Politics, Business & Culture in the Americas

Letter to the Editor: [i]Dispatches from the Field: Is Cuba Really Changing?[/i] (Summer 2009)

Dear Editor,

No human endeavor is perfect, and Danielle Fehling’s article “Is Cuba Really Changing?” is no exception.  She describes the Cubans’ plight and their desire for change.  But her reference to “a pre-revolution Cuba where foreigners use the island as a playground while some Cubans go without basic services like health care and primary education” is a historical distortion.  Pre Castro’s Cuba was more complicated than that. 

Cuba, she says, “is frozen in time.” But not because of the United States or the embargo.  Castro stole American properties, threw the Americans out and replaced advanced American technology with useless Soviet machinery and their disastrous economic model.  Cuba has yet to recover.

President Barack Obama lifted restrictions on family remittances and travel for Cuban Americans and asked Raul Castro to release political prisoners.  The General said no.  The White House said the ball was in Havana’s court, and we are still waiting.

She quotes a Salvadorian orthopedic surgeon in Cuba who said, “An end to the embargo could make his job much easier … he complained that medicines had to be shipped from Europe when a cheaper and quicker source of supply was ‘90 miles away.’”

But just because the regime says so, it does not make it true.  Havana claims to be a medical superpower, but  aspirin, vitamins, etc. are scarce, unless one is a foreigner who can enter,  unlike the Cubans, the International Pharmacy in Havana,  where all medicine are available for dollars, but only to foreigners. Cubans call it “medical apartheid.”   Cuba can buy medicine in the United States and elsewhere.   Havana spends millions in food purchases in the United States annually.  Havana does not buy American medicine in the United States because American medicine can be bought cheaper in Canada and elsewhere. Many Americans who live south of the Canadian border go to Canada to fill their prescriptions.

The ability of the CIA to deny medicine to Cubans, but not to foreigners in Cuba, is one of the wonders of our time.  Nevertheless, Ms. Fehling should be congratulated for a well written and mostly accurate article.


-Frank Calzón is the Executive Director of the Center for a Free Cuba, based in Washington DC

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