Despite his raging liberalism, I have long been an admirer of Nicholas Kristof. It takes a man of immense courage to do what he did in bringing the terrible truth about Communist China to light for all to see. He has also taken a stand on behalf of young conservatives who suffer discrimination on college campuses, a stand for which he received an enormous amount of hate mail from his lefty readers.
That being said, he screwed up — big time — in his latest column in The New York Times. His essay is dedicated to telling his readers why "Cuba has the Medicare for All that many Americans dream about."
A little background, to explain my dismay.
I spent two weeks in working class areas of Cuba in 2014. I stayed in Havana for some of the time, but it was the city of Santiago de Cuba that left the biggest impression. In Santiago de Cuba, I stayed next door to a nurse, who upon learning I was an American, asked if I could spare any clean pillow cases and bedsheets. She explained that there was a cholera outbreak going around Cuba's hospitals. Cholera had been eradicated in Cuba a century earlier, but Cuban hospitals are so filthy and neglected that the disease has made a strong comeback. (In Venezuela, the largest recipient of Cuban medical slave labor, the once extinct disease of Malaria has been revived. Communism may be Godless, but it seems that Cuban Medicare for All works its own miracles in resurrecting dead plagues.)
I was not allowed to see the hospital for myself. Had they known I was coming, they may have prepared, like they did for Michael Moore (a Cuban girl who's uncle is a doctor in Cuba once told me that "Sicko really bothers me because he [Moore] went to my uncle's hospital and they were notified months ahead of time. More than enough time to set up a front.") Instead, I was shown a clinic that was pristine — and it was empty. As far as I can tell, the common people are not allowed in that clinic.
It wouldn't be surprising. Cuba is by far the most class segregated society I have ever seen. A Cuban worker explained to me that while they hear endlessly from the government about the “American embargo against Cuba,” the real problem is the “internal embargo”—the embargo that the government elite has imposed on the Cuban people to keep them from participating in the economies of the elite and the outside world.
Not only is there physical separation from the elites, but there is even a separate currency. The Cuban people use the Cuban Peso (CUP), whereas the government elite and the tourists use the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC). The CUC is worth 25 times the value of the CUP, and the nation’s tourist areas, luxury restaurants, and other attractions for foreigners will not accept Cuban pesos, effectively keeping the native population out. The Cuban government also uses the two currencies to make it more difficult for Cuban workers to keep more of their money; Cuban workers employed by foreign companies, for example, are only allowed to keep 8% of their salaries once they are converted into CUP.
Mr. Kristof apparently visited a different Cuba than I did.
His column, titled "Why Infants May Be More Likely to Die in America Than Cuba," tells us that "Cuba is poor and repressive with a dysfunctional economy, but in health care it does an impressive job that the United States could learn from."
According to official statistics (about which, as we’ll see, there is some debate), the infant mortality rate in Cuba is only 4.0 deaths per 1,000 live births. In the United States, it’s 5.9. In other words, an American infant is, by official statistics, almost 50 percent more likely to die than a Cuban infant. By my calculations, that means that 7,500 American kids die each year because we don’t have as good an infant mortality rate as Cuba reports.
Notice the reference to "some debate" about the accuracy of the Cuban Communist regime's official statistics. He returns to this later in his essay:
There are also allegations that Cuba fiddles with its numbers. The country has an unusually high rate of late fetal deaths, and skeptics contend that when a baby is born in distress and dies after a few hours, this is sometimes categorized as a stillbirth to avoid recording an infant death. Dr. Roberto Álvarez, a Cuban pediatrician, insisted to me that this does not happen and countered with explanations for why the fetal death rate is high. I’m not in a position to judge who’s right, but any manipulation seems unlikely to make a huge difference to the reported figures.
It does not seem to occur to Mr. Kristof that the Doctor he was speaking to, an employee of the regime, may be lying. It should be noted that the allegations Mr. Kristof refers to - detailing how the Communist regime is lying - are widespread, and were recently stated by a man who watches events in Cuba very closely. "Totalitarian regimes don’t have the best history of accurate reporting," Senator Marco Rubio said on the Senate floor. "In Cuba there are instances reported, that if a child only lives a few hours after birth, it’s not counted as a person who ever lived and therefore doesn’t count against the mortality rate. ... Any time there’s any problem with the child in utero, the mothers are strongly encouraged to undergo abortions."
