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Cuba Claims Infant Mortality Falls Despite Crisis

January 8, 1992

MEXICO CITY (AP) _ Cuba said Tuesday that infant mortality rates on the struggling island- nation improved marginally in 1991, maintaining a level comparable to that of the United States.

Devastated by the loss of Soviet aid and trade, Cuba has slashed at other sectors of its economy. But it has tried to protect the health care that is one of the proudest achievements of Fidel Castro’s Communist government.

Dr. Luis Cordova Vargas, director of the National Program for Maternal- Infant Care, said infant mortality was 10.66 per thousand live births in 1991, down from 10.74 in 1990. He was quoted by the official Prensa Latina news agency, monitored in Mexico City.

The rate is used by the World Bank and many U.N. agencies as an indicator of social development.

Infant mortality levels in the United States have ranged around 10 per 1,000 live births in recent years. Rates in most other Latin American countries exceed 20. That in Bolivia has exceeded 100.

Prensa Latina said the infant mortality rate in Cuba was about 60 per 1,000 births at the time of the 1959 revolution.

Cuba has had to curtail many programs because of the lack of hard currency or fuel from former Soviet bloc allies.

The government has reduced bus service, cut street lighting, closed some shops and offices, reduced television broadcasts and substituted oxen for tractors in many areas to help save on scarce petroleum. Food is rationed.

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