(PRESS RELEASE) – The invisible and silent enemy of the new coronavirus shakes us every day with death figures around the world, almost 70,000 at the time I wrote these lines.
Hopefully, the world will not be the same when we pass this pandemic. I hope that this coronavirus brings us to the global and humanistic point of consciousness that we need about it, but also about other absolutely worse viruses such as inequality, injustice, poverty, and hunger. Just two figures taken from the UN data: about 8,500 children die every day from malnutrition and 7 million children die from preventable diseases each year. As Che Guevara said, “the life of a human being has an infinitely greater value than all the wealth in the world.”
As a reflection of the policies generating these injustices, one could understand the malicious decision of President Trump to reinforce the economic, commercial and financial blockade against my country, even in the middle of the battle that we are fighting against the coronavirus. Since last year, Trump had prohibited flights and cruise ships to Cuba and had put in obstacles for investments and business.
Cubans around the world, and even in the United States, have called for the blockade to be suspended, at least during this period of time. Unfortunately, not only has he continued to reinforce the siege on our economy but he also has sought to smear the Cuban international medical collaboration with lies. This is an inhumane and disrespectful campaign, which reflects the desperate search for lying pretexts to justify the blockade and the claims of hegemonic dominance over Cuba.
The COVID-19 scenario highlights the enormous limitations imposed on us by the blockade. It is the fundamental impediment to purchasing medicines, equipment and the required materials. Cuba cannot buy medical technologies with more than 10 percent of its components made in the United States.
The impossibility of using the dollar in our transfers makes our financial relations more expensive. Fuel shortages as a result of the very harsh pressures and sanctions imposed by the United States on shipping companies, insurers and shipowners harm the rapid response capacity of our health system. The United States’ constant fines and sanctions against third parties make trade relations and receiving donations difficult. The United States reached the point of forbidding a donation from the Ali Baba company to Cuba to fight the coronavirus.
Nevertheless, I can say with some pride that Cubans face this coronavirus situation with confidence in the human principles of the Revolution and the strength of our national health system, which emanates humanism through all its pores. It is a universal and free system, covering the entire population and the whole country, with all the necessary levels of care, high-level institutions and professionals well prepared and committed to their people. As has been stated at every difficult moment, no one will be left helpless and once again we are convinced that we will emerge victorious from this test.
It has already become a tradition in Cuba that every night at 9 p.m., from balconies and windows, a strong, emotional and deserved round of applause is given to all health professionals and specialists who are fighting the coronavirus.
Despite the difficulties of the moment, this situation has also brought out the best values and I would like to keep all that positive, optimistic and humanist burden that is also leaving us this difficult experience. I share José Marti’s conviction when he expressed: “I have faith in human improvement, in the future life and in the usefulness of virtue”.
These are moments of solidarity and being united in the face of this pandemic. In the midst of such difficulties, we have the ability to complement each other. If we act on our own, we could hardly achieve anything. For this reason, Cuba has made a great effort, and even in the midst of difficulties, it has sent during the month of March different medical brigades to 14 countries, many of them to the countries of the eastern Caribbean.
Based on the experience in China with the use of a medicine created by Cuba, we have also received requests for that medication, which we are trying to satisfy to the extent of our possibilities. We have advanced in the negotiations of an agreement with the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States to guarantee a minimum amount of Interferon Alpha 2B vials.
We are motivated by the fraternal values that have characterized Cuba, including the principle of sharing what we have, even if it’s scarce. More than 400, 000 Cuban professionals have accomplished missions in 164 countries of Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, the Middle East and Asia. The Cuban medical cooperation accumulates more than half a century of experience.
We cannot underestimate the value of joint efforts.
Only ten days after Cuba received the request of the Government of Saint Lucia, the Cuban Medical Brigade arrived, which carries the symbolic name of Henry Reeve, an American brigadier, an example of internationalism, who fought in the Cuban Liberation Army during the War of Independence in the 19th century.
It is a group of 113 doctors, nurses and biomedical engineers, mostly women, from different Cuban provinces, also from different experiences and generations, who have left their family behind and expressed their determination and complete willingness to step forward with the one and only strong commitment to assist Sister Saint Lucia in the battle against the coronavirus.
I had the privilege of receiving this brigade together with the Saint Lucia government authorities and sharing with them moments of emotion and pride. I saw many members of the Medical Brigade with tears in their eyes as they listened to the notes of our national anthems when they received the applause of the people of Saint Lucia represented by the Humanistic Solidarity Association, and when the Honourable Minister Mary Isaac evoked Fidel, the one who crafted the best ethical values of the white coat heroes, as we call our doctors. The flags of Cuba and Saint Lucia joined, even more, that day.
These days we have humbly received many expressions of gratitude, beginning with the Honourable Prime Minister Allen Chastanet and his government, and also from many friends of the brotherly and noble people of Saint Lucia.
Cuban health specialists sincerely believe that they have just done their duty. Coming to Saint Lucia, they have been faithful to the values of friendship and cooperation that are at the root of the historic relations between our countries. I believe that, together, Cuba and Saint Lucia, we have once again set an example of humanism, solidarity, friendship, and love. I humbly extend all the expressions of gratitude to the Cuban and Saint Lucian doctors and nurses who have worked very closely over more than 50 years and who will continue to do so with greater strength.
This new medical brigade joins the one that was already working here and is heir to the solidarity work of hundreds of Cuban health professionals and collaborators who have served in Saint Lucia.
Saint Lucia knows that it can continue to count on Cuba.
All together we will continue to work selflessly and with a high responsibility and commitment, and I can affirm that we will not stop until the handshakes, kisses, and hugs return that we Cubans and Saint Lucians so badly need.