The Crazies and the Cunning

The crazies are easy prey for the cunning, who shout painful taunts at them from street corners to exacerbate their delirium. We had one on my block with his two paper boats which he spent hours racing in a rare regatta that never went anywhere. His mother kept him calm with Benadryl and diazepam; anything, before sending him to the dementia warehouse known as Mazorra, the Havana psychiatric hospital.

The mind of this lady was filled with the images of what had been the mental clinic on Boyeros Street, with its accumulated terror and material impoverishment. The patients half naked, the walls smeared with human excrement, and the lack of supervision set the stage for the worst atrocities. The photos had been published in the magazines of that long ago 1959. Then, came the television reports: clean sheets, occupational therapy and even political billboards that changed the face of what had been a horror. Except that, like I said, the crazies are easy prey for the cunning.

Since the nineties, with the coming of the Special Period, the diversion of resources showed no mercy to Mazorra. The residents of nearby streets were well stocked through a black market in blankets, food, clothing, towels and medicine coming from the hospital. Those admitted there thought it was part of their everyday suffering—like in the film Gaslight—with the light bulbs missing in most rooms. Everything indispensable was stolen and no one noticed the broken windows, the clogged toilets, the broken beds. This time there was no journalist authorized to portray the misery.

The official press could not hide, however, the deaths of 26 patients—some say the true figure approaches 40—from hypothermia and the illnesses associated with neglect. They left this life on a cold day in January, while huddled together, body upon body, without the power to avoid this end. The cunning, for their part, built houses with the dividends from theft and thought no one would ever detect their embezzlement. Today, those responsible in the hospital are being investigated amid a police deployment to keep away the curious. No pictures have come out, but I’m tormented by the idea of how much they have come to resemble, in their helplessness, those patients whose faces we see in the photographs from the past.

Images taken from:


30 thoughts on “The Crazies and the Cunning

  1. To the turd in chief:
    As you are getting closer to your death, I am sure you are contemplating your mortality, remembering the yesterdays, hearing the voices from your past.
    The voices of the ones you or your associate turds murdered in your name; the voices of their children and of their families.
    You will see pictures of your brutality, of your abuses & of your greed and your lies.
    When the time comes you will not be able to talk your way out of it or fake repentance … while standing in front of God you’ll tremble …
    While on earth they will sing in your honor, all forced on the people … their thoughts will be not with you but with thanks God.

  2. Lord of lord’s … what an infamy!
    We have pledged many times not to let the horrors of WWII repeat themselves …
    And here we are … as in many other places …
    I am without words to comment …
    Lord please forgive us all …

  3. Realize this is suppose to be commedy but the hard truth is this is what they hear and what I used to hear when I was back in cuba more than 20 years ago.

    50 years of excuses for the corruption

    Free and independent press is needed to eliminate all of this.

  4. at the end the guy doing the interview ask about how do they get food for the animals in the zoo.
    The director answers after some evasive replies

    -You know that the problem of food is hard. We are doing a very strong ideological work with the animals. We are explaining to them the situation we are coming across. With the embargo each day more strong!
    The animals had understood!

    the interviewer say
    Wow what intelligent animals!

    (This may just be out of animal farm!)

    This is the kind of talk the government uses to explain problems they create or do not solve.
    If you go to Fernando’s comments there is a few guys there regime supporters using this exact kind of explanation to justify the 26 death!

    Is 50 years of training and brain washing!!!

  5. Guys for those of you that can understand spanish this will fit like a ring in the finger with regards to this

    This is comedy but what they say between jokes is the real truth

    they are interviewing the director of the zoo in Havana

    The actual link is comedy but there is some truth to it.

    I have learn in truth some people steal the giraffe and ostriches to feed themselves!!

    Does anyone knows about this?

    WASHINGTON POST: Cuba’s imprisonment of an American is a rebuke to Obama
    Friday, January 22, 2010

    “For this the 60-year-old contractor was arrested Dec. 4 and has been held ever since by Cuba’s communist regime, which has accused him of conducting an espionage operation. Only in the ancient, crumbling regime of the Castro brothers could this ridiculous charge be leveled. That’s because Cuba is virtually alone, even among authoritarian countries, in trying to prevent most of its population from using the Internet even for nonpolitical purposes.

