September 8, 2005.
Disaster Relief: Ninety-five nations have
pledged $1 billion in aid in the wake of
Katrina, and while the U.S. can manage,
it's heartening. But one government that
wishes us ill has jumped in and it should
We're talking about our antagonist of the
last half-century, Fidel Castro. Cuba's
dictator headed straight for the TV cameras
to make the most of an offer of 1,600 doctors.
Given how his munificence pales in comparison,
say, to Kuwait's quietly pledged $500 million,
it's amazing how much publicity he's reaped.
But Castro's offer of medical help, supposedly
waiting at the Havana airport, is about
his need to meddle; it has nothing to do
with delivering aid. What he's been up to
recently tells the real story.
Castro has forged a fresh career offering
physicians throughout the hemisphere in
a bid to drive a political wedge in other
states. And it's often at our expense.
As The Wall Street Journal's Mary Anastasia
O'Grady has noted, the U.S. often gets stuck
urging fiscal discipline and drug eradication
to poor states such as Honduras to ensure
their foundation for long-term growth.
It's at these times when Castro offers
"free" doctors to confuse the
poor and encourage anti-Americanism. But
that's not all. Paraguay recently threw
out 700 of these doctors, citing their interference
in domestic politics.
In Venezuela, for another example, Castro's
13,000 "free" doctors have replaced
the country's real doctors, as funds are
siphoned from public hospitals to Castro
setups, driving thousands of Venezuelan
physicians out of work. Those doctors are
protesting in the streets. One news photo
showed an angry doctor holding a sign calling
Castro and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez
"Pirates of the Caribbean."
While those doctors minister elsewhere,
health care in Cuba is nearly absent. The
filthy, dilapidated state of the country's
public hospitals is a roach-crawling horror.
Impoverished Cubans write their Miami relatives
begging for aspirin and bandages, revealing
the real state of Castro's vaunted health
Part of the problem has been the doctors
themselves. Castro's commitment to building
a team of roving doctors has contributed
to a lack of development across the nation,
leaving Cuba an economic shell.
Castro's record on hurricane cleanup is
no better. As he touts Cuba's hurricane
preparations, the results seen during Hurricane
Dennis this summer told a different story.
The scores of dead, the destroyed housing
stock and the rebellion in the streets looked
quite a bit like the scenes in New Orleans.
But at that time, Castro turned down U.S.
and European aid, insulting U.S. help as
"miserable" and letting Cubans
Castro's new aid offer is hardly the act
of a good neighbor. He seeks new recruits
for his failed revolution with "free"
doctors in a new political gambit. Castro's
playing the same game he played in Honduras;
it's the last thing we need at a time like