So here’s an agreeable Wikileaks moment. A classified U.S. embassy cable reveals that Cuba banned “Sicko,” Michael Moore’s 2007 exercise in health-care agitprop. Why? Because Cuban doctors who saw they film recognized that that it presented a “mythically” favorable version of what health care was like in the worker’s paradise of Cuba and they feared a “popular backlash” if the film were screened.
The Guardian has the whole story. Among the revelations:
- When the film was shown to a group of Cuban doctors, some became so “disturbed at the blatant misrepresentation of healthcare in Cuba that they left the room.”
- Castro’s government banned the film because, the leaked cable claims, it “”nows the film is a myth and does not want to risk a popular backlash by showing to Cubans facilities that are clearly not available to the vast majority of them.”
“Sicko,” remember, was nominated for an Oscar (“best documentary,” i.e., “best ‘documentary’ ”). The operative contrast was between the nasty, for-profit U.S. system of health care that was cruel and inefficient, and the marvelous Cuban model that was available to all for free.
Complete, nonsense, of course, but precisely the sort of narrative to warm the cockles of Hollywood’s heart. Hence the Oscar nomination. Moore’s fantasy lauds a modern Cuban hospital as providing the sort of health care provided to ordinary Cubans. In fact, the Guardian reports, “the only way a Cuban can get access to the hospital is through a bribe or contacts inside the hospital administration.” Most Cubans, if they actually receive health care, are likely to get it at establishments like the Calixto Garcia Hospital, built in 1800, a “dilapidated” facility, the leaked cable observes, at which one finds health care “reminiscent . . . the poorest countries in the world.”
But don’t take the cable’s word for it. Just ask yourself what Cuba’s elite does when it needs serious medical intervention. “The Cuban ruling elite leave Cuba when they need medical care,” the Guardian reports. “Fidel Castro, for example, brought in a Spanish doctor during his health crisis in 2006. The vice-minister of health, Abelardo Ramirez, went to France for gastric cancer surgery. The neurosurgeon who heads CIMEQ [Centro de Investigaciones Médico-Quirúrgicas] hospital – widely regarded as one of the best in Cuba – came to England for eye surgery, returning periodically for checkups.” Can’t blame ’em. They may be blinkered ideologues but they aren’t stupid.