A pandemic is by definition global. In the face of this worldwide menace, most of us would think that this is the time for international medical cooperation and solidarity, a time for joint efforts to confront COVID-19 and to put political differences aside in order to save lives. But we have seen the opposite, risking the lives of millions.
Perhaps no country has exemplified this spirit of international cooperation more than the small nation of Cuba. Since its 1959 revolution, Cuba has expanded and improved medical care for its own people by training over 100,000 doctors and sponsoring state-of-the-art biomedical research. Since 1963, it has also sent doctors and supplies to countries all around the world where their help was needed.
In response to this humanitarian effort, the Trump administration has sharply escalated attacks on Cuban assistance to underserved in other nations, taking away medical care from millions (see How Trump and Bolsonaro Broke Latin America’s Covid-19 Defenses, ruining public health responses in the region by targeting Cuban medical brigades and nearly bankrupting the Pan-American Health Organization at the height of the outbreak. NYT 10/27/20)
It has also further tightened the already brutal economic blockade (“to bring about hunger, desperation and overthrow of government” in Cuba), invoking measures of the Helms-Burton Act so inhumane that no previous president has had the stomach to impose them. New sanctions are announced weekly, some 120 this year alone!
While the Henry Reeve Brigades of Cuban doctors step forward to help save lives, the Trump administration & its allies have:
-Threatened to blacklist and sanction countries that accept Cuban assistance.
-Imposed huge fines against foreign companies that do business with Cuba. This has kept Cuba from purchasing medical supplies and also parts that they need to produce ventilators and other medical equipment. Trump has tried to block essential fuel imports from other nations.
-Caused donations of medical equipment offered to 150 other nations by the founder of Alibaba to be blocked from shipping to Cuba.
-Prevented Americans from learning from Cuba’s medical advances and skills in public health. Cuba has a population of over 11 million people (twice that of Wisconsin) and yet has suffered only 59 deaths from Covid. The U.S. rate per 100,000 population is nearly 60 times that.)
-Prohibited our own access to life saving medicines from Cuba, including interferon Alfa 2B recombinant, which has been successful both in treating those with Covid, and in protecting healthcare workers being exposed to the virus. No healthcare workers in Cuba have died of Covid, and it is carefully proceeding to final testing of the only Covid-19 vaccines produced in Latin America.
Donald Trump has cruelly reversed all significant easing of restrictions that preceded him. The Cubans are paying a severe price for these actions, but so are the rest of us.
FYI, from the NYT article noted above:
“Together, the two men, fierce opponents of Latin America’s leftists, took aim at Cuba’s great pride: the doctors it sends around the world. Mr. Trump and Mr. Bolsonaro drove 10,000 Cuban doctors and nurses out of impoverished areas of Brazil, Ecuador, Bolivia and El Salvador. Many left without being replaced only months before the pandemic arrived.
Then, the two leaders attacked the international agency most capable of fighting the virus — the Pan-American Health Organization, or PAHO — citing its involvement with the Cuban medical program. With help from Mr. Bolsonaro, Mr. Trump nearly bankrupted the agency by withholding promised funding at the height of the outbreak, to an extent not previously disclosed.”