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Year : 2007  |  Volume : 20  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 20

Political lies are without borders

WHO, Genève, Switzerland

Date of Submission13-Mar-2007
Date of Web Publication18-Apr-2007

Correspondence Address:
J Guilbert
15 avenue du Mail, CH - 1205 Genève
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

PMID: 17647185

How to cite this article:
Guilbert J. Political lies are without borders. Educ Health 2007;20:20

How to cite this URL:
Guilbert J. Political lies are without borders. Educ Health [serial online] 2007 [cited 2021 Mar 5];20:20. Available from:

Two recent articles, one entitled “At Cuba medical school, a dose of socialism” (Lacey, 2006) and the other one “An interview of Cosme Ordóñez Carceller” (Westberg, 2006) attracted my attention and brought back old memories directly associated with THE Network.

The first article concerns the Cuban “Latin American school of health sciences” which trains doctors from throughout the Americas (including 90 or so from the USA). The author of the article questions the fact that the medical curriculum of that school includes the history of Cuba and the principles of the Cuban Revolution as exposed by Fidel such as “the need for health care of the masses”. The author appears surprised that this could be just as “anatomy and biochemistry are part of medical education everywhere”.

Does he equate the concept of “Social medicine” with “Socialist medicine” (as it is often the case in the US press)? Does he ignore that the WHO concept of “Health for All” invites, since 1976, all governments of the planet to address the need for health care of the masses?

He notices that US students in Cuba seem satisfied with such a “free medical education even with a bit of socialist theory thrown in”, that they believe “medicine is not just something scientific. It is a way of serving the public” and that the US health service system does “not have enough compassion for the poor”. He notes that Cuba’s offer to send doctors to New Orleans after hurricane Katrina was firmly rejected by the Bush administration. He may have read since in IHT (Herbert, 2006) that, more than a year later, much of the allocated billions “has been wasted or remains hopelessly tied up in the bureaucracy. Very little has gotten to the neediest victims, the people who were poor to begin with and then lost their home and their livelihood to the storm”. He may remember that in mid-September 2005 President Bush had promised “to confront with bold action the terrible problem of deep and persistent poverty”.

The second article is centered on one of the most colorful figures of the Cuban health system (after Zeus Fidel, of course). This long interview provides interesting information on the accomplishments made in the field of health following the taking over by Fidel Castro. We are told that before, “the rural areas never saw a health worker” and after, started the essential campaigns of alphabetization, of mass health education and immunization and many other useful actions based on the diagnosis of the health situation of the community.

Directly in relation with the education theme, in the early sixties Cosme Ordóñez took students out of the classroom to learn in the community at his beloved « Plaza de la Revolución » Policlinic. He succeeded in spite of “the university professors who wanted to limit the amount of time the students spent in the community”. It is indeed quite an accomplishment that in 2004 most of the learner-centered curriculum is spent at the Policlinics level. Cosme is a founding father of THE Network and it is not surprising that he is also an honorary member.

In comparison the 12 Labours of Hercules appear like a walk in a sunny meadow.

But the interview reveals only the sunny side of the street. No sensitive question was asked about a health factor such as food rationing (milk, meat, rice, butter, soap, etc.), resulting in good part from the US embargo and which is a sad reality. “No hay nada”, “there is nothing (to sell)” is a daily occurrence which translated in politically correct lingua is “If there is rarity it is because of severe objective limitations”. Or about freedom of speech which has never been known as the driving force of Cuba. Or about the CDR, committees for the defense of the revolution, and the Poder Popular, which are the equivalent of the soviet watching Big Brothers. The exercises of auto critique are often a manifestation of institutionalized hypocrisies. The famous « Red Sundays » which mobilized thousands of pseudo volunteers engaged in spectacular mass actions were too often sterile exercises.

It would be a waste of time to compare the political promises of the present US President with the identical political propaganda still so pervasive in Cuba. Promises made by the French President Chirac concerning the « Fracture sociale » are just another prototypical example among well known others made by many other politicians.

Let us all make sure that the community-oriented approach of THE Network is not defaced by political labeling based on ignorance. Let us continue to promote social actions favorable to the health of the diversity of communities.

1Luckily he is not aware of the existence of THE Network of “Community oriented educational institutions of health sciences” (Historic name of THE Network before it lost this label in 2001) otherwise he might have identified it as a Communist front.

[Ed. note: Since 2001, the Network is called: The Network: Towards Unity for Health.]

Professeur (ret.) J-J. GUILBERT,

MD, PhD(educ),DHc(Ferrara)

15 avenue du Mail, CH - 1205 Genève, Switzerland

[email protected]


HERBERT, B. (2006). America’s open wound, International Herald Tribune. December 22, page 7.

LACEY, M. (2006). At Cuba medical school, a dose of socialism, International Herald Tribune. December 8, page 2.

WESTBERG, J. (2006). Making a Difference: An Interview of Cosme Ordóñez Carceller. Education for Health, 19:3, 390-397.


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