    “A State Department democracy program has tried to help Cubans join the 21st century by distributing laptops, cellphones and satellite Internet connections. Mr. Gross, who has worked in more than 50 countries during the past 25 years, was assisting with this effort. Yet for this, Cuban National Assembly President Ricardo Alarcón, another of the regime’s dinosaurs, connected Mr. Gross to “agents, torturers and spies that are contracted as part of the privatization of war,” adding “this is a man who was contracted to do work for American intelligence services.”
    It’s worth noting that Mr. Gross’s arrest came just two weeks after President Obama responded by e-mail to questions from Cuba’s renowned blogger, Yoani Sánchez. Mr. Obama praised Ms. Sánchez for her efforts to “empower fellow Cubans to express themselves through the use of technology.” He also said that he was waiting for some kind of reciprocation for the several conciliatory gestures he has made to the Castro regime, including an easing of travel restrictions.”

  7. This other piece of Fernando’s is what we have always talk about these negative of the Cuban regime to let any critical statement in the Cuban press or news.

    This kind of problems could have been avoided if the Cuban press was a free press.
    With freedom and independence to act.

    “En la prensa cubana no se han visto imágenes del psiquiátrico, ni entrevistas con los médicos o con familiares de las víctimas. En su lugar, la TV emite reportajes sobre el trabajo de los cooperantes cubanos atendiendo enfermos mentales… en Nicaragua, Ecuador y Bolivia.”

    “In the Cuban press we have not seen images of the hospital, neither interviews with doctors or families of the victims. In place of this, The TV transmits reports about the work of Cuban doctors in psychiatric hospitals … in Nicaragua, Ecuador and Bolivia!”


    The press if it really responds to the interest of the people of Cuba should report and analyze this problems and cast a bigger net and search for example in all other hospitals and report on their conditions. If the food that suppose to be there is there etc etc.

    The press are like the eyes and the mouth of society if they are not allow to see or to speak then we will not know.
    Problems need to be known so they can be solve.

    Is a trivial.

    Why do problems need to be hidden away?

  8. Lo que los vecinos me cuentan parece demasiado cruel. Dicen que algunos trabajadores les quitaban la comida a los enfermos para alimentar a sus cerdos y que la leche que se vendía en el mercado negro en toda esa zona también provenía del hospital.

    Let me translate this from Fernando

    This is really cruel

    “The neighbors (Of the Hospital) tell me is too cruel. They said that some of the employees of the hospital will take the food ration assigned to the sick to feed their animals and all the milk that was sold in the black market was coming from the hospital”

    It is really cruel that all this people did do what they did but and this is a big BUT

    Why? Let us go deeper. Why do people do this things in Cuba?

    Who creates all this scarcity in the first place?
    Can we seat the Cuban regime in the accused seat?

    Yes, these other people are as guilty of profiting on people’s misery as the Cuban regime is.

  9. The book “The Politics of Psychiatry in Revolutionary Cuba,” by Charles J. Brown and Armando M. Lago, published in the U.S. in 1991, documented Castro,s use of psychiatry against political dissidents in 31 cases of psychiatric abuses at Mazorra Psychiatry Hospital in Havana. In addition to this book, two addendums to the United Nations Human Rights Commission in Geneva (1992 and 1993) presented 40 more documented cases. The South Florida Psychiatric Association found approximately 100 new cases in 1995 among the rafters detained at Guantanamo. And in 1996, the office of Research at Radio Marti found 200 more documented cases, making a total of 371 known cases.

    Said Dr. Lago, one of the authors of the book: “In the former Soviet Union, with a population of three hundred million, there were 300 well documented cases of psychiatric abuse against political dissidents (1 per million). However, Cuba’s eleven million inhabitants, with 371 cases is a shocking contrast (1 per 30,000).”

  10. MIAMI HERALD: Steps to transition of post-Raul Castro Cuba envisioned

    In a study on Cuba’s future, an expert said leader Raúl Castro likely would strengthen the military and implement other safeguards before he dies or retires.

    “Cuba’s Raúl Castro may try to “institutionalize the revolution” before he leaves power by strengthening the military and legislature and “revising” the communist ideology, according to one scenario crafted by a Cuba expert at the University of Miami.
    “This is the most conservative scenario of all — continuity and stability,” said Andy Gomez, senior fellow at UM’s Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies.”


