Another side of the Castro story

After Fidel Castro died on Nov. 25, most of the world’s leaders praised him for his “devotion to the Cuban people,” for being a “revolutionary leader” who despite his “flaws” was committed to “social justice.” Canada’s President Justin Trudeau’s tweet was so bad it inspired a Twitterverse parody: #trudeaueulogy.

President-elect Trump got it right when he tweeted the old tyrant was a “brutal dictator.”

The left media machine breathlessly reported on the wonderful health care and marvelous educational achievements of Castro’s communist regime. Allow me to present the other side.

Fulgencio Batista was a corrupt authoritarian, but Cuba was well off in the 1950s, even by Southern European standards. The literacy rate was 80 percent, and health care was also competitive with first world outcomes. Infant mortality rates were even lower than in the United States. The media never mentions that South American countries like Brazil, Chile, Costs Rica and Panama have also posted spectacular gains in social welfare without resorting to a totalitarian dictatorship.

The Cuban health care system is praised for its attention to preventive medicine and its innovative vaccine research. And, of course, it is “free.” The government situates a doctor in every neighborhood in urban areas. Nurses and other health care workers routinely make preventive care house calls.

Cuba is famous for sending its doctors overseas. This practice is valuable propaganda and often payment for subsidies to keep the economy afloat. The failed Soviet Union and failing Venezuela sent billions in hard currency or oil, without which the Cuban economy would have collapsed decades ago. Doctors sent overseas often defected to escape communism.

The exportation of doctors causes shortages, especially in rural areas. Canada’s single payer system also reveals sharp differences between the quality of care in urban and rural areas. The all-day-long lines in Cuba for drugs and care are not reported on. After all, it’s “free.”

In the Soviet Union, phony villages called “Potemkin Villages” were built to fool the “useful idiot” Western press that communism worked. There is evidence that Cuba also uses a “Potemkin Village” strategy, fooling the likes of Michael Moore and Sean Penn into believing the clean efficient hospitals they are allowed to visit are the same as offered to the urban and, especially, rural poor.

In 2010, Dutch photojournalists released graphically disturbing pictures of the reality of Cuban health care. Emaciated patients were photographed lying on filthy bare mattresses in cockroach-infested hospital wards.

The left has never come to terms with Castro’s bloodbath of priests, religious school children, gays, poets, musicians and writers. They overlook how communism does not allow unions. They do not report the relative opulence enjoyed by the Cuban communist elite while the rest of the people barely scrape by.

In 1960, a 23-year-old Cuban postal worker was arrested for refusing to display an “I’m with Fidel“ sign on his desk. (Remember a chillingly similar slogan in this year’s U.S. presidential campaign?) Armando Valladeres spent 22 years in the infamous Isle de Pinos (now Isla de la Juventud) prison because he refused to say three words. He witnessed executions of fellow dissidents but somehow survived to become a world renowned poet and author. Valladares says that even if the claims of Cuban health care are real—they are not—that does not justify the violence and human degradation they arose from. Valladeres tells young leftists in their Che Guevara T-shirts: Can’t you have these things—health care, education—without torture? Without imprisoning and executing dissidents? Why is material well-being incompatible with freedom?

Isn’t it time we acknowledge the end doesn’t justify the means?