Fidel Castro slams U.S. for battle over healthcare

HAVANA, Aug 19 (Reuters) - Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro criticized
the United States on Wednesday for being willing to spend billions on
its high-tech military but finding it difficult to approve healthcare
reform that would protect its poor people.

He wrote in a commentary published on a state-run Internet site that
huge military budgets are approved easily by the U.S. Congress but
U.S. President Barack Obama is struggling to convince federal
lawmakers to pass a bill that would "deliver health services to 50
million Americans that don't have them."

"What hope can that society offer the world?" he asked.

Obama's plan, aimed at making healthcare less expensive and more
broadly available, has come under fire in the Congress, primarily from
Republicans who argue, among other things, that it is a step toward

Castro pointed out that a free health clinic in Los Angeles recently
attracted 8,000 patients, some coming from hundreds of miles away
because they said they could not afford to go to a doctor or dentist.

The Cuban government prides itself on providing free healthcare to all

"The lobbyists in Congress spend their August working against a simple
law that would offer medical assistance to dozens of millions of poor
people, the biggest majority of them blacks and Latinos," wrote

"Even a blockaded country like Cuba has been able to do that," he
said, referring to the long-standing U.S. trade embargo against Cuba
that the communist-led Cuban government blames for its fragile

Castro, 83, has not been seen in public since undergoing intestinal
surgery in July 2006. He resigned the Cuban presidency last year so
his younger brother Raul Castro could succeed him. He retains a high
public profile through his columns, which are published in Cuba's
state-run newspapers and websites and read on state-run television and

(Reporting by Jeff Franks; editing by Bill Trott)