Interesting Article
Posted: 04 June 2007 11:48 PM   [ Ignore ]
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Interesting article
The UK’s Prospect Magazine has published an article by Bella Thomas that I found be pretty honest assessment of the situation in Cuba. It’s a story that Matt Lauer probably won’t report. Besides a few conclusions the author draws about the embargo, that I disagree with, it’s pretty much spot on.

Some excerpts:

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.

On another occasion, I saw a man in a white coat with a stethoscope around his neck hurrying along the boulevard of Vedado, in west Havana. We struck up a conversation. He was on his way to the hospital around the corner. I asked him if he would take me there. He was charming and intelligent, and had that ease of communication that many Cubans possess: he wasn’t at all taken aback by an unknown woman in dark glasses asking to accompany him to work. The doctor told me that I shouldn’t be too shocked; the hospital was being “refurbished.” The building certainly was in a state of filth and decrepitude. This was not a place one would want to be ill in.

There are plenty of visitors to Cuba from rich countries (including a disproportionate number from Britain) who believe they have encountered a true alternative to capitalist democracy. Why? Perhaps it is a way of keeping alive the idea of some ideal society, without having to experience the disadvantages oneself. It may also be a facet of a general dislike of the US, or a way of expressing unease with capitalist excesses. But it is also, in all probability, related to a nostalgia for the political certainties and the handsome design of the 1950s and before: the cars, the bars and the glamour. It is not for nothing that Cuba sells itself with the music of the pre-revolutionary period. If North Korea had charm and salsa and innuendo and beaches, perhaps a lot of politically naive people would be advocating its merits too.

When, back in London, I met people who believed in the Cuban alternative, I surprised myself by the vigour with which I rebuffed their arguments, pointing out how Cubans were barred from the smart hotels where they had stayed.

So when I returned to Cuba in April… there was no real sense of a transition. And I was told that levels of control were, if anything, stronger. Fewer journalists were being allowed into the country, only a few of the 75 political prisoners who had been jailed in 2003 had been released, and at least another 200 were still in prison. Some private restaurants were still open, but two thirds of those in Havana had been closed in recent years because the government did not want to see too much competition with the state-run restaurants and hotels.

When I returned to London, I watched an edition of Newsnight in which the reporter claimed to be immensely impressed—after four days on the island—by the state of Cuban healthcare. I wondered where this man had been. Had he been to hospitals other than the ones his minders had taken him to? Why was it that Fidel Castro was treated by a Spanish doctor? “There’s all kinds of things we could learn from this place,” the reporter said, after his drive around Havana in an open-top 1950s Chevrolet, with a Cuban bolero playing in the background.

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Posted: 05 June 2007 08:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Interesting read. Thanks for posting this.

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