THE DR. DE LA FUENTE MUÑIZ AFFAIR               

Written by Fernando Milanés

14 de marzo de 2023

The American Medical Association and I had always had an ambivalent relationship. 

During my Psychiatric residence and initial years of practice they gave me much personal support and help. This led with their constant offer of joining their candidature, even saying that I would become the Association President soon afterwards.    

I refused but paid their past favors by accepting the leadership of small groups aimed at problem-solving tasks, with effective and speedy resolution.

Destiny had another route! Because of my never-ending fight against Castro, I was asked to intervene in a proposal by the APA to honor an important figure in Cuba’s Mental Health field, and also force the organization to make a strong objection on the abuses in Cuba (like Russia) to use mental health and electroshock treatment as political punishment.

These actions, while resolved in our favor, had the personal result of my having to accept the leadership of the APA’s Hispanic committee.

One of our most important duties was to nominate a prestigious colleague with superb qualifications for the appropriately called Simon Bolivar Award. This was the award that I was able to stop when it was intended for a Castro collaborator.

BTW, it is important to note that I knew this gentleman in our youth in free Cuba.    We coincided in a meeting in Mexico, where I was asked if I would talk with him, and we had a cordial frank exchange.

My first task was setting a new set of objective rules for the award nominees, to assure that what had been more political than fair process would stop.    

In the context of “hard to teach an old dog new tricks”, even when the rules were followed, the APA’s Director, through info delivered by his secretary, denied the proposal because “there was evidence of his using federal monies for his private institutions”.

In the other context of “you are barking up the wrong tree”, I refused to withdraw the proposal unless concrete evidence was presented to me.    In my own investigation I found out the “charges” were brought by a fringe group that was opposing the ruling party (where Dr. de la Fuente had been Secretary of Health) months before a new election.

This group was against medical treatment, advocating helping the sufferers with verbal social justice methods.    To me it was another attempt by our society to play politics, to the extreme of meddling in a foreign country’s affairs.

To make a long story short, after a year of resistance and proof acquired by an APA Mexican member that traveled to his place of birth and returned with the news that there was no claim, proof, or even suspicion of the accusations being valid, we were able to present the Award.

The meeting was dated for my presentation in Philadelphia in our annual gathering. I became “persona non-grata” to the anarchists who threatened my person and promised that thousands of Mexicans would impede the auditorium entrance to me and members.

I am not the bravest man on earth, but fearful or not, no one (even Castro) has shut me up.    As a child I was known as a “loudmouth” (bocon).

Leaving my wife behind I showed up at the meeting, expecting nothing near as what I saw.    Maybe not more that 20 of the “group” leaders were encouraging between 12-15 persons picketing going around with anti-De la Fuente slogans.    I can bet that in that line were more black citizens that in the whole of Mexico.

I approached one and asked in Spanish “from what part of Mexico are you from?’    His answer, “HUH”.   He then, in perfect English told me he was given $50 to walk with the sign.

After assurance from our security head, that everything was in control I went in to meet the Mexican guests that were composed of the honoree, his son (future prominent MD, and Secretary of Health), Mexico’s Health Chief, and the President of the Medical association.    

They all had a question “Why Dr. Milanes have you taken this hard task for a non-Cuban”).  My simple answer was “to fight for truth and justice for others to understand and help us in our plight”.

My presentation of De la Fuentes was a personal apology for the inappropriate actions of the APA, which I represented, for meddling in a foreign country politics. This was made with the top association hierarchy present. 

The speech was excellent and sincere.    After the ceremonies all the Mexican guests invited my wife and I, on their account, to go to Mexico.   

 I know how generous and impressive the elite Mexican professionals are with their guests, as my sister and I learned when we accompanied our famous father to that country.

After a few years in the APA’s leadership, I was able to help other minorities, challenge colleagues when they spoke highly of Castro’s Cuba with facts, confusing my dear wife that could not understand that after a hard discussion, I asked the colleague and wife to accompany us to dinner, and had a great time joking and agreeing in many subjects.   

Truth is, that if you believe in total free speech, the most important action is to accept and defend the ones you hate the most.

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