"We prefer death to corruption": Fidel warns against rum, bribery, student misuse of cars

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Wed Dec 4 18:30:15 MST 2002

In an indication that Fidel's speech is part of a broader effort against the
mounting negative effects of dollarization and other concessions to
capitalism on Cuban society, Cuban officials have admitted that some outside
forces with contacts in Cuba are using the country to trans-ship
illegal drugs and have pledged to put a stop to this.  The comments in
parentheses are by Walter Lippmann. -- Fred Feldman

(We'll surely see more about this in the Cuban media.
Nothing has come out as yet. However, there's been
considerable discussion of social problems in Cuban
society through both the news media and in the
cultural arena. There are many deep social problems
on this island and it's a good sign that they are
being taken up and discussed to the extent that
they are. I've seen offices and meetings of such
self-help groupings as Alcoholics Anonymous here
in Havana, and know they exist elsewhere on the


Castro Warns Students About
Danger Of Rum,Cars,Capitalism

HAVANA (AP)--First Fidel Castro gave up smoking. Now the
leader of a nation famous for making great cigars and fine
rum is taking aim at drinking.

"How much damage has rum caused any society?" Cuban
President Castro asked a crowd of medical students late
Tuesday night. "How many deaths from the irresponsibility of
accidents and alcoholic drinks?"

Castro urged Cubans to celebrate the New Year "but without
rum. It's not that there is going to be a dry law. No. Those
who want to buy will pay a lot."

"If there is one thing I can assure you, it's that neither
cigarettes nor rum will ever be sold cheaply in this
country," said Castro, who was arguably the world's most
famed smoker before giving up cigars several years ago.

"I feel greatly for those sympathizers of the revolution who
like to bend the elbow from time to time," he added, to a
ripple of laughter.

The caution to drinkers came as Castro made an appeal for
morality before one of his favorite audiences: thousands of
students from throughout the Americas, most of them from
poor families, who attend Havana's Latin American Medical
School on full government scholarships.

Castro has often described the heavy investment in the
school by his poor country as proof of the superiority of
socialist morality and as an example of its health system.
For years, Cuba has regularly sent thousands of its own
doctors to remote, often disaster-struck areas to help
millions of the poorest people in the hemisphere.

The Cuban leader said most U.S. doctors, "educated with a
mercantilist concept," were unwilling to give up their high
salaries and comforts to experience "the horrible conditions
of the Third World."

He said the students were being educated "in truly
humanitarian principles and not corrupted by consumer
societies," and he called on them to be moral examples by
serving poor rural areas when they return home after their

But the Cuban leader also warned against temptations closer
at hand, including rum, the desire to drive and association
with "idlers" and "parasites."

He said some hustlers had offered students money "to commit
an illegality" involving automobiles -apparently a reference
to people who buy the permits foreign students can get to
purchase cars.

Car ownership is denied most Cubans and Castro suggested it
may be denied the students, too.

"If we begin to see students with motorcycles, automobiles,
etc., we are risking accidents," Castro warned. "The saddest
thing that could happen is a case of death in an accident.
We have the duty to protect you as much as possible."

"Except for needs of a physical sort, or something
similar.... I don't see any benefit to being a scholarship
student with an automobile here."

Referring to the sort of people who tempt the students,
Castro alluded bitterly to "idlers who receive all the
services and who produce nothing."

But he said he knew of no cases in which people were denied
medical care because who "who he is, what he is named, what
he thinks or if he is at the service of some outside power
to destroy this noble revolution" -a reference to dissidents
he accuses of taking U.S. funding.

He noted that some medical personnel have accepted gifts or
taken bribes for extra attention in what is supposed to be
free medical care. He urged doctors "to repudiate from the
depths of their souls the mercenary who tries to bribe a
doctor or medical worker."

"We will not rest until this is the most humane, most just
and most honest society that has ever been created," Castro
said. "We prefer death to corruption."

Updated December 4, 2002 12:37 a.m. EST

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