It was Fidel himself who in the late 1990s came up with the idea for this school, which trains doctors from throughout the Americas, not just in the ABCs of medicine but in the need for health care for the struggling masses.The LASMS is, to be sure, a pure piece of propaganda. It is meant in no small part to show the outside world the moral superiority of Socialism. But while it is doing the propaganda work of a flawed social and economic system, it is also -- undeniably -- doing objective good in the world.
The Cuban government offered full scholarships to poor students from throughout the region, and many, including 90 or so from the United States, have jumped at the chance of a free medical education, even with a bit of socialist theory thrown in. "They are completing the dreams of our commandante," said the dean, Dr. Juan Carrizo Estévez. "As he said, they are true missionaries, true apostles of health."The Gospel of Matthew says, "Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them." (Matthew 7:17-20)
It is not just the Panamanian and other Latin American student who get the message.
Still, Cuban authorities are eager to show off this exporter of Cuban doctor-philosophers as a sign of the country's compassion and clout in the world. The sympathetic portrayal of Castro, whom the United States government tars as a dictator who suppresses his people, is sinking in among some students.
"In my country, many see Fidel Castro as a bad leader," said Rolando Bonilla, 23, a Panamanian who is in his second year of the six-year program. "My view has changed. I now know what he represents for this country. I identify with him."
In the United States of America, we have the School of the Americas, recently reformed and renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation. Like the Latin American school of Medical Sciences, it takes in students from the Americas and sends them home to do the work they have been trained to do. "Ye shall know them by their fruit." (Matthew 7:17) Here is some of the fruit that has been borne by graduates of the School of the Americas:
Tahirah Benyard, 27, a first-year student from Newark, New Jersey, said it was Cuba's offer to send doctors to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, which was firmly rejected by the Bush administration, that prompted her to take a look at medical education in Cuba.
"I saw my people dying," she said. "There was no one willing to help. The government was saying everything is going to be fine."
The Latin American School of Medical Sciences is the work of Fidel Castro. He is a Socialist. Therefore, we in the United States of America know little about it. The School of the Americas is the work of every American President since Harry S. Truman. The work that is done there, quite frankly, is evil. Therefore, we in the United States of America know little about it.
In Guatemala, last week a court ordered the capture of the SOA graduate Angel Anibal Guevara, the former Defense Minister, and for SOA graduate German Chupina, the former head of the feared National Police, for their involvement in homicide, terrorism and kidnapping during Guatemala’s civil war. The brutal School of the Americas counterinsurgency strategies that were implemented in Guatemala left over 200,000 people dead and no SOA official has ever been held accountable.
In Mexico, a repression campaign is being unleashed against the people of Oaxaca who are struggling for direct democracy and justice. At least 18 high-ranking SOA graduates have played key roles in civilian-targeted warfare against indigenous communities in the states of Chiapas, Guerrero and Oaxaca.
In Colombia, the largest customer of the SOA, 2,000,000 people have been killed or displaced by massacres and assassinations carried out under the direction of SOA graduates. Earlier this year, General Montoya Uribe was named the head of the Colombian military. Gen. Montoya has a history—dating back 30-years—of collaborating with the paramilitaries in killing innocent peasants, massacring villages. He was also a student, and later, in 1993, a teacher, at the SOA. The killing in Colombia continues.
In Argentina, when SOA graduate Leopoldo Galtieri headed the military, 30,000 people were killed or disappeared. And in Chile, 10 of the officers indicted with Pinochet for crimes against humanity were trained at the SOA.
In Honduras, 19 of the ranking officers of the notorious Battalion 316 death squad were SOA-trained. And in Nicaragua, over 4,000 soldiers were trained at the SOA for Somoza’s National Guard death squads.
In El Salvador, SOA-trained soldiers massacred over 900 men, women and children in the village of El Mozote, assassinated Archbishop Oscar Romero, raped and murdered four U.S. church women and massacred 14 year old Celina Ramos, her mother Elba and six Catholic priests, professors of the University of Central America in San Salvador.
In Venezuela, in April 2002, graduates of the School of the Americas were key players in an attempted coup against the democratically elected government. Democracy prevailed as the people took to the streets. One hundred people died in the violence during the coup attempt.
In Bolivia, people across the country protested in October 2003 against unjust economic policies. The government responded by sending the troops - many under the command of SOA graduates to suppress the dissent. The people stood strong and prevailed. The president fled to the United States. Eight-five people were killed in the preceding repression campaign.
"Ye shall know them by their fruit."