Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Cuban health

The Cuban health system, repeatedly described as one of the great "achievements" of the Castro regime, has come under scrutiny from The New York Times.

And the result is surprisingly even-handed.

That great newspaper of record points out that even if the official figures provided by the regime on infant mortality and life expectancy are accurate (a big "if"), they fail to take into account other factors, such as the extraordinarily high abortion rate on the island.

Furthermore, the paper acknowledges what Cubans have known for decades - that there are in fact, two separate health systems in Cuba.

The first system, which has the best hospitals, the best medicines and the best doctors, is reserved for senior Communist Party officials and important foreigners. That's the system depicted in Michael Moore's controversial new film.

The second, parallel system is the one used daily by 11 million ordinary Cubans.

As the paper points out, this second system involves ill-equipped, run-down hospitals, poorly-paid and over-worked doctors and patients having to bring their own food, soap, bed sheets — and even their own medications.

Read the article in full here.


Blogger Rambito said...

The writer of the article, Anthony De Palma, is a classmate of mine from High School. He is the writer of the highly regarded book "The Man Who Invented Fidel." He is married to a Cuban lady that also went to our high school. I have always found Anthony's writings to be well researched and fair.

9:34 pm  
Blogger Walter Lippmann said...

DePalma may be married to a Cuban woman, but he knows little about Cuban reality. Let's start with the very first sentence of his "report", which is factually inaccurate.

He claims Cuba blocks U.S. movies and television, but anyone who lives in Cuba and watches TV knows that regular parts of the program are U.S. TV series such as Monk, CSI, Law and Order, House and any number of others. U.S. feature films are also a staple of Cuban television as well, ranging from serious dramas to fluffy romantic commentaries. Yes, they also show documentaries critical of U.S. life, from Fahrenheit 9/11 and Bowling for Columbine, to John Lennon vs. the U.S. but mainstream U.S. movies and TV programs are broadcast widely on Cuban TV.

It IS true that the Cuban government works to block political propaganda broadcasts such as as Radio and TV Marti. But anyone with a radio in Cuba can listen to ordinary commercial broadcasting from the U.S. and other countries without difficulty.

Some other points missed in DePalma's article, which contains a mixture of good and not good materials include worth noting here include the interview with the doctor who defected from Zimbabwe. He's practicing as a physician now, but got his medical education in Cuba, so it seems Cuba's med schools can produce doctors capable of passing U.S. licensing examinations.

DePalma leaves out mention of the fact that over a hundred students from the U.S. are studying medicine in Cuba, TOTALLY FREE OF CHARGE, so when they complete their medical education they will begin their careers 100% DEBT FREE, unlike their U.S. counterparts who will be in hock up to their eyeteeth after six years in med school.

DePalma also omits to mention that Cuba offered to send FIFTEEN HUNDRED physicians to provide health care in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, an area STILL in need of medical care two years later.

Shortages of medicines can be attributed in no small measure to Washington's policies which make it virtually impossible for U.S. companies to sell medicines to Cuba. The regulations are so stiff that it is all but impossible for Cuba to purchase medicines from the U.S., or from companies owned by U.S. companies in third countries, which will find themselves in violation of the Helms-Burton law and so forth.

The defecting doctor quoted here also benefits from the Cuban Adjustment Act which encourages illegal immigration from Cuba so that ALL Cubans who find their way to the U.S. can get in: this while Congress is debating how to exclude larger or smaller number of immigrants from all other countries.

Indeed, there is even a special program targeting Cuban doctors to encourage them to defect to the United States. I saw this advertised in the windows of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana last year.

The U.S. Interests Section meets openly with opponents of the Cuban government and puts those meetings and those opponents on their web-page: http://havana.usinterestsection.gov/videos.html

Of course, there are real medical problems in today's Cuba, of which not all can be attributed to Washington's blockade of the island. These include smoking and alcoholism, against which there are public education programs and the start of some efforts to limit smoking in public places. Obesity has been observed as a problem and

I noticed fat grade school children on my most recent three-month visit to the island (I'm back two weeks now) which I had not noticed before. Drug abuse: both legal and illegal are problems which exist in Cuba. Public education is active in these areas, and a tough, law-and-order tack has been taken regarding drug dealers.

Women with unplanned pregnancies in the United States may or may not have the right to terminate such pregnancies through abortion, if it is legal where they live, or if their parents give consent if they are underage. Abortion is not the best way to solve such problems: contraception is the best way to prevent unwanted pregnancies. But what if contraception fails, or if naïve people think they can't get pregnant "the first time", etc? In Cuba abortion remains legal and it is completely free. The government in Cuba thinks abortion is not the best option, but they do not limit the right of Cuban women to have one. This is old, but it's an official statement: http://www.granma.cu/especial_1/ingles/e_006_i.html

For the last seven years I've run a Yahoo news group which collects and sends out a wide range of information on Cuba, favorable and hostile. If you want to follow Cuba, check it out:

11:21 pm  
Blogger Agustin Farinas said...

