The New York Times, in a front page article in its Science Section [May 8], entitled "A Regime's Tight Grip on AIDS," identifies this genetic variety of AIDS strains as "a legacy of [Cuba's] foreign aid." So initiating or escalating wars that cost millions of African lives and not a few Cuban lives as well was in fact a beneficent act of the State. The 12-year Angolan War, which lasted longer than any previous conflict in Cuban history and four times longer than the Cuban Revolution, was no more than a "foreign aid" program — the Cuban Peace Korps, if you will — which considerably and considerately reduced the number of natives killed by AIDS by shooting them before they contracted AIDS. As for the "doctors, teachers and engineers" also sent to Africa as "internationalists" — which The Times does not distinguish from the soldiers, hoping to disguise the soldiers' mission as a humanitarian one — they also were under the control of the Cuban military and acted in support of it. The "foreign aid" that these "internationalists" rendered in Africa as the Gurkhas of Soviet Empire added immeasurably to the misery of that beleaguered continent and threatened also the well-being of their own country. Castro brought Cubans to Africa, and Cubans brought AIDS to Cuba.
It is strange that Ronald Reagan is still blamed for fostering AIDS with his silence, while Fidel Castro, who is personally responsible for introducing AIDS to Cuba, is now acclaimed as "prescient" by The Times for taking politically-incorrect measures, including forced quarantine, to combat the virus. Can you imagine what The Times' reaction would have been if Reagan or even a president it actually liked had tried to implement similar measures here? You don't have to imagine it because The Times carried out a great preemptive campaign in the 1980s to make sure that the civil rights of people with AIDS and HIV were not compromised in any way in this country, even if this meant discarding traditional medical protocols for dealing with infectious diseases. But now the position of The Times appears to be that one can't argue with success and it is convinced that "there is no question that [Cuba's methods] have succeeded" because "it had an early and effective response to the epidemic" while the U.S supposedly did not: "[Cuba's] infection rate is 0.1 percent, on a par with Finland, Singapore and Kazakhstan. That is one-sixth the rate of the U.S., one-twentieth [that] of nearby Haiti." Personally, I'm more impressed by Haiti's progress because at least we know that its health statistics, which are compiled by the World Health Organization (WHO), are not "cooked up" by Castro's medical propaganda office, as Nick Eberstadt of the Harvard Center for Population Studies proved years ago.
Besides "the government's harsh early tactics — until 1993, everyone who tested positive for HIV was forced into quarantine," The Times identifies four "other elements [that] have contributed to Cuba's success: it has free universal basic health care; it has stunningly high rates of HIV testing; it saturates its population with free condoms, concentrating on high-risk groups like prostitutes; it gives teenagers graphic safe-sex education; [and] it rigorously traces the sexual contacts of each person who tests positive." The Times does not realize, apparently, that these other elements are, in their own way, as coercive as forced quarantine, and a continuation of, rather than a departure from, those "early harsh methods." "Universal basic health care" in Cuba means that you have no choice but to submit to whatever the State determines is in your best interest and the best interest of society. There is no "opting out" of this absolute control because there are no alternatives to it (that is, no private insurance, no private doctors and no private hospitals). The "stunningly high rates of HIV testing" are possible because testing is not voluntary: the State decides who will be tested, when they will be tested and how often they will be tested. If Cuba "saturates its population with condoms," it is the only thing it "saturates" them with. At the height of the Special Period in the 1990s, when Cuba was in the grip of not only AIDS but famine, condoms were universally melted and used as a cheese substitute in homemade pizzas. The fact that now condoms are chiefly distributed among prostitutes suggests that the Cuban regime is interested in protecting sex tourists, not the general population. If it were interested in protecting Cubans it would not promote the island's tourism industry on the basis of its sex trade. The "graphic safe-sex education" for teenagers does not require parental consent since all children in Cuba are legally wards of the State, which may decide, without consulting the parents, all facets of their lives and education. And, finally, the State does "rigorously trace the sexual contacts of each person who tests positive," and the word "rigorously" here means punitively, since a failure to disclose such contacts can still get you confined for life at a state sanitarium. Moreover, homosexuals with HIV or AIDS who are known or presumed to be promiscuous are just as forcibly committed to state institutions as they were before 1993.
"By contrast [to Cuba]," The Times notes, the response in the United States [to AIDS] is "feeble" [italics mine.]" "Feeble," because the U.S. has a functional rather than an ornamental Constitution; "feeble," because it has an American Civil Liberties Union which fought in the courts against mandatory disclosure of HIV status; "feeble," because it has hundreds of advocacy groups for AIDS and Cuba doesn't have even one; "feeble," because its liberal media, led by The New York Times, opposed all measures that would protect society at the expense of an individual's supposed "right to privacy;" "feeble," in sum, because the United States is not a one-party dictatorship which aggregates to itself every power and is above every law.
