treatment under a Cuban-backed program called “Mission Miracle,” which has helped more than 100,000 poor people throughout Latin America since 2004.Felipe Carrillo Puerto Mayor Eliseo Bahena, a member of the leftist Democratic Revolution Party, requested the program.Conservative politicians claim that bringing “Mission Miracle” to Mexico is designed to boost the campaign of Democratic Revolution’s presidential hopeful Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who is often compared to Chavez.Most opinion polls favor Lopez Obrador to win the July election ahead of Felipe Calderon of President Vicente Fox’s National Action Party.Bahena claims that Mission Miracle is apolitical and he was just looking for help for his constituents.He said he welcomed the new offer of help from the federal government.”I feel that this Venezuelan program has served to wake up the government to its obligations,” he said.Bahena believes that some of his constituents will stay in Mexico for the treatment while others will still go to Venezuela.Mission Miracle is one of several efforts by the Chavez administration to help poor people in the hemisphere.The Chavez government is also providing cheap oil to some housing projects, homeless shelters and Indian tribal reservations in the United States.Venezuelan officials claim the help is purely humanitarian, but some critics say Chavez, a loud detractor of the United States, is using the aid to extend his political influence.Vail, Colorado

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