What Sicko Left Out

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That Michael Moore got some of his most heated rebuttals on Sicko from CNN bemused many Cuba watchers. CNN, after all, was the first network to receive benediction from the Maximum Leader to open a Havana bureau. For years their Cuba correspondent, Lucia Newman, performed magnificently, amply keeping up CNN’s side of the bargain.

So Havana could not have been pleased with CNN’s recent insolence towards Michael Moore. Any discord between two of Castro’s most dutiful mouthpieces was clearly unhealthy for the regime. But no problemo. As we soon saw on Larry King Live, the spat was a fluke, a regrettable blip in an otherwise even record. Happily for Moore’s Cuban case officers, within days, the matter was quickly patched up. Moore’s threat to become “CNN’s worst nightmare!” proved bombastic and hollow, identical to his films.

The spat originated earlier on Wolf Blitzer’s show when CNN’s medical wiz Dr Sanjay Gupta accused Moore of fudging figures by claiming that Cuba spent $251 per person on health care. Sanjay said the actual figure was $25.

Turned out, Gupta had goofed and Moore was right. How could he not be? He used the figures reported by a Stalinist ministry to the U.N. and confirmed in person by Moore’s Cuban host, the pediatrician Aleida Guevara (Che Guevara’s daughter.).

“In the report CNN says that I fudged the facts,” challenged Moore. “They didn’t find a single fact that I fudged.”

Quite true. Michael Moore did not fudge a thing. And neither did the New York Times’ Herbert Matthews when he claimed in June of 1959 from Havana, “This is not a Communist Revolution in any sense of the term. Fidel Castro is not only not a Communist, he is decidedly anti-Communist.” Castro confided this to Matthews in person and for the record. The New York Times also acquitted Che Guevara from any reddish taint. “It gives me great pain to be called a communist,” bristled the aggrieved Argentine at the crackpot smear.

Soviet GRU agents slept in Che’s (stolen) Havana mansion even as the New York Times transcribed and published Guevara’s pained denials of this malicious Birchite smear.

So if Che Guevara’s daughter confirms to Michael Moore — in person and for the record — that Cuba spends $251 per person a year on health care, then, by golly, CNN (of all people!) should know it’s perfectly true!

As eagerly expected by Michael Moore’s Cuban case officers, Sicko’s screening was the signal for their other propaganda assets to chime in: “Communist Cuba’s universal free health system has achieved low child mortality and high longevity rates on a par with rich nations since Fidel Castro’s 1959 revolution,” wrote Anthony Boadle from Havana’s Reuters Bureau last week.

An infant mortality rate that plummeted from 13th lowest in the world (lower than in Germany, France, Japan, Israel among many other first world nations) during the unspeakable Batista era to 40th today, that finds most of the nations behind it in 1958 now ahead of it — this rate qualifies as an “achievement” in the lexicon of news agencies that have earned a Havana bureau.

This current infant-mortality rate, by the way, is also kept artificially low by an abortion rate of 0.71, the Hemisphere’s (and hovering among the world’s top five for the past two decades) highest, which “terminates” any pregnancy that even hints at trouble. Cuba’s suicide rate is also currently the Hemisphere’s highest, triple its rate during the unspeakable Batista era.

Of course any foreign journalist who attempted to practice his profession in Cuba would be quickly escorted to the airport in a firm chokehold. Any Cuban who tried anything remotely of the sort would instantly and involuntarily enroll in the regime’s free (though somewhat cramped) lodging, it’s foolproof weight-loss regimen, and get free electroshock treatments to boot.

In case some have forgotten, Cuba is a Communist state almost perfectly patterned on the Stalinist model. I say “almost” because in the early stage Castro and Che deviated somewhat by actually jailing more political prisoners per-capita than Stalin. As such, material rewards are granted exclusively by the state and relentless police-state control is the regime priority.

“Health-care” is important only so far as a function to bamboozle foreign press agencies, academics and filmmakers (which has proven a laughable cakewalk). As such, the rewards issued by Castro’s Stalinist regime to Cuba’s doctors (a monthly salary of $22) are dwarfed by those awarded to the dedicated and intrepid staff of Cuba’s Ministry of the Interior. These latter and perform the vital functions in maintaining the viability of the Castro fiefdom.

According to the International Labor Organization, during the unspeakable Batista era, Cuba workers were more highly unionized as a percentage of population than U.S. workers and earned the 8th-highest wages — not in the hemisphere — but in the world. Cuba had a higher per-capita income at the time than half of Europe’s, double Japan’s, along with the lowest inflation rate (at 1.4) in the Western Hemisphere. The Cuban peso of the time was valued slightly higher than the U.S. dollar and was fully backed by Cuba’s Gold reserves. My parents paid $3.50 a month to a private-sector HMO for full health care coverage for their entire family during the 50′s.

For Cuba’s indigent (or those who preferred buying a couple bottles of Rum or lottery tickets with their $3.50) the unspeakable Batista regime maintained the Calixto García, Reina Mercedes, Emergencias, Hospital de Maternidad, and El Infantil hospitals — all providing what socialists term free health care, in the manner of New Orleans Charity Hospital.

The U.N.’s World Health Organization has a fetish for infant-mortality figures, regarding them as the be-all and end-all of nation’s health index. As such, Castro, whose fiefdom was awarded a prestigious UNESCO award in 2000 — is absolutely anal (Ha-Ha!) in reporting carefully doctored (shall we say) figures on Cuba’s infant-mortality rate to the WHO. And Michael Moore Sicko relies on these U.N. figures exclusively.

In April 2001 Dr. Juan Felipe García MD, of Jacksonville, Florida, interviewed several recent doctor defectors from Cuba. Based on what he heard his report may discomfit some Sicko fans. “The official Cuban infant-mortality figure is a farce,” asserts Dr. Garcia. “Cuban pediatricians constantly falsify figures for the regime. If an infant dies during its first year the doctor often reports he was older. Otherwise such lapses could cost him severe penalties and his job.”

A samizdat smuggled out of Cuba in January 2003 by Mario Enrique Mayo reported that Dr Olga Oropeza from Camagüey province was severely reprimanded by her hospital chief Leonardo Ramirez for delivering a premature baby. “That could raise this hospital’s infant-mortality rate!” Ramirez berated the terrified woman.

According to a report by the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, the mortality rate of Cuban children aged 1 to 4 is 34% higher than the U.S. (11.8 versus 8.8 per 1000). But these don’t figure into U.N.-spotlighted “infant-mortality rates,” you see. So apparently the pressure (so far) is not on Cuban doctors to fudge these figures.

The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons also reports that the current maternal mortality rate in Cuba is almost FOUR TIMES the U.S. rate (33 versus 8.4 per 1000). Peculiar (and tragic) how so many mothers die during childbirth in Cuba? And how many 1—4 year olds perish, while from birth to one year old (the period during which they qualify in U.N. 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 agency or network, much less a visa to film a documentary in Fidel Castro’s fiefdom.

Humberto Fontova [send him mail] is the author of Exposing the Real Che Guevara and the Useful Idiots Who Idolize Him.

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