There's always a nugget or two in these Wikileaks cables. Nothing earthshaking, but a window into how things work. If you thought the health care debate was something conjured up after Obama's election, think again. From a June, 2006 cable about Cuba:
NEWS: USINT is always looking for human interest stories and other news that shatters the myth of Cuban medical prowess, which has become a key feature of the regime’s foreign policy and its self-congratulatory propaganda.
I might also add that Cuba's medical system is precisely what conservatives fear most: a system which meets the needs of the people through a government-run health care plan.
Here are their "myth shatterers", filed under the subheader "Medical Malpractice::
31 May: Jamaican Dr. Albert Lue has publicly denounced Cuban medical incompetency in handling Jamaican patients who traveled to Cuba for eye surgery. Of 60 such patients he surveyed, 3 were left permanently blind and another 14 returned to Jamaica with permanent cornea damage.
--Dateline 1 June: 14,000 Bolivian doctors are on strike to protest the 600 Cuban doctors who have been shipped into the country, with no concern as to displacement or unemployment among the Bolivian doctors, or qualifications of the Cubans.
Wow. 600 Cuban doctors frighten 14,000 Bolivian doctors. What babies. Assuming this cable is correct, which I doubt, to me it highlights the resolute determination of the right to deny a significant number of Americans health care. The fact that they look for Cuban stories to use as a way to debunk the Cuban system tells me there's real fear of what might happen if everyone in this country actually had real access to health care.
File this under the header "things you knew but couldn't prove." Now you can.
Here's a chaser:
In a recent appearance on Miami Cable TV station 41’s “A Mano Limpia” interview show, Cuban doctor and former Director of Family Medicine in the Ministry of Health, Alcides Lorenzo, slammed the Cuban medical system for being overly politicized. Lorenzo had just defected to the USA via Mexico, where he missed his connecting flight from Cancun to Havana, on the way back from an international conference in Peru. According to Lorenzo, Cuban doctors spend two-thirds of their time going to political meetings, as opposed to treating patients. Lorenzo also said that Cuban medical care was grossly understaffed and underfunded at home as a result of the “medical missions” overseas, particularly to Venezuela. Unfortunately for Lorenzo, or any other Cuban doctor who considers defecting from a “mission” overseas, his family is held hostage in Cuba and will not be permitted to leave the island.
I was able to find confirmation of his defection via a simple Google search. I was also able to find this statement from 2006 from CubaSource.org. I don't know whether they are objective, reliable or otherwise trustworthy, though I found the narrative in this PDF document to be pretty straightforward and opinion-free:
January 5: Sixty percent of primary care doctors in Cuba have been sent to Venezuela and other international missions, triggering a crisis across the public health programs of the island, said a high-ranking Cuban health care official who defected in Mexico. "The Cuban health care system has remained subordinated to the relation with Venezuela." According to Dr. Alcides Lorenzo Rodríguez, ex-chief of the national family medicine group of Cuba, out of 31,000 doctors working at offices of the so-called family doctor program in 2003, the majority have been enlisted as part of a 26,000-strong contingent of Cuban health care professionals currently deployed in Venezuela. (El Nuevo Herald, 6/1/06)
Whatever you may think of Cuba and the decision to ship a lot of their primary care doctors to Venezuela, the fact remains that they have a health care program that has a long history of delivering for the people of Cuba and is entirely government-sponsored. This seems to strike fear into the hearts of the American right-wing in an entirely irrational way to the point where they've actually instructed intelligence sources to dig up any dirt on the system they can. It's remarkable to me that these three nuggets were all they could find in a country of millions.