[Marxism] Paul Farmer on Cuba

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sat Nov 26 06:45:58 MST 2016

> From a New Yorker Magazine profile on Paul Farmer:
> Leaving Haiti, Farmer didn’t stare down through the airplane window at
> that brown and barren third of an island. "It bothers me even to look at
> it," he explained, glancing out. "It can’t support eight million people,
> and there they are. There they are, kidnapped from West Africa."
> But when we descended toward Havana he gazed out the window intently,
> making exclamations: "Only ninety miles from Haiti, and look! Trees!
> Crops! It’s all so verdant. At the height of the dry season! The same
> ecology as Haiti’s, and look!"
> An American who finds anything good to say about Cuba under Castro runs
> the risk of being labelled a Communist stooge, and Farmer is fond of
> Cuba. But not for ideological reasons. He says he distrusts all
> ideologies, including his own. "It’s an ‘ology,’ after all," he wrote to
> me once, about liberation theology. "And all ologies fail us at some
> point." Cuba was a great relief to me. Paved roads and old American
> cars, instead of litters on the 'gwo wout ia'. Cuba had food rationing
> and allotments of coffee adulterated with ground peas, but no
> starvation, no enforced malnutrition. I noticed groups of prostitutes on
> one main road, and housing projects in need of repair and paint, like
> most buildings in the city. But I still had in mind the howling slums of
> Port-au-Prince, and Cuba looked lovely to me. What looked loveliest to
> Farmer was its public-health statistics.
> Many things affect a public’s health, of course—nutrition and
> transportation, crime and housing, pest control and sanitation, as well
> as medicine. In Cuba, life expectancies are among the highest in the
> world. Diseases endemic to Haiti, such as malaria, dengue fever, T.B.,
> and AIDS, are rare. Cuba was training medical students gratis from all
> over Latin America, and exporting doctors gratis— nearly a thousand to
> Haiti, two en route just now to Zanmi Lasante. In the midst of the hard
> times that came when the Soviet Union dissolved, the government actually
> increased its spending on health care. By American standards, Cuban
> doctors lack equipment, and are very poorly paid, but they are generally
> well trained. At the moment, Cuba has more doctors per capita than any
> other country in the world—more than twice as many as the United States.
> "I can sleep here," Farmer said when we got to our hotel. "Everyone here
> has a doctor."
> Farmer gave two talks at the conference, one on Haiti, the other on "the
> noxious synergy" between H.I.V. and T.B.—an active case of one often
> makes a latent case of the other active, too. He worked on a grant
> proposal to get anti-retroviral medicines for Cange, and at the
> conference met a woman who could help. She was in charge of the United
> Nations’ project on AIDS in the Caribbean. He lobbied her over several
> days. Finally, she said, "O.K., let’s make it happen." ("Can I give you
> a kiss?" Farmer asked. "Can I give you two?") And an old friend, Dr.
> Jorge Perez, arranged a private meeting between Farmer and the Secretary
> of Cuba’s Council of State, Dr. José Miyar Barruecos. Farmer asked him
> if he could send two youths from Cange to Cuban medical school. "Of
> course," the Secretary replied.
> Again and again during our stay, Farmer marvelled at the warmth with
> which the Cubans received him. What did I think accounted for this?
> I said I imagined they liked his connection to Harvard, his published
> attacks on American foreign policy in Latin America, his admiration of
> Cuban medicine.
> I looked up and found his pale-blue eyes fixed on me. "I think it’s
> because of Haiti," he declared. "I think it’s because I serve the poor."

More information about the Marxism mailing list