In Reply to a Sly Cuba Hater
This nonsense from Britain's Bella Thomas was posted by LA Weekly/Nation "leftist" political writer Marc Cooper:
Healthcare and education are supposed to be the redeeming graces of the regime, but this is questionable. There are a large number of doctors, but, according to most Cubans I know, many have left the country and the health system is in a ragged state—apart from those hospitals reserved for foreigners—and people often have to pay a bribe to get treated. Michael Moore, the American film director, who has recently been praising the system should take note of the real life stories beneath the statistics. I went into a couple of hospitals for locals on my latest visit. In the first, my friend told me not to say a word in case my accent was noticed, as foreigners are not allowed in these places. I was appalled by the hygiene and amazed at the antiquity of the building and some of the equipment. I was told that the vast majority of Cuban hospitals, apart from two in Havana, were built before the revolution. Which revolution, I wondered; this one seemed to date from the 1900s.
This was my reply:
As for Cuba, it is not surprising that Mrs. Thomas’ critiques come from anecdotes, not from anything resembling empiricism. As such, Thomas is far from even-handed. She is smart and knows how to artfully hide inconvenient truths and place mistakes in the mouths of others.
On health care, she takes the typical route around the WHO studies, UN stats, etc. by telling stories. She says she “was told” that most hospitals were built before the Revolution. Well, actually in 1959 Cuba had only 10 hospitals and 80% of beds were in Havana. Today there are 191 hospitals, 290 polyclinics and many other smaller facilities – the majority outside Havana. Every town has access. She says Cuba has many doctors, but many have left the country, which implies desertion. If fact, the 20,000 doctors serving in the poorest areas abroad are doing so heroically, despite the publicized US offer for automatic US citizenship for anyone who will defect to a US mission (a disgusting move, I hope we can all agree).
Of course, Cuban health facilities and equipment certainly would appear second rate to most Westerners, but does this really matter? The fact that Cuba has achieved results on par with the US, who spends 30 times more per person, in spite of its financial limitations & embargo tells us something more profound about profit-based health care than socialized, I would think. If asking patients to bring in sheets allows more urgent equipment and medicine to be bought, what is wrong with that? Indeed the majority of hospitals in Cuba were refurbished in the last couple years – with money from the foreign clinics – unlike in Thailand or wherever where private companies take the profits and run. As for Cooper’s tale about buying ampicillin, here is a Canadian study that found it to be available in hospitals, even during the special period. I’m not calling the story false, just that stories have a way of not telling the whole story…
Thomas takes the route we have seen before (from Cooper) in psycho-analyzing those (few) of us who defend the Cuban Revolution. It’s all crap. Is it really so inconceivable for someone who studies the problems of US cities to think that capitalism has indeed failed us and can offer no solution to poverty, homelessness, crime, education, health care, segregation, drugs, gentrification, ect.? Why is it so wrong to look at Cuba and say they’ve figured out a way to solve/improve these things with hardly any resources? Sure Cuba has other problems, including many of the things the US does well. But I, like billions of others on this planet, see justice and equality as indispensable and impossible under the tyranny of the free market.