The New York Times, that Temple of Apologia for Castro, discovered that Cuba has health problems? Gee, they who invented Castro in the first place and never admitted that fact finally are wakening up after 48 years of tyranny. And Walter Lippmann still repeates the same old mantra that the "embargo" is at fault for the lack of medicines in Cuba. Maybe he never read that Cuba sent hospitals to Bolivia and hundreds of doctors to Venezuela while they are sorely needed in Cuba. Mr. Lippmann is the embargo also responsible for the latest sugar harvest of only 1 million tons? Oh, forgive me, that was the fault of global warming!. And the absence of Cuban staples food like potatoes, and beans, and everything else that used to be grown in Cuba prior to the Revolution, is also the fault of global warming. Also please let's not talk about how upper members of the Party can get anything they need in the way of medicines and excellent health care (remember the visit by Castro's Spanish doctor?) while the average Cubans bring their own sheets, towels and other things when they go to the hospitals and lack the minimal aspirins and other essentials.
All that talk about Americans being educated to become doctors in Cuba and the offer to send doctors after the Katrina hurricane is nothing but good useful propaganda, this being an item at which Castro and most communists are very good at it. They cannot produce enough food to feed its own people but they are very good at propaganda efforts. Maybe you should visit the Granma site on the Internet to see the piece about how reporters were "advised" to report what is good in Cuba or else. It may prove to be enlightening and an eye opener for you. But I think I may be asking too much from you.

1:31 am  
Blogger Walter Lippmann said...

Well, I guess Mr. Farinas hasn't been to Cuba recently, where potatos and beans are available for sale to the public at the agro-pecuarious and at the ferias there.

In any event, even one as conservative as Florida's Senator Mel Martinez publicly called for accepting Cuba's offer to send doctors to help in the U.S. after Hurricane Katrina.

Was Martinez "taken in by the Commiunists" Don't take my word for it, read what HE said:

A CubaNews translation by And Portela.
Edited by Walter Lippmann

Posted on Sat, Sep. 10, 2005

Martinez considers good faith foreign aid

El Nuevo Herald

Republican senator, Mel Martínez, yesterday reaffirmed his position that the United States should receive all kinds of aid from abroad for the victims of hurricane Katrina but conditioned it to the good faith of the entity offering it.

“A genuine effort should be accepted; I repeat, genuine efforts of assistance from foreign countries that are made in good faith and that would truly help victims of hurricane Katrina”, Martínez pointed out when confronting criticisms from the exile community after they listened to him saying that he accepted the offer of the Fidel Castro government to send 1,100 physicians to the region devastated by Katrina.

On Wednesday, Martínez said in a press conference, that the offer should be considered from the humanitarian point of view, not political and that the physicians should come “if they are necessary” and “are trained” for it.

“If we need doctors and those doctors are properly trained, I have no objection to our government accepting the aid of the Cuban government in this situation. [However], I ask myself if we really need doctors or if it is what they can send. I don’t think that this is a political issue”, Martínez pointed out.

“When the hurricane, I think it was Dennis, severely hit Cuba some months ago, I quickly requested our government to offer aid and our government did. [But] Cuba rejected that aid, it avoided admitting its necessities, causing its people suffering. I criticize that position and honestly think that when aid is offered at moments like these, there should be no political undertones and should not be seen as such”, Martínez specified.

But his position caused problems in the community where many heard his words as a form of approaching Castro. The three Cuban American congresspersons of southern Florida felt compelled to explain their own positions.

“We strongly support the decision of the Bush administration to reject the so-called ‘offer’ of the Fidel Castro regime regarding the tragedy affecting of the United States in the states of Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana'', the congresspersons, Ileana Ros Lehtinen, Mario Díaz Balart and Lincoln Díaz-Balart, said.

“If the situation of the Cuban people were not so tragic where there are no doctors, medicines, hospitals or medical equipment of any kind, Castro’s offer to send doctors and medicines to the United States would be a laughing matter. The Castro ‘offer’ is simply a despicable demagogic maneuver that was correctly rejected by the U.S. government”. the congresspersons stated.

Yesterday Martínez explained that his position, Wednesday, never considered that the Island’s government displayed good faith proposing to send physicians to the disaster area.

“I never considered that the Castro government had made an offer in good faith. The Cuban government must first concentrate on letting the Cuban physicians exercise their free will instead of promoting them as political merchandize”, Martínez noted.

