- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 29, 2007

Castro’s ‘medical apartheid’

I couldn’t help but be amused by Associated Press’s version of Cuba’s health system (“Despite Hardships, Cubans Live Longer,” Web site, April 22).

Perhaps the longevity to which the article refers has as much to do with a slimming diet (thanks to food rationing) and regular physical exercise, walking (thanks to no transportation), as it has to do with the Cuban health system. As for the “low-stress Caribbean lifestyle,” with its emphasis on spending time with family, this much can be said: if you are trapped in a dead-end, extremely low-paying job, dependent on the government for your (rationed) food, with little more than the latest issue of Granma (the Communist Party newspaper) or other government-approved literature to read and limited access to the abundant sources of entertainment available in capitalist societies, no doubt being with family and friends constitutes a large chunk of your leisure hours.

What is not obvious is how the “low-stress lifestyle” jibes with Cuba’s notoriously high suicide rate, the highest among Latin American countries. Is death by suicide factored into the official longevity statistics?

Yes, medical care in Cuba is free. Unfortunately, this is a case where you get what you pay for. If you want first-class medical care on the island of Cuba, you need to be: (a) a member of the Communist “nomenklatura,” or (b) a foreigner with hard currency to pay for it. If you are an ordinary Cuban, be prepared to get by with maybe an aspirin or a Band-Aid. Some have dubbed this “medical apartheid.” Even the first example is somewhat dubious, given the recent experience of Fidel Castro. Although in keeping with the ultra-secretive style of his former Soviet mentors (remember the endless speculation over the health of Brezhnev, Andropov and Chernenko?) no one outside Cuba really knows the details of Mr. Castro’s near-fatal surgery — but it has been speculated that intestinal surgery of a type routinely performed with complete success in Europe, the United States and elsewhere may have simply been botched.

There is, however, one no-cost, first-class government-provided medical system on the island: that which is provided to the terrorist detainees at the U.S. facility in Guantanamo.

T.J. MORGAN

McLean

Gun-control folly

It didn’t take long for anti-gun politicians to start the drums beating in an effort to infringe on the rights of law-abiding citizens (“Kaine will tighten gun-buyer controls,” Metropolitan, Friday).

Maryland state Sen. Michael G. Lenett has jumped on the bandwagon, announcing that he plans to introduce another assault weapons ban in the next legislative session. This comes as no surprise, but he is attempting to tie this to the tragedy at Virginia Tech, where there were no so-called assault weapons. Of course, if one looks closely at Mr. Lenett’s assault weapons bill from last year you’ll see that, had he gotten his way, virtually all handguns would have been classified as assault weapons and banned. Mr. Lenett also wants to fingerprint gun buyers. Law-abiding gun buyers have to jump through enough state and federal hoops — the background check and waiting period are sufficient. Why does he persist in treating law-abiding citizens like criminals?

Mr. Lenett admits that no law guarantees prevention of tragedies such as the one at Virginia Tech, but he wants to address something he calls gaping holes in gun-control laws that contribute to the rising problem of gun violence in Maryland. I have news for Mr. Lenett: It is the people (such as himself) who have created Maryland’s victim-rich environment by passing laws that keep the good honest citizens of Maryland defenseless. It is people like Mr. Lenett that have created the gun-free zones that people like Seung-hui Cho consider as their happy hunting grounds.

At least Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley says he will look at existing laws. I think he will find there are already enough laws infringing on the rights of the people and hopefully he will determine that some of them need to be revoked in order to make Marylanders safer and restore our ability to defend ourselves.

ROBERT E. BRAND

Frederick

Attrition, not amnesty

The story “22 persons charged in counterfeit ID ring” (Nation, Friday) hopefully signals that our federal government is getting serious about immigration enforcement and is not merely perpetrating a political ploy.

The people who were arrested by federal agents are not citizens or legal immigrants, but instead are illegal aliens who have committed at least three crimes in our nation, including document fraud, illegal entry and plotting to murder others. Federal agents had the right and the responsibility to arrest this ring of criminals, despite the predictable criticism from pro-illegal-alien groups.

These raids should give President Bush and Sen. Edward M. Kennedy something to ponder in formulating their “comprehensive” immigration reform bill. Those who were arrested in the Chicago raid are not people we want to be put on a path toward U.S. citizenship and do not deserve to reside in our nation. The viable solution for the immigration crisis in our nation is not amnesty for illegal aliens, but rather attrition through enforcement of present immigration laws.

BOB ALLAN

Rochester Hills, Mich.

Stacking statehood

Puerto Rico Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila is right to raise the alarm (“Puerto Rico’s future,” Op-Ed, Thursday) about the two-stage election process called for in the misnamed Puerto Rico Democracy Act, H.R. 900. The process is rigged in favor of a pro-statehood vote.

Because the option of becoming a state has been rejected by Puerto Rican voters three times in a row, pro-statehood interests have decided they have to stack the deck. So they have devised an election process that would have made the KGB in the old Soviet Union proud.

Not only does it insult the intelligence of Puerto Rican voters, but it is a long-term threat to peace in the United States.

Nations that annex territories whose population is hostile or indifferent to being incorporated almost always end up being resented as imperialist and sooner or later regret their actions.

K.C. MCALPIN

Executive director

ProEnglish

Arlington

There’s more to Colombia’s story

“Unblock aid to Colombia” (Editorial, April 22) made the valid points that some areas of Colombia are safer today than at the beginning of Plan Colombia six years and $5 billion U.S. tax dollars ago, and that some officials linked to paramilitaries are finally being investigated. But there is more to the story.

Each year, the secretary of state has certified that the Colombian government and armed forces have met the human-rights conditions in U.S. law, including severing links with paramilitaries. But, in fact, we now know that those links were extensive and ongoing, and almost no one was brought to justice. Lately, courageous prosecutors and judges have begun to unravel the truth and new revelations keep emerging. Before we send the latest installment of $55 million to Colombia, Congress has an oversight duty and a fiduciary responsibility to U.S. taxpayers to discuss the latest certification with the State Department and obtain assurances that new reports of high-level military collusion with paramilitaries are erroneous, and that commanders of troops who have committed atrocities are being held accountable.

PATRICK LEAHY

Chairman

State and Foreign Operations

Subcommittee

Committee on Appropriations

Washington

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide