Cuba was and is no utopia
Local View: Cuba was and is no utopia
BY PAT CLARE 11 hrs ago (18)
With the death of Fidel Castro it is noteworthy how many people and news
sources express admiration of the dictator.
I have a different impression having traveled to Cuba in 2003 with a
group of American Orthopedic Surgeons with the Eisenhower People to
People Program. We were sent to evaluate orthopedic surgical care in
Cuba and contribute our experience to them.
We were treated well by the medical people and stayed in nice hotels,
and ate good food as privileged guests but saw no Cubans in these
facilities other than workers and police.
In their hospitals they were very proud of their medical system
emphasizing immunization of children and providing adequate protein to
their citizen’s diets. However, we found their orthopedic surgery quite
antiquated compared to ours including fracture care. There was no
arthroscopic surgery or total knee replacements, both routine in the U.S.
Government officials and the privileged were all allowed to travel to
France for knee replacement surgery but not the general population of
course. At the Frank Pais’ Hospital in Havana in a side shop I saw an
older man and a teenager making hip nails(used for hip fractures) by
grinding them out of 2 pieces of metal using a picture of a U.S. hip
nail as a guide(not real high tech or accurate). Cuban officials would
not allow me to take a picture of them.
The people are quite handsome and polite and very poor. Those we talked
to were most careful and fearful they would be heard by the authorities
as spies were everywhere. In the neighborhoods the homes were worn and
weathered. Everyone watches everyone so no mone openly complains about
the government for fear of arrest.
Teachers are paid $30/month and doctors $28/month which is still true
today. Food is provided by the State(was 30 grams of protein per day but
has been reduced to 15 grams per day). Children are given 1 quart of
milk per day until age 7. Fidel’s net worth was over $900,000 at the
time of his death.
The police were everywhere and quite threatening even to us in several
incidents we experienced as one would expect in a police state. I took a
picture of two police and their dog in a city square and a Cuban
suddenly grabbed my arm and suggested I should leave immediately.
After giving some orthopedic talks in sports-related topics at our
meetings we were entertained rather lavishly by Fidel’s son, Antonio
Castro, who is a young orthopedic surgeon and a nice fellow. Again we
saw no Cuban people in these high end places other than workers.
Before we departed the country 5 Cubans stole a barge to escape but were
caught, had a trial and were shot within the week. The U.S. People to
People Program to Cuba was terminated after that incident. Records
indicate that Fidel’s regime has killed over 7000 of their political
opponents let alone the thousands in prisons.
We were all most relieved to return to the USA and no one expressed any
desire to return to Castro’s Cuba after what we saw and experienced. All
expressed empathy for the Cuban people.
Hardly a Utopia.
Dr. Pat Clare was the chief orthopedic surgeon for University of
Nebraska athletics from 1974 to 2014.
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