The Passing of Dr. Darsi Ferret Ramirez

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Salud

by Daniel Nardini

Just recently, a well known Cuban dissident named Dr. Darsi Ferret Ramirez passed away. He was 47 years old. Ferret is best known for exposing the lie that Cubans have among the best health care in the world. They simply do not. This I can attest to. When I was in Cuba, many people in my tour group suffered from eye infections. They were taken to a clinic that gave them eye drops for their condition. Two things that stuck in their minds, First, the people in our tour party noticed that there were no real medicines in the clinic. Second, the eye drops that they were given could have been obtained at any pharmacy in the United States if they were back in this country. The fact that even this was not available cast suspicion on the much vaunted medical system in Cuba.

This is exactly what Ferret did—cast serious doubt on the Cuban medical system. In 2007, the famed (or infamous, depending on your viewpoint) film producer Michael Moore released his documentary Sicko which showed the inadequacies of the U.S. health care system and tried to compare the health care systems of other countries in a more favorable light including that of Cuba’s. This was more than Ferret could stand. As a doctor in the Cuban health care system he knew even half the things claimed in Moore’s documentary were not true. Ferret showed that the “model clinics” in Moore’s film were in fact clinics and hospitals used to treat foreigners who were either important people or tourists bringing in a lot of cash. The hospitals and clinics for the average Cuban were either inadequately supplied or did not have enough trained staff to handle many Cubans when they became ill.

Ferret made and smuggled out films about Cuba’s public hospitals which was shown on ABC’s program 20/20. This made Ferret a marked man to the Cuban government. In 2009, Ferret was arrested on the trumped up charge of illegally procuring building materials for his home. The real issue was showing just how bad the Cuban hospital system really is. This the Cuban authorities never forgave. Ferret served a year in prison. He was supposed to have serve eight years in prison, but a campaign by Amnesty International launched on behalf of Dr. Ferret brought enough attention to his case that he was released a year into his prison term in 2010. In 2012, the Cuban government let Dr. Ferret leave the country for the United States. He had to leave everything behind including his family, friends and everyone he ever knew. While in the United States, he was a doctor at the Juan Bruno Zayas Health and Human Rights Center, and was working on the launch of a Spanish language news channel called DarTV. He will not be forgotten for his work in promoting human rights in Cuba.

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