    “To guarantee continuity, he added, Castro would continue to purge younger government officials, like former Vice President Carlos Lage, and replace them with older hard-liners like José Ramon Machado Ventura. Most top members of Castro’s government are already well over 70 years old.

    Castro also would try to strengthen the Revolutionary Armed Forces and the Cuban Communist Party, he added, and “revise” the party’s ideology to allow limited economic reforms while preserving political controls, Gomez said.

    Castro may also try to make the legislative National Assembly, now dominated by Communist Party members, more representative by letting in moderate critics of the government, he added.”


    His study listed nine “principal actors” in the post-Raúl Castro era:

    • Gen. Alvaro López Miera, FAR Chief of Staff and member of the ruling Council of State.

    • Gen. Lucio Morales Abad, chief of Western Army.

    • Gen. Rafael Bello Rivero, chief of the Central Army

    • Gen. Onelio Aguilera Bermudez, chief of the Eastern Army.

    • Gen. Eduardo Delgado Rodriguez, deputy interior minister for intelligence and counter-intelligence.

    • Comandante Ramiro Valdés, vice president of the Council of State and minister of communications.

    • Foreign Relations Minister Bruno Rodriguez.

    • Marino Murillo, minister of the economy and vice president.

    • Maj. Luis Alberto Rodríguez López-Callejas, Raúl Castro’s son-in law and administrator of the armed forces’ many business ventures.

  11. >>I find this ironic in a gerontocracy.

    I guess if when you’re a sort of young man you get every toy you ever wanted… in fact you manage to get your very own country… well it’s sort of like being Peter Pan, isn’t it. Is there ANY possible reason ever to grow up and act like an adult after that?!

    GOOD INSIGHT… I agree with you completely!

  12. Alsdally,

    Welcome to this forum. I have not seen you here before, please keep contributing. I agree with your comment on #13, it is a good insight. My perspective on the comment in #10 is slightly different. I have to think a bit more about it. Hume’s premise and your’s are what bother me.

  13. The Cuban government has always blamed the shortcomings of it’s form of socialism on someone else. This regime has a pathological inability to assume responsibility for any weakness or error on it’s part, or to accept constructive criticism that might help it to right any wrongs. It continues to act like an egotistical youngster that refuses to grow up and accept responsibility for it’s own actions. I find this ironic in a gerontocracy.

  14. HUMAN RIGHTS WORLD REPORT:World Report: Abusers Target Human Rights Messengers -Rights-Respecting Governments Should Speak Up to Protect Defenders
    January 20, 2010

    “In Cuba, Human Rights Watch documented how Raúl Castro’s government, instead of dismantling the repressive machinery of the Fidel Castro years, has kept it firmly in place, keeping scores of political prisoners in detention and arresting dozens more dissidents.”


    “Raul Castro has kept firmly in place and fully active Cuba’s repressive legal and institutional structures. While Cuban law includes broad statements affirming fundamental rights, it also grants officials extraordinary authority to penalize individuals who attempt to exercise them. Article 62 of the constitution explicitly prohibits Cubans from exercising their basic rights contrary to the “ends of the socialist state.””

    Human Rights Defenders
    “Refusing to recognize human rights monitoring as a legitimate activity, the Cuban government denies legal status to local human rights groups. The government also employs harassment, beatings, and imprisonment to punish human rights defenders who attempt to document abuses. In May 2009, after authorities warned him several times that he would be imprisoned if he did not abandon his work, human rights activist Juan Luís Rodríguez Desdín was sentenced in a closed, summary trial to two years for “public disorder.””

  15. “The Cuban government says many of its problems arise from its inability to get medical equipment and medicines due to the longstanding U.S. trade embargo.”

    It is obvious that if something were to go tragically wrong, then it would be the fault of that “longstanding US trade embargo.” Anything bad that happens in Cuba is always the USA’s fault in one way or another.

    That is a lie; the US embargo does not deny medicines and medical supplies to the Cuban people. Section 1705 of the Cuban Democracy Act of 1992, permits American companies and their subsidiaries to sell medicine and medical equipment to Cuba. Since 1992 the U.S. Government routinely had approved license for sales of medicines and medical equipment to Cuba. The U.S. Government has licensed millions in humanitarian assistance, much of which came in the form of medicines and other health-related items.

  16. What Hume overlooked is that evil is mitigated or overcome in this world by the actions of people. It is by overcoming apathy and becoming involved in the pursuit of good that the evils in any society are overcome. I applaud those in Cuba and everywhere that are taking great personal risks to pursue the greater good of their respective societies, for they are truly doing God’s work in this world.

