“We cannot for a second abandon propaganda” wrote Castro in a letter to a revolutionary colleague in 1954. “Propaganda is vital — propaganda is the heart of all struggles.”
Michael Moore claims that Cuba’s Stalinist regime played it as straight with him during the filming of his newest documentary, Sicko, as he plays it with its viewers. “I asked them to give us [the 9/11 workers featured in the documentary] the same care they give their own Cuban citizens,” he assured us. “No more, no less. And that’s what they did.”
Does anyone with a fully functioning brain actually believe these claims?
You would think refutation of Moore’s comments would be too obvious to require publication and circulation. But sadly, history shows that Castro’s propaganda (as disseminated by his agents, both on the payroll and off) has an odd — if mercifully temporary — effect on cerebrums that otherwise function normally, even exceptionally. It is similar to the effect sugar in the gas tank has on an engine.
As a recent and tragic example of this phenomenon, recall that in April 2000, after a Dan Rather “60 Minutes” interview on CBS with Elian Gonzalez’s father, polls showed that 70% of Americans firmly believed that this father — a subject of a Stalinist regime who was surrounded by Castro plainclothes police while in the CBS studio — was acting completely free from coercion.
Dr. Julio Cesar Alfonso, a Cuban doctor who defected in 1999 after working within Cuba’s healthcare system for years, reminds America of something that should be blatantly obvious: “The treatment Moore and the rescue workers receive in the film [Sicko] was done specifically for them, because the regime knew it would make great propaganda.”
Dr. Alfonso had barely finished his interview with the Miami Herald when someplace called “Havana Hospital” launched a website. “After being featured in the Cannes Film Festival-honored film Sicko, we are now open for medical tourism to Cuba,” says the site. “We welcome you with peace and goodwill without any concern towards politics or propaganda. We are very good surgeons ready to help.” Among the featured bargains are: “Breast augmentation/implants for only $1,500 (through the belly button procedure).”
Ninety-nine percent of Cubans have no more experience with a hospital like the one featured in "Sicko" than Michael Moore has with a Soloflex. Most Cubans view a hospital like the one featured in Sicko the way teenage boys used to view Playboy magazine and husbands view a Victoria’s Secret catalog: “Wow! If only. . .”
In "Sicko," Moore parrots the Castroite claim that Cubans live longer than Americans. In fact the figures are practically identical, which actually casts Cuba’s vaunted health care in a negative light. In all nations with high emigration rates, longevity rates skew high. This occurs because the birth is recorded but the death gets recorded in the nation migrated to. So it seems like fewer people die. Naturally, the opposite effect appears in nations with a large influx of immigrants. The death is recorded but the birth was recorded in the nation immigrated from. So generally speaking, a nation with high longevity but known to hemorrhage its people has little to boast about with regard to longevity figures. All they’re proving is that theirs is a miserable place to live and from which massive numbers of people flee.
And few nations hemorrhage people like Cuba — almost 20% of its population since the glorious revolution. This 20% represents those who got out with the clothes on their back and against enormous odds.
As eagerly expected by Michael Moore’s Cuban case officers, "Sicko"’s screening was the signal for their other propaganda assets to chime in. “Cuba has developed the world’s first meningitis B vaccine, which is available in Third World countries but not in Europe or the United States due to U.S. sanctions,” reported Anthony Boadle from Reuter’s Havana Bureau last week.
Of this 27-word sentence, exactly 14 words are true. This vaccine is not available in the U.S. and Europe — but hardly because of sanctions. In fact, in 1999, Bill Clinton’s Treasury Department granted the pharmaceutical giant, SmithKline Beecham, a license to market the Cuban vaccine in a joint venture with Castro’s medical ministry — pending FDA approval.
And why not? Castro’s minister of public health himself, Carlos Dotres, had hailed the vaccine as “the only effective one in the world!” Highly impressed, Bill Clinton’s FDA chief, Dr. Carl Frasch, said it could annually prevent “1,000-2,000 cases” of the dreaded disease in the U.S., and 110 U.S. Congressmen promptly signed a special letter to Secretary of State Madeline Albright beseeching her to allow this breach of the diabolical embargo “if only to protect the lives of America’s children!”
That was eight years ago. The reason the vaccine is not available today in the U.S. and Europe is simply that — like so many other Castroite concoctions and proclamations dutifully trumpeted by news agencies who earn Havana bureaus — the vaccine is a farce and its sale a swindle. And, at least in this case, most civilized countries refuse to help propagate the swindle on their citizens.