I still did not expect The New York Times, however enamored it might be with Cuba's "robust" AIDS policy, to use the words "mere" and "only" when referring to the number of Cuban casualties from AIDS or the number of Cuban AIDS cases. And yet it did. Communist Cuba, it reports, "has one of the world's smallest epidemics, a mere 14,038 cases" and "only 2,364 Cubans have [died of AIDS]." As usual, The Times will renounce all its cherished principles and even its hallowed prejudices in order to praise Fidel Castro. And henceforth we can expect the words "mere" and "only" to be banned as qualifiers for AIDS cases or AIDS deaths reported in The Times. True adulation reveals itself in the exceptions that it makes without justification or apology.
The article profiles a Dr. Jorge Pérez Avila, who is described as "Cuba's best-known AIDS doctor." Dr. Pérez, we are told, "has memories of helping his bus driver father make gasoline bombs to throw at the police during the Batista government" (we doubt that any such bomb was ever thrown at the "police"). "As a teenager he dropped out of school to live in the mountains, teaching villagers to read under a literacy program after Castro came to power." That's as far as Dr. Pérez's exemplary vita curriculum goes before he discharges the office for which he has been introduced, namely, to exalt Fidel Castro:
"In 1983, Fidel Castro visited the Pedro Kourí Institute, Cuba's top tropical disease hospital, to hear a presentation on malaria and dengue fever.
"As it ended, he suddenly asked the director, "Gustavo, what are you doing to keep AIDS from entering Cuba?
"Dr. Gustavo Kourí, son of the Institute's founder, was caught off guard, Dr. Pérez said, and stammered: 'AIDS, comandante, AIDS? It is a new disease. We don't even know whether it's produced by a bacteria, a virus or a fungus. There isn't much data on it, just what's been reported in the United States and a few cases in Europe. It will take time to know how big it is.'
"Mr. Castro replied: I think it will be the epidemic of this century. And it's your responsibility, Gustavo, to stop it becoming a major problem here.'
"This was before any American president publicly uttered the word 'AIDS.' Asked how Mr. Castro could have been so prescient, Dr. Pérez struggled to find the right word, then said: 'Castro has luz larga" — 'big lights,' the Cuban slang for automobile high beams. 'He reads a lot. He sees far ahead.'"
Now take a breath because swallowing that cannot have been easy.
A doctor who does not object to having confidential mail from his patients intercepted and read by Fidel Castro — presumably because the letters cast him in a good light — and literally "led a '¡Viva, Fidel!' cheer at his hospital's World AIDS Day" festivities, does not seem the ideal source to attest to Castro's "prescience," and his retelling, 30 years later, of a conversation to which he was not a party, and which casts Castro as the all-knowing hero of Cuba's fight against AIDS, would try the credulity of anyone except a New York Times reporter or editor.
While indulging such anecdotal sycophancy, The New York Times, not surprisingly, failed to mention in the article the biggest AIDS story out of Cuba in the 1990s — the widespread self-contamination with the virus, through improvised transfusions of contaminated blood (yes, blood transfusions, not needle sharing) by disaffected youth seeking shelter and better food in AIDS sanitariums. But, of course, that would sound a discordant note in The Times' rhapsody to a "Cuban society that is the opposite of puritanical [whorish?]; [where] scanty clothing is routine [because clothing is scarce]; and suggestive flirtation is common [is there any other kind?].
You would think that after nearly 60 years of covering Fidel Castro and being lied to and defrauded by him, The New York Times had learned its lesson. Unfortunately, it seems that every generation of Timesmen must learn the same lesson over and over again. There is no collective memory at the so-called "newspaper of record," only permanent amities and enmities. Fidel Castro has been on The Times' "Friends List" longer than any other foreign dictator. The Times has always had a vested interest in his success since Castro is so much its own creation. Every failure — and there have been only failures — has caused The Times to redouble its efforts on his behalf; and even as he totters on the edge of the grave, it still has his back. Since Castro seized power in 1959, The New York Times has never published an editorial calling on him (or his brother) to relinquish power. Loyalty such as that would be worthy of admiration if its beneficiary were not an enslaver of men.
Finally, The Times needs to do a little fact checking: Fidel Castro has never publicly said that he regrets imprisoning homosexuals in labor camps, but that he wasn't told about it at the time (his "prescience" must have failed him then); the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution are not "defenders of Cuban democracy;" and the purchase of U.S. medicines by Cuba has never been prohibited by the trade embargo.