  17. I love the Hume quote at the very beginning.

    “Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is impotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Whence then is evil?”

  18. Cuba still houses their criminals and mentally challenged in squalid jails and disgusting state run asylums. Around 25 years ago Castro released his criminals and mentally deficient people out of jail and institutions and sent them in overcrowded boats to enter America as political escapees.

    Mazorra Psychiatry Hospital is notorious for punishing political dissidents with heavy doses of psychotropic drugs and electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). On August 2002, Heriberto Mederos was found guilty of lying to Miami’s INS officers about his past, denying he tortured political prisoners by administering electroshock treatments as a nurse at the Mazorra Psychiatric Hospital in Havana.

    EL PAIS: Cuba investigará la muerte por frío de 26 enfermos mentales
    Los pacientes eran de avanzada edad.- Murieron a causa de diversas afecciones respiratorias MAURICIO VICENT – La Habana – 15/01/2010

    “Veintiseis pacientes del hospital psiquiátrico de La Habana han muerto en los últimos días debido a las bajas temperaturas y por negligencias “relacionadas con la no adopción oportuna de medidas”, han informado las autoridades de la isla, que han abierto una investigación y anunciado que “los principales responsables de los hechos” serán llevados ante los tribunales. El hecho, insólito en un país como Cuba, donde el sistema sanitario gratuito y universal es exhibido con orgullo por el Estado, provocó en días recientes gran alarma social y numerosos rumores en la capital.

    Fuentes del hospital consultadas por EL PAIS dijeron que la mayoría de los fallecidos eran enfermos mentales de avanzada edad que estaban ingresados en la sala de geriatría, y murieron a causa de diversas afecciones respiratorias, sobre todo neumonías y bronconeumonías. Desde have más de una semana Cuba se ha visto afectada por una ola de frío que ha hecho bajar hasta los tres grados centígrados los termómetros en las cercanías del hospital, en el que reciben atención más de 2.000 pacientes.”


    MIAMI HERALD: Activist: 20 patients at Havana Psychiatric Hospital died in cold
    A human rights activist said at least 20 patients at the Havana Psychiatric Hospital died from hypothermia when temperatures dropped.

    “At least 20 patients in a Cuban mental hospital died from hypothermia during the cold snap this week, said human rights activist Elizardo Sánchez, who branded it a case of “criminal negligence by a government characterized by its general inefficiency.”

    Sánchez said Thursday he had reliable reports of 20 deaths, but that some doctors had told him the real number of deaths at the hospital, popularly known as Mazorra, was 24 or 26.”

    “The Spanish news agency EFE, in a dispatch from Havana, said European diplomatic sources in the Cuban capital had confirmed the deaths of more than 20 patients. A man who answered the phone at the hospital’s administrative offices hung up when asked about the case.

    “Never in the history of the republic have so many hospital patients died — avoidable deaths,” Sánchez told El Nuevo Herald in a telephone interview. “The most irritating thing is that the government is keeping silent.”

    “This is a great tragedy, not a hurricane, not an earthquake, but criminal negligence by a government characterized by its general inefficiency,” he added.”

  21. WASHINGTON POST: Cuba cold snap kills 26 at psychiatric hospital
    The Associated Press
    Friday, January 15, 2010; 4:02 PM

    HAVANA — “Twenty-six patients at Cuba’s top hospital for the mentally ill died this week during a cold snap, the government said Friday.

    Human rights leaders cited negligence and a lack of resources as factors in the deaths, and the Health Ministry launched an investigation that it said could lead to criminal proceedings.

    A Health Ministry communique read on state television blamed “prolonged low temperatures that fell to 38 degrees Fahrenheit (4 Celsius) in Boyeros,” the neighborhood where Havana’s Psychiatric Hospital is located.

    It said most of the deaths were from natural causes like old age, respiratory infections and complications from chronic diseases including cancer and cardiovascular problems.”

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  23. That is why the real need for an independent press. Independent from the government. Maybe this problem will have been avoided. Who knows if other problems are out there the Cuban official press does not report about.

    Freedom of the press is a real need for Cubans to get information that is not manipulated or control by the government.

    Remember learning of the 26 death in one of your twits even before I saw it on Granma the official press.

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