Mr. Kristof may have been taken on a Potemkin village tour. At one point in the article, he refers to health problems resulting from more and more people who are overweight. Almost everyone I saw was underweight, and I actually acquired one Cuban's ration book from the previous year. Not many people can get fat on rations that small.
Mr. Kristof writes that:
Missing a prenatal checkup is much less likely in Cuba because of a system of front-line clinics called consultorios. These clinics, staffed by a single doctor and nurse, are often run down and poorly equipped, but they make health care readily available: Doctors live upstairs and are on hand after hours in emergencies.
As noted earlier, the consultorio I saw in Santiago de Cuba was devoid of the common man. It was just another part of what Rubio described as a "three-tiered system where foreigners and government officials get health care much better than what’s available to the general population."
Additional evidence that there was a Potemkin element to his trip is in the fact that not everyone Mr. Kristof spoke to was honest about who they are. I want to give one glaring example of such a person who is quoted in his essay:
“It’s no secret that most health problems can be resolved at the primary-care level by the doctor, nurse or health worker nearest you,” said Gail Reed, the American executive editor of the health journal Medicc Review, which focuses on Cuban health care. “So, there is something to be said for Cuba’s building of a national primary-care network that posts health professionals in neighborhoods nationwide.”
This is not the first time Gail Reed has been quoted in the New York Times. In 1983 she was interviewed through the fence of the Cuban embassy in Grenada, which was surrounded by US Marines that liberated the island from the Cuban-puppet "New Jewel Movement" regime. From the Cuban side of the fence, Reed angrily complained about the murder of Cuban-backed Communist Maurice Bishop by other Cuban-backed Communists. "The killing of Bishop is [was] not authorized," she said to the Times. Unlike the multitude of other assassinations Castro was involved in, this one was "Not authorized."
Ms. Reed was in a position to know. At the time she was married to Julian Torres Rizo, Cuban ambassador to Grenada. When Reagan liberated Grenada, the Marines found tons and tons of documents. Reagan tasked Herbert Romerstein, head of USIA's office to counter Soviet "Active Measures", with analyzing the documents. Romerstein wrote that "The documents of the New Jewel Movement's Central Committee and Politburo show that Cuban Ambassador Julian Torres Rizo and his wife, American-born Gail Reed Rizo, played a major role in directing the NJM and the Government of Grenada." Every year since 1983, Grenadines celebrate October 25 as Thanksgiving Day, the day the Cubans — Ms Reed and her comrades — were driven from their island. She went back to writing for the Cuban state media.
Ms. Reed, the former Elena Cheucescu of Grenada and propagandist for Cuban Pravda, has reinvented herself as an "expert" on Cuba's healthcare system. She has spent a lifetime as a mouthpiece for the Castro tyranny, and her latest incarnation as "the American executive editor of the health journal Medicc Review, which focuses on Cuban health care" is no different.
Kristof even included the Cuban regime's favorite scapegoat:
It’s also notable that Cuba achieves excellent health outcomes even though the American trade and financial embargo badly damages the economy and restricts access to medical equipment.
According to the Obama administration, in the person of Susan Rice, responding to one of the routine outbursts from the Cuban delegation to the UN in 2009: "It is erroneous to charge that U.S. sanctions are the cause of deprivation among the Cuban people. The U.S. maintains no restriction on humanitarian aid to Cuba. In fact, the U.S. is a major source of humanitarian assistance to the Cuban people and the largest provider of food to Cuba. In 2008, the United States exported agricultural products, medical devices, medicine, wood, and humanitarian items to Cuba. In agricultural products alone, the United States sold $700.1 million of goods to Cuba. Once again, in 2008, the United States was Cuba’s fifth largest trading partner."
Someday the people of Cuba will be free from the tyranny of Communism, and can tell the world about the lies of the regime. Until that time, we are cursed to have to deal with people who believe the propaganda.