Memo to Michael Moore: Cuban Doctors Feel Like 'Slaves'

Posted: Oct 02, 2017 1:33 PM

Left-wing propagandist Michael Moore -- who is on the record as great admirer of Venezuela's Socialist paradise -- made a film in 2007 that glorified the Cuban socialized healthcare system, purportedly demonstrating its superiority to what America has to offer.  That movie, entitled Sicko, was replete with embarrassing and dishonest distortions, some of which National Review's Jay Nordlinger chronicled at the time:

The second health-care system is for Cuban elites — the Party, the military, official artists and writers, and so on. In the Soviet Union, these people were called the “nomenklatura.” And their system, like the one for medical tourists, is top-notch. Then there is the real Cuban system, the one that ordinary people must use — and it is wretched. Testimony and documentation on the subject are vast. Hospitals and clinics are crumbling. Conditions are so unsanitary, patients may be better off at home, whatever home is. If they do have to go to the hospital, they must bring their own bedsheets, soap, towels, food, light bulbs — even toilet paper. And basic medications are scarce. In Sicko, even sophisticated medications are plentiful and cheap.

In the real Cuba, finding an aspirin can be a chore. And an antibiotic will fetch a fortune on the black market. A nurse spoke to Isabel Vincent of Canada’s National Post. “We have nothing,” said the nurse. “I haven’t seen aspirin in a Cuban store here for more than a year. If you have any pills in your purse, I’ll take them. Even if they have passed their expiry date.” The equipment that doctors have to work with is either antiquated or nonexistent. Doctors have been known to reuse latex gloves — there is no choice. When they travel to the island, on errands of mercy, American doctors make sure to take as much equipment and as many supplies as they can carry. One told the Associated Press, “The [Cuban] doctors are pretty well trained, but they have nothing to work with. It’s like operating with knives and spoons.”

The New York Times is now reporting on a revolt among Cuban doctors, who are publicly decrying their dreadful treatment under the regime:

In a rare act of collective defiance, scores of Cuban doctors working overseas to make money for their families and their country are suing to break ranks with the Cuban government, demanding to be released from what one judge called a “form of slave labor.” Thousands of Cuban doctors work abroad under contracts with the Cuban authorities. Countries like Brazil pay the island’s Communist government millions of dollars every month to provide the medical services, effectively making the doctors Cuba’s most valuable export. But the doctors get a small cut of that money, and a growing number of them in Brazil have begun to rebel...“When you leave Cuba for the first time, you discover many things that you had been blind to,” said Yaili Jiménez Gutierrez, one of the doctors who filed suit. “There comes a time when you get tired of being a slave.” Cuban artists and athletes have defected during overseas trips for decades, most of them winding up in the United States. But the lawsuits in Brazil represent an unusual rebellion that takes aim at one of Cuba’s signature efforts.

The legal challenges are all the more important because the doctors have lost a common backup plan: going to the United States. The American government, which has long tried to undermine Cuba’s leaders, established a program in 2006 to welcome Cuban doctors, with the aim of exacerbating the island’s brain drain. But in one of his final attempts to normalize relations with Cuba, President Barack Obama in January ended the program, which had allowed Cuban doctors stationed in other countries to get permanent residency visas for the United States. “The end of the program was a huge blow to us,” said Maireilys Álvarez Rodríguez, another of the doctors who sued in Brazil. “That was our way out.” ... The doctors’ defiance puts them at risk of serious repercussions by the Cuban government, including being barred from the island and their families for years.

Tough luck, vulnerable and abused Cuban doctors.  President Obama's brain trust had a legacy to pad with 'normalized' relations, so a program loathed by the tyrants in Havana was scrapped.  I was sympathetic to the argument that after decades of our embargo policy hadn't substantially improved the lives of average Cubans, and hadn't undermined the Castro regime, a change was justifiable.  Why keep doing the same thing over and over, if it isn't working?  But I also shared critics' concerns that the Obama plan was a one-sided giveaway under which the island's communist thugs-in-chief weren't compelled to offer very many major concessions, nor were they forced to significantly alter their terrible behavior.  The Trump administration announced a decision to partially reverse some of the Obama-era steps toward rapprochement earlier this year, then proceeded to do...nothing for months.  After this inaction was exposed by Fox News, some steps were finally taken, including this one:

Clean House in 2025
Kurt Schlichter

In case you missed it, American diplomats at the newly-reopened US embassy in Havana have been targeted in a series of sophisticated, mysterious "sonic" attacks, which experts say were either directly carried out, or actively allowed by, the regime.  Not only did the Cuban government refuse to reform its human rights abuses and extradite US fugitives, they're responsible for deliberate harm to our in-country officials.  Between its "strategic patience" in North Korea, its faltering and vulnerable nuclear gift to Iran (over bipartisan Congressional opposition), and the empowerment of the Castros (ditto), the Smart Power legacy is having quite a year.  

Finally, on the original theme of this post, many defenders of socialized healthcare will object that the Cuban system is not the goal; something akin to the British system is.  A single-payer regime is a dreadful idea for the United States for many reasons.  In the UK, the NHS regularly runs into numerous problems, from severe government rationing, to unaccountable and scandalous care, to long wait lists for appointments and to get into the hospital, to chronic funding shortfalls, to doctor strikes.  Under single-payer in America, if you like your plan, you explicitly can't keep it.  And you'll pay through the nose in new taxes for the enormous government scheme, which would nearly double the already-unsustainable federal budget.