Cuban psychiatric repression of dissidents

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Fri Sep 12 13:54:36 MDT 2003

Dear New Politics,

In your defense of Joanne Landy's anti-Cuba petition, you offer readers
a long interview with Sam Farber to bolster your case.
( While nobody
would gainsay his expertise at demonizing the government of an island in
the gun sight of the most warlike imperialist power in history, I must
admit that I was somewhat taken aback by his observation that Cuba
throws dissidents in psychiatric hospitals. That's a new one on me.

Since I have access to Lexis-Nexis at work, I thought I'd do a little
digging--not that I would question somebody so committed to socialism
from below as Sam Farber. It turns out that very little that turned up
on a keyword search of "Cuba", "psychiatric" and "dissent". There were a
couple of references to a dissident named Milagro Cruz Cano who had
spent some time in a psychiatric hospital, but please don't consider me
to be a hard-line Stalinist if newspaper references to her don't quite
suggest the persecution of Gen. Petro Grigorenko in the Soviet Union.

"Milagro Cruz Cano a blind worshipper who plays her guitar outside
tourist hotels, said her instrument had been taken away by police. Last
Saturday, she said, someone with an authoritative voice approached her
outside a hotel and said, 'Enjoy this until the pope goes, because we'll
take it out on you after he leaves.'" (USA Today, January 26, 1998)

I don't know how quite to put this, but playing a guitar in front of
tourist hotels is not quite the sort of thing that got Grigorenko tossed
into a psychiatric hospital.

The next troubling reference to Ms. Cano is after she has fled to
freedom in the USA and become part of the campaign to keep Elian
Gonzalez in the custody of his Miami relatives and festooned with gold

"A few blocks from where the cameras wait and the people chant, Milagros
Cruz Cano, a blind 32-year-old exile, has been living in a tent on the
street, existing on Gatorade and water.

"Until the moment she was finally banished from Cuba 10 months ago, she
believed her daughter, who is now 9 years old, would be allowed to come
with her.

'When I told my daughter that they allowed me to take my two dogs, but
not her,' Milagros explained through a translator, 'my daughter, she
say, 'Mama, put me in the cage and dress me as a dog, so I can be with
you. Please, Mama, do not leave me.'" (The Boston Herald April 6, 2000)

Lord knows I hate to sound judgmental, but this business about her
daughter begging to be dressed like a dog does strike me as a bit *odd*.
In any case, it seems rather doubtful to me that the Cuban
"dictatorship" would feel any particular need to orchestrate a campaign
of repression against the likes of her. Did New Politics ever consider a
petition campaign to defend her right to play the guitar?

When I went googling around with the same keywords I used on
Lexis-Nexis, a bunch of links turned up but they all ultimately seemed
to be based on the book "The Politics of Psychiatry in Revolutionary
Cuba" by Charles J. Brown and Armando M. Lago. Now this Charles J. Brown
is a kind of shadowy figure about whom very little could be revealed
except that he is not the stalwart Charles Brown from Detroit who is
well-known on the leftwing of the Internet. On the other hand, Armando
M. Lago has been leading a very active public life in the USA, although
I am not sure that they inspire confidence from a socialistic
perspective, either from below or above. He is on the board of the
Greater Washington Ibero-American Chamber of Commerce and the Stanford
Research Institute. The first outfit is involved in advancing the
business interests of Latino capitalists, while the second announces on
its website that it "has performed more than $1 billion in contract R&D
for the U.S. government, including areas that support homeland
security." Hmmm.

When I went to Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, two outfits
whose dedication to digging up dirt on Cuba is exceeded only by your
own, there was little in the way of substantiation except for the fact
that a Eriberto Mederos got arrested in the USA last year for tormenting
dissident/mental patients in Cuba. This 79 year old retired Cuban
immigrant living in Miami was arrested on charges of torturing Cuban
political prisoners with electric shock therapy when he worked in a
Havana psychiatric hospital several decades earlier. Unfortunately, this
Stalinist version of Nurse Ratchet died of cancer a month after he was
arrested, and thus his conviction was vacated because he had not had a
chance to appeal it.

Considering the circumstances of the arrest of the Cuban Five, please
excuse me if I find the Mederos case somewhat dubious.

Very truly yours,

Louis Proyect


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