Castro’s Cuba Nears an Anniversary, Cheered by PBS

This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.

The New York Sun

WASHINGTON — Next week marks the 52nd anniversary of Fidel Castro’s accession to his Cuban throne. I cannot wait to see how it will be solemnized. Will little children appear before Fidel throwing flowers? They better not throw them too hard. He is pretty frail. Will there be a military parade? If there is where will they come up with the gasoline? There is hardly enough in the country for the Communist party leaders’ limousines. What will they be celebrating? By now everyone knows that the revolution was a stupendous bust starting about 51 years ago.

Perhaps Steven Spielberg will be there. He dined with Fidel back in 2002. Upon leaving his presence Mr. Spielberg enthused that he had just spent “the eight most important hours of my life.” Fidel is no fast food enthusiast. He has long repasts and two possibly three desserts. He also has long and luxurious confabs. After a three-hour visit in 1998 Jack Nicholson called Fidel a “genius.” He added, “We spoke about everything” — which probably makes Mr. Nicholson a genius too. I wonder if they talked about the plight of political prisoners in Fidel’s jails. Actually I wonder if they talked about how Fidel was presiding over one of the last Communist dictatorships left on earth, and naturally enough an impoverished one.

Something there is about a Communist dictator that brings out the stunning vacuity of idiots like Spielberg and Nicholson and all the rest of the Hollywoodians. Remember when filmmaker Saul Landau complimented Fidel for having “brought a greater equality in terms of wealth distribution [to Cuba] than I guess any country in the world today”? Fidel accomplished this feat by simply stealing all of Cuba’s wealth and leaving everyone poor except him and his cronies. Would Landau and his fellows admire such confiscations if practiced here in America? Who would have enough money to go to the movies?

One of Fidel’s most fabulous claims has to do with the health care system he has imposed on his people. No one there suffers Michelle Obama’s dread obesity, except for the occasional Communist party functionary. In fact, everyone is in the pink. I recently heard of the marvels of the Communist system, and I did not even have to turn to Fidel’s state-owned radio to hear it. It was broadcast on our own state-funded broadcast system, PBS’s “NewsHour.” There in a three-part series one Mr. Ray Suarez sang of Cuba’s accomplishments. There was not a word about how he was covering health care in a police state, just Cuba where doctors abound and everyone is checked regularly for the good of public health. According to Mr. Suarez, the key to the Cuban people’s rubicund good health is “aggressive preventive medicine.” He goes on, “Homes are investigated, water quality checked, electrical plugs checked.”

Frankly, I was a little surprised by all Suarez’s guff. The generals of Myanmar would not get off so easily. Gratefully, the vigilant Mary Anastasia O’Grady of the Wall Street Journal who specializes in Latin America also was in Mr. Suarez’s audience. She points out that the series was “was taped in Cuba with government ‘cooperation’ so there is no surprise that it went heavy on the party line.” You can say that again. And Miss O’Grady refutes Mr. Suarez with a memoir from Vincente Botin, a Spanish Television correspondent who spent four years in the Cuban hellhole.

Among other points he makes, Mr. Botin claims that Cuban homes have no regular running water or steady electricity even in the capital. Mr. Botin says that in Havana 75.5% of the water pipes are “unusable,” and that the government “recognized that 60% of pumped water was lost before it made it to consumers.” To alleviate the problem Miss O’Grady writes that “the city began providing water in each neighborhood only on certain days. Havana water is also notoriously contaminated. Foreigners drink only the bottled stuff, which Cubans can’t afford.” It is curious that a country that cannot even provide water to its people can boast of a superb health system.

Yet we now have it from PBS’s Mr. Suarez that the public health care system provided by Fidel is superb. Cuba — a country that cannot provide clean water to its citizenry to say nothing of electricity — is a land of vigorous good health. Homes are investigated, Mr. Suarez says, and “electrical plugs checked.” Possibly that is because in Cuba doctors double as secret police, or is it the other way round? At any rate, it is reassuring to know that in Cuba house calls are made.

Mr. Tyrrell, editor in chief of The American Spectator and author, most reently, of “After the Hangover: The Conservatives’ Road to Recovery,” is a contributing editor of The New York Sun.

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