Myths of Cuban Socialism: Part III


Editor’s note: Read the first and second part of this series by the same author.

Médicos cubanos de la Misión Barrio Adentro en Venezuela. La medicina es un negocio más que lucrativo para los Castro.
Cuban doctors on at a mission in Venezuela: another lucrative business for the Castro regime. (Flickr)

In the previous instalments of this series, we analyzed various aspects of dysfunctional Cuban socialism (although dysfunction is the rule rather than the exception when it comes to socialism). We demystified the manipulative concepts used by the Castro regime, such as the false idea of the “Revolution” and the misinformation spread about the genuine causes of the US economic embargo of the island. We concluded that the famous Cuban education system is nothing more than a vile process of indoctrination of children and young people, typical of any totalitarian regime.

The field of medicine is another key area in which the illegitimate government of the Castro brothers has deceived the world. Progressives worldwide praise to the heavens the “achievements” of Cuban medicine, the “quality” of its doctors and the “disinterested aid” that the Cuba gives underdeveloped countries though sending specialists to combat illnesses. But these three claims are as false and deceitful as any propaganda that comes out of Havana’s Palace of the Revolution.

From January 1, 1959, the greater part of Cuban intellectuals — among them Cuba’s doctors — began to realize that the “Revolution” was fast becoming just another dictatorship, even crueller than that which preceded it, and they began to emigrate in droves. Many of the island’s medical practitioners, then famed for its excellent sanitation and levels of medical care, felt forced to leave in search of a more dignified life.

This resulted in a health crisis due to the severe shortage of doctors. The government found no better solution than to implement a plan of accelerated training for doctors. What resulted was the famous Baeza Plan: thousands of doctors graduated within four years, the same time that it takes in other countries to become a qualified nurse.

After numerous educational reforms carried out in the course of 55 years of dictatorship, training to be a doctor now requires between five and six years, while the rest of the world demands seven to eight years. From the very first year of their course, future doctors attend to patients and even operate on the sick.

All the training focuses on the practical side, with almost no theoretical preparation, which is vital for a doctor. This is the reason why even countries allied to the Castro regime such as Brazil or Bolivia don’t recognize the medical qualifications issued by Cuban universities. Upon renewing their licenses, most Cuban medical graduates tend to fail their exams.

Despite all this, Cuba and its Latin-American School of Medicine (ELAM) have become a major center for students from abroad, deceived with generous funding allowances, to come and study medicine. Neither the warnings that their qualifications won’t be recognized, nor the disastrous experiences they go through in the factory-line of training, seem to diminish the flow of new recruits from abroad.

As ELAM students like to joke: en casa de herrero, cuchillo de palo: “In the house of the blacksmith, wooden knives.” The expression, even if it loses something in translation, refers to the practically non-existent medical facilities available to ordinary Cubans: empty pharmacies, dilapidated and filthy hospitals, and the complete failure of the “family doctor” plan once lauded by the government.

Any foreigner who comes to Cuba interested in its “successful health system” is shown various luxury hospitals with up-to-date technology. However, his or her guide will fail to mention that these clinics are a government business — they neither care for Cuban patients, nor do they provide anything for free. And strangely enough, they neglect to reveal that the majority of doctors that work in these hospitals are neither Cuban nationals, nor have they carried out their studies in the “medical paradise” that is Cuba.

The harsh reality usually contradicts the statistics of the United Nations, UNESCO and the World Health Organization (WHO). These institutions, on the basis of data given to them by the Cuban government itself, tend to place the island among the most developed countries when it comes to health. But the fact that these data aren’t gathered by international observers themselves is crucial for understanding that we’re dealing with manipulated, if not outright false, information.

In the streets of Havana, as in the rest of the country, you can truly appreciate the complete collapse of public health: children suffering from illnesses due to a poor and insufficient diet largely based on beans and rice, filthy streets and poor sanitation, among other problems.

But Cuba places such a premium on solidarity that it sends thousands of doctors to less well-off countries around the world, many might try to argue. It certainly sends medical staff in industrial quantities. This is partly an element of the Castro regime’s plan to manipulate the international media cover up for its worst qualities.

But the other side of the coin is much less picturesque than the idea of Cuban solidarity with their poorer comrades around the world. Cuban doctors abroad are little more than cash cows to the regime, an unending source of income. The regime receives a monthly average of US$1,0000 to $2,0000 for every doctor it sends overseas. But the doctors themselves are paid $400 at best. You don’t have to be a genius to realize that it’s a lucrative business for the regime.

Perhaps, amid all the misery, we can snatch at something positive. In dodging the totalitarian prohibitions imposed by the government and in ingeniously scraping through life on the island, the Cuban people are survivors, and have learned a lot about creativity and entrepreneurship. We can be sure that, after the regime falls — which it looks increasingly likely to do — the Cuban people will adapt rapidly to freedom and forge a new prosperous life for themselves.

Translated by Laurie Blair.

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