In his opinion, Castro uses the doctors for a political maneuver around the world and his offer “comes at a time when there is a scarcity of adequate medical attention in Cuba for Cubans in the island”.

“I assure you that the United States will cover the medical necessities of the victims of Katrina while Castro continues to ignore the basic needs of the Cuban people”, Martínez said.

Last Friday, Castro proposed sending 1,100 physicians equipped with 26 tons of medicines shortly after State Secretary Condoleeza Rice announced that the United States would not reject any foreign aid, at a press conference to express appreciation to 60 countries and international organizations.

“We reject no offer.” Rice said. In fact “I want to express the sincere gratitude of the U.S. President and government to all the leaders and citizens of many countries and international organizations who offered their generous aid”, she said.

© 2005 El Nuevo Herald and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.

Posted on Sat, Sep. 10, 2005

Martínez favorece ayuda del exterior de buena fe
El Nuevo Herald

El senador republicano Mel Martínez reafirmó ayer su postura de que Estados Unidos debe recibir todo tipo de ayuda del exterior a causa del huracán Katrina, pero la condicionó a la buena fe de quien la envía.

''Este país debe aceptar toda oferta genuina; repito, ofertas genuinas de asistencia de países extranjeros que están hechas de buena fe y que realmente ayudarían a las víctimas del huracán Katrina'', precisó Martínez al hacer frente a críticas de la comunidad exiliada después que lo escucharon decir que aceptaba el ofrecimiento del gobierno de Fidel Castro de enviar unos 1,100 médicos a la zona del desastre dejado por Katrina.

El miércoles, Martínez dijo en una conferencia de prensa que la oferta debe ser abordada de un punto de vista humanitario y no político, y que los médicos debían venir ''si hacen falta'' y ''están entrenados'' para ello.

''Si necesitamos médicos y esos médicos están entrenados apropiadamente, no tengo objeciones a que nuestro gobierno acepte ayuda del gobierno cubano en esta materia. [Sin embargo] me pregunto si realmente necesitamos médicos o si es lo que ellos pueden enviar. Yo no creo que esto sea sobre política'', señaló Martínez.

''Cuando el huracán, creo que fue Dennis, azotó severamente a Cuba hace unos meses, rápidamente exhorté a nuestro gobierno a ofrecer ayuda, y nuestro gobierno lo hizo. [Pero] Cuba rechazó esa ayuda, rehusó admitir sus necesidades, provocando sufrimiento a su pueblo. Yo critico esa postura y creo francamente que cuando se ofrece ayuda en momentos como estos no debe haber límites políticos, y no debe ser vista en términos políticos'', definió Martínez.

Pero su postura levantó polémica en la comunidad, donde muchos vieron sus palabra como una forma de contemporizar con Castro. Esto llevó, incluso, a que los tres congresistas cubanoamericanos por el sur de la Florida precisaran su posición.

'Apoyamos fuertemente la decisión de la administración Bush de rechazar la llamada `oferta' del régimen de Fidel Castro con respecto a la tragedia que está viviendo el pueblo de Estados Unidos en los estados de Alabama, Mississippi y Louisiana'', dijeron los congresistas Ileana Ros Lehtinen, Mario Díaz Balart y Lincoln Díaz-Balart.

'Si no fuera tan trágica la situación del pueblo de Cuba, donde para el pueblo ni hay médicos, ni medicinas, ni hospitales, ni equipos médicos de ninguna índole, sería risible la llamada `oferta' de Castro de enviar médicos y medicinas a EEUU. Pero esto no es cuestión de risa. La 'oferta' de Castro es sencillamente una despreciable maniobra demagógica que muy apropiadamente ha sido rechazada por el gobierno de EEUU'', expresaron los congresistas.

Ayer, Martínez sostuvo que al manifestar su postura el miércoles nunca tuvo en mente que hubiera buena fe por parte del gobierno de la isla al proponer el envío de los médicos.

''Nunca pensé que la oferta de Castro haya sido hecha de buena fe. El gobierno cubano debe primero concentrarse en dejar a médicos cubanos ejercer su libre voluntad, en vez de promocionarlos como mercancía política'', acotó Martínez.

En su opinión, Castro usa sus médicos para su maniobra política a lo largo del mundo y su ofrecimiento ``viene en un momento cuando hay escasez de atención médica adecuada en Cuba para los cubanos en la isla''.

''Les aseguro que los Estados Unidos se encargará de las necesidades médicas de las víctimas de Katrina, mientras que Castro continúa haciendo caso omiso de las necesidades básicas del pueblo cubano'', dijo Martínez.

El viernes pasado, Castro propuso el envío de 1,100 médicos de la isla equipados con 26 toneladas de medicamentos tan solo horas después que la secretaria de Estado, Condoleezza Rice, anunciara que Estados Unidos no rechaza ninguna ayuda externa, durante una conferencia de prensa donde agradeció las ayudas de 60 países y organizaciones internacionales.

''No rechazamos ninguna oferta'', dijo Rice. De hecho, ''quiero expresar el sincero agradecimiento del Presidente, del gobierno de EEUU y de todos los estadounidenses a todos los dirigentes y ciudadanos de numerosos países y organizaciones internacionales que ya ofrecieron su ayuda generosa'', dijo.

© 2005 El Nuevo Herald and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.


4:22 am  
Blogger Fidel pro democracy said...

I been out of Cuba for 27 years and I have learn a couple of languages and three professions (not counting all the odd jobs that I did) Mr. Lippmann after 46 of years of not having access to US medicines doesn't it looks extrange that Castros regime can't manufacture aspirine? With the little knowlege I have I may be able to make it in a couple of years. Why you don't want to see the reality????

10:27 am  
Blogger Walter Lippmann said...

"Fidel pro democracy" stated that he (or she?) hadn't been to Cuba in 27 years, but I'm JUST TWO WEEKS BACK from a THREE MONTH VISIT to Cuba, and had no trouble finding aspirin.

Of course there is aspirin in Cuba!

If you chose to go, you could see this for yourself. There are none so blind as those who choose not to see.

But please, have a nice day!

12:39 pm  
Anonymous rsnlk said...

Mr. Lipman, I would maintain that you did not visit Cuba, but rather the Potemkin village that the regime has created for foreign consumption. I am sure that there there are aspirin and potatoes available. The operative question is whether the ordinary Cuban has access to same. The answer is no. When foreigners have free and unfettered access to a population that is not subject to intimidation, then your arguments might have some merit. I am sure that gentleman who left 27 years ago and who probably has friends and relatives on the island is more in touch with the reality of present day Cuba than you are, notwithstanding the recentness of your visit.

4:02 pm  
Blogger Val Prieto said...


Te entro Lippman. Se jodio la fiesta.

9:42 pm  
Blogger Walter Lippmann said...

rsnlk doesn't say if he/she has been to Cuba and can say first-hand if aspirin is available

In Cuba I live among Cubans, at home and haven't spent a night in a hotel in years. Cubans have access to aspirin, both at the local pharmacy in regular Cuban pesos, and, if they have money or foreigner friends, in the international pharmacies.

Cubans DO have access to aspirin, as anyone who actually goes to Cuba knows.

The country has many problems, but lack of aspirin is not among them.

10:49 pm  
Blogger Fidel pro democracy said...

If they have aspirine, why they blame the unilateral embargo, as the cause of the lack of medicine, you mention this. South Africa white goverment endured a global embargo and was a leader in national production, I do not need to go to Cuba to know the needs, I have comunication with my family, are you implying that they are liers and they ask me for medicine because they do not want to go to the pharmacy. Every cuban in exile sends basic needs to his/her family, are you implying that there is no need for this, there is an organization in Canada call "Not just tourists" that bring medicine and medical equipment to Cuba are this people wasting they time. Who are this super-cubans that you bunk with? I must be really blind but last time I went to the bathroon, I was a boy, Fidel is a boys name.

4:02 am  
Blogger Agustin Farinas said...

Gee, Mr. Lippmann if you found Cuba so wonderful, how come you did not come back in a hurry to whatever terrible capitalist country you happen to reside, sold all your earthly possesions and moved there to the wonderful socialist paradise? Because you are not stupid, that is why! You are more than likely just like all the other so called "cafe revolutionaries" that spring like bad weeds with your Che tee shirt that loves to visit Cuba but only for a short while and then come back to your "terrible capitalist country", and praise a system you would not be able to stand or survive for more than 2 weeks. We are very familiar with your kind. Actually since the times of Lenin the communists have already a proper name for you: your are called the useful idiots

2:45 am  
Blogger CLS said...

The commenter using the pseudonym Walter Lippman sure distorts the facts. He says “Shortages of medicine can be attributed in no small measure to Washington’s policies which make it virtually impossible for US companies to sell medicine in Cuba.” The US embargo exempts medicine. In addition there is nothing to prevent them from buying from Canada, Mexico or any of their other trading partners.

He implies that abortion in US may be illegal in places. False. It is legal in the whole US. He brags it remains legal in Cuba. True. And the abortion rates are very high which is what the Times notes is a reason for the lower infant mortality rates. If a baby is not born but aborted infant mortality rates will have to fall.

Would it be rude to suggest he is doctrinaire communist who is willing to lie for the revolution. Hell, they’ve done worse than that for the revolution.

10:04 pm  
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12:05 pm  

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