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Fidel Castro on Haiti: Cuba `sends doctors, not soldiers'

By Fidel Castro Ruz

January 23, 2010 -- In my reflection of January 14, two days after the catastrophe in Haiti, which destroyed that neighbouring sister nation of Haiti, I wrote:

In the field of healthcare and other areas, Cuba –- despite being a poor and blockaded country -– has been cooperating with the Haitian people for many years. Around 400 doctors and healthcare experts are offering their services free of charge to the Haitian people. Our doctors are working every day in 227 of the country’s 337 communes. On the other hand, at least 400 young Haitians have trained as doctors in our homeland. They will now work with the reinforcement brigade which traveled there yesterday to save lives in this critical situation. Thus, without any special effort being made, up to 1000 doctors and healthcare experts can be mobilised, almost all of whom are already there willing to cooperate with any other state that wishes to save the lives of the Haitian people and rehabilitate the injured...

The head of our medical brigade reported: "The situation is difficult, but we have already started saving lives.

Hour after hour, day and night, the Cuban health professionals have worked non-stop in the few facilities that were able to stand, in tents, and out in the parks or open-air spaces, since the population fear new aftershocks. [Also see http://links.org.au/node/1469.]

The situation was far more serious than was originally thought. Tens of thousands of injured were clamouring for help in the streets of Port-au-Prince; innumerable persons lay, dead or alive, under the rubbled clay or adobe used in the construction of the houses in which the overwhelming majority of the population lived. Buildings, even the most solid, collapsed. Besides, it was necessary to look through the destroyed neighborhoods for the Haitian doctors who had graduated from the Latin American Medicine School. Many of them were affected, either directly or indirectly, by the tragedy.

Some UN officials were trapped in their dormitories and tens of lives were lost, including the lives of several chiefs of MINUSTAH (the UN United Nations Stabilisation Mission). The fate of hundreds of other members of its staff was unknown.

Haiti’s presidential palace crumbled. Many public facilities, including several hospitals, were left in ruins.

The catastrophe shocked the whole world, which was able to see what was going on through the images aired by the main international TV networks. Governments from everywhere on the planet announced they would be sending rescue experts, food, medicines, equipment and other resources.

Cuba responds

In conformity with the position publicly announced by Cuba, medical staff from different countries – namely Spain, Mexico and Colombia, among others – worked very hard alongside our doctors at the facilities they had improvised. Organisations such as the Pan American Health Organization, other friendly countries like Venezuela and other nations supplied medicines and other resources. The impeccable behaviour of Cuban professionals and their leaders was absolutely void of chauvinism and remained out of the limelight.

As it had done under similar circumstances when Hurricane Katrina caused huge devastation in the city of New Orleans and the lives of thousands of American citizens were in danger, Cuba offered to send a full medical brigade to cooperate with the people of the United States, a country that, as is well known, has vast resources. But at that moment what was needed were trained and well-equipped doctors to save lives. Given New Orleans' geographical location, more than 1000 doctors of the “Henry Reeve” contingent mobilised and readied to leave for that city at any time of the day or night, carrying with them the necessary medicines and equipment. It never crossed our mind that the President of the the United States would reject the offer and let a number of Americans, who could have been saved, die. The mistake made by the US government was perhaps the inability to understand that the people of Cuba do not see in the American people an enemy; it does not blame them for the aggressions our homeland has suffered.

Nor was that government capable of understanding that our country does not need to beg for favours or forgiveness of those who, for half a century now, have been trying, to no avail, to bring us to our knees.

In the case of Haiti, our country immediately responded to the US authorities' requests to fly their aircraft over the eastern part of Cuba, as well as offering other facilities they needed to deliver assistance, as quickly as possible, to the US and Haitian citizens who had been affected by the earthquake.

Such have been the principles characterising the ethical behaviour of our people. Together with its equanimity and firmness, these have been the ever-present features of our foreign policy. And this is known only too well by whoever have been our adversaries in the international arena.

Cuba will firmly stand by the opinion that the tragedy that has taken place in Haiti, the poorest nation in the western hemisphere, is a challenge to the richest and more powerful countries of the world.

Haiti is a net product of the colonial, capitalist and imperialist system imposed on the world. Haiti’s slavery and subsequent poverty were imposed from abroad. That terrible earthquake occurred after the Copenhagen climate change summit, where the most elemental rights of 192 UN member states were trampled upon.

In the aftermath of the tragedy, a competition has unleashed in Haiti to hastily and illegally adopt boys and girls. UNICEF has been forced to adopt preventive measures against the uprooting of many children, which would have deprived their close relatives of their rights.

Sustainable development

There are more than 100,000 victims dead. A high number of citizens have lost their arms or legs, or have suffered fractures requiring rehabilitation that would enable them to work or manage their own. Eighty per cent of the country needs to be rebuilt.

Haiti requires an economy that is developed enough to meet its needs according to its productive capacity. [After the second world war] the reconstruction of Europe and Japan, which was based on the productive capacity and the technical level of the population, was a relatively simple task compared to the effort that needs to be made in Haiti. There, as well as in most of Africa and elsewhere in the Third World, it is indispensable to create the conditions for a sustainable development. In only 40 years' time, humanity will [number] more than 9 billion, and right now it is faced with the challenge of climate change that scientists accept as an inescapable reality.

Haiti occupied

In the midst of the Haitian tragedy, without anybody knowing how and why, thousands of US marines, 82nd Airborne Division troops and other military forces have occupied Haiti. Worse still is the fact that neither the United Nations Organization nor the US government have offered an explanation to the world’s public opinion about this relocation of troops.

Several governments have complained that their aircraft have not been allowed to land in order to deliver the human and technical resources that have been sent to Haiti.

Some countries, for their part, have announced they would be sending an additional number of troops and military equipment. In my view, such events will complicate and create chaos in international cooperation, which is already in itself complex. It is necessary to seriously discuss this issue. The UN should be entrusted with the leading role it deserves in these very delicate matters.

Our country is accomplishing a strictly humanitarian mission.  To the extent of its possibilities, it will contribute the human and material resources at its disposal.  The will of our people, who takes pride in   its medical doctors and cooperation workers who provide vital services, is huge, and will rise to the occasion.

Any significant cooperation that is offered to our country will not be rejected, but its acceptance will fully depend on the importance and transcendence of the assistance that is requested from the human resources of our homeland.

It is only fair to state that, up until this moment, our modest aircraft and the important human resources that Cuba has made available to the Haitian people have arrived at their destination without any difficulty whatsoever.

We send doctors, not soldiers!

Fidel Castro Ruz
January 23, 2010
5:30 p.m.    

Comments

Support the Cuban medical brigades in Haiti

A Cuban bank account has now been opened to receive financial contributions to help with the Cuban medical teams working in Haiti.

If you wish to support the Cuban efforts in Haiti directly then you can do so in the following ways:

The preferred method

1. Make a donation via Cuba Solidarity Campaign. We will collate all donations and forward them