Some countries discovered the swindle the hard way: “Brazil has wasted $300 million on a Cuban vaccine that is completely ineffective,” wrote Dr. Isa√?¬≠as Raw, director of Sao Paolo’s prestigious Butantan Institue, specializing in biotechnology.
A 1999 study by Brazil’s Centro de Vigilancia Epidemiol√?¬≥gica (Center for Epidemiological Research) seconded Dr. Raw: “The studies conducted on the use of the Cuban vaccine in children under four years old — the major risk group for hepatitis B — showed no evidence that the vaccine protected them against the disease. This vaccine should not be recommended.”
All current medical literature flatly asserts that despite countless attempts, “no effective vaccine against the meningitis B has yet been developed.”
Sadly for Michael Moore’s Cuban case officers, the medical establishment remains infested with men and women who stubbornly cling to their professional ethics. Enlisting their full cooperation presents challenges much more daunting than enlisting the cooperation of news agencies panting for a Havana Bureau and a portly filmmaker obsessed with vilifying his country.
A few years back Castro launched his “Doctor Diplomacy,” wherein he started sending Cuban “doctors” to heathen lands (though their spouses and children were held hostage in Cuba) to heal the sick and raise the dead. This was coupled with “free” treatment of poor foreigners from the Caribbean and Latin American nations in Cuban hospitals. The scheme has gotten no end of gushy reviews in the major media.
Some reviews from the non-major media might help with perspective. Here’s one from the newspaper the Jamaican Gleaner titled “Eye Surgery Hopes Dashed; Patients Suffer Complications After Cuba”: “The survey included 200 patients (Jamaicans who traveled to Cuba for eye surgery), and of that group, 49 patients — nearly a quarter — experienced post-surgery complications. According to Dr. Albert Lue, Head of Ophthalmology in Jamaica’s Kingston Public Hospital, the complications causing the patients impaired vision was corneal damage and damage to the iris due to poor surgical technique.”
Brazil also got a birds-eye view of Cuba’s vaunted “Doctor Diplomacy.” The April 2005 story from Agence France-Presse titled “96 Cuban Doctors Expelled from Brazil” reported: “Federal Judge Marcelo Bernal ruled in favor of a demand by the Brazilian state of Tocantins’ Consejo Regional de Medicina (Regional Council on Medicine) that Cuban doctors be prohibited from practicing in their state.” Based on the results they’d achieved with Tocantins’ residents, the judge referred to the Cuban doctors as “Witch Doctors and Shamans. We cannot accept doctors who have not proven that they are doctors.”
According to a report by the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, more than 75% of “doctors” with Cuban “medical degrees” flunk the exam given by the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates for licensing in the U.S. This exam is considered a cakewalk even by the graduates of Mexico’s Tec de Monterrey School of Medicine.
Most Cuba-certified doctors even flunk the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates’ exam for certification as “physician assistants,” making them unfit even as nurses. None of this is meant to disparage these hapless men and women who were simply cursed by fate to be born under a Stalinist tyranny, who took it upon themselves to overcome that curse and who today enjoy the blessings of liberty while employed in other fields. These are simply facts Michael Moore’s Cuban case officers are desperate to hide. Here are a few more:
According to the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, the mortality rate of Cuban children aged one to four years is 34% higher than the U.S. (11.8 versus 8.8 per 1,000). But these don’t figure into UN and World Health Organization spotlighted “infant-mortality rates,” you see. So the pressure is not on Cuban doctors to fudge these figures—yet.
In April 2001, Dr. Juan Felipe Garc√?¬≠a, MD, of Jacksonville, Fla., interviewed several recent doctor defectors from Cuba. Based on what he heard he reported the following: “The official Cuban infant-mortality figure is a farce. Cuban pediatricians constantly falsify figures for the regime. If an infant dies during its first year, the doctors often report he was older. Otherwise, such lapses could cost him severe penalties and his job.”
Cuba’s infant mortality rate, though it plunged from 13th lowest in the world pre-Castro to 40th today — is also kept artificially low by an abortion rate of 0.71 abortion per live birth — the hemisphere’s highest by far, which “terminates” any pregnancy that even hints at trouble.
More interesting (and tragic) still, the maternal mortality rate in Cuba is almost four times that of the U.S. rate (33 versus 8.4 per 1,000). Peculiar how so many mothers die during childbirth in Cuba, but how many one- to four-year-olds perish, while from birth to one year old (the period during which they qualify in UN statistics as infants) they’re perfectly healthy.
This might lead a few people to question Cuba’s official infant-mortality figures. But such people would not get a Havana bureau for their news agency or TV network, much less a visa to film a documentary.
Sign up to the Human Events newsletter