' Cuban Psychiatric Repression of Dissidents

Cuban Psychiatric Repression of Dissidents?


posted to www.marxmail.org on September 12, 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. (http://www.wpunj.edu/icip/newpol/issue35/farber35.htm) 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 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 chains.


"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 much confidence can be inspired from a socialistic perspective, either from below, above or sideways. 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.