Slaves in white coats
By Carlos Alberto Montaner,
www.firmaspress.com. Posted on Tue, Sep.
13, 2005 in The
Fidel Castro offered the United States
a small army of 1,586 doctors to help relieve
the catastrophe created by Hurricane Katrina.
The State Department courteously declined
the aid and explained the reason: The United
States does not need medical help; it has
all the doctors and hospitals it requires.
The problems, all of them transitory, are
of a different kind and related to logistics
and urgency, not shortage. It's not that
the United States has no drinking water,
food rations or oil. It's that, suddenly,
it has to feed and evacuate hundreds of
thousands of displaced people from cities
that are flooded and in ruins.
Castro, however, did not offer his medical
contingent so that the United States might
accept it. It was a gesture. He is a man
of gestures. For almost half a century,
he has been playing with appearances. He
appears to be a statesman who is loved by
a prosperous and happy people whose principal
necessities have been met.
That's false, and he knows it, but he doesn't
care. He devotes all his effort to spread
that image and to conceal the truth of a
miserable and desperate country. Within
his topsy-turvy psychology, his offer is
a way to humiliate the United States and
inflict upon it a political defeat.
By his reasoning, if Washington accepts
the doctors, it proves the invincible superiority
of Castro's communist system, always brotherly
and alert. If it does not accept them, it
demonstrates the callous indifference of
capitalism to the pain of the poor people
of Louisiana, almost all of them black.
In any case, the truly humiliated and offended
people are the Cuban doctors, those 65,000
fine professionals -- generally devoted
and selfless -- who usually work and live
under miserable conditions in Cuba. They
are the comandante's favorite slaves: He
rents them out, sells them, gives them away,
lends them, exchanges them for oil or uses
them as an alibi to justify his dictatorship.
It is through them, and the dentists, that
Castro expresses his altruistic outbursts.
His kind, revolutionary internationalism
is based on the sacrifice of the Cuban medics.
Sometimes he uses them to foment political
dependence, as in his wealthy Venezuelan
colony; others, to promote propaganda or
exert diplomatic pressure on the country
that receives his poisoned present.
They are his slaves and must obey him meekly.
They cannot emigrate from Cuba, but if Castro,
with a snap of his fingers, tells them to
go abroad they must do so at once and leave
their families as hostages. Once overseas
-- in Algeria or Guatemala, Iran or Honduras
-- they must never tell what they know about
the Cuban reality. They mustn't defect,
because if they do they will never again
see their loved ones.
'A frustrated doctor'
Castro's relations with doctors are quite
peculiar. His favorite son (and he has dozens
of sons) is a good-natured and discreet
orthopedist. Castro is surrounded by doctors,
perhaps because he's a notorious hypochondriac,
whereas he detests any contact with lawyers,
which is what he studied to be.
His private physician, Eugenio Zelman,
usually complains, half in jest, half in
earnest, that, ''Fidel is a frustrated doctor
who wants to know more medicine than I.''
And that's how it is: Doctors at Brothers
Almeijeira Hospital feared the Maximum Leader's
visits as if they were the plague, along
with his scatterbrained opinions as to what
and how much should be prescribed.
Some years ago, the National Assembly gave
Castro a luxury yacht as a birthday present.
Recently, it presented him with a small
mobile hospital, staffed with physicians
and surgeons who accompany him everywhere.
When he was younger, he wanted to enjoy
life; now, he's happy just to prolong it.
In the building where his office is located,
the situation is the same: He has, permanently
and at his exclusive disposal, a complete
center for any kind of medical emergency.
A mere attack of the hiccups is enough to
set off every alarm. No head of government
on the planet takes so many precautions.
None commands an army of 65,000 sad-eyed
slaves in white coats.
©2005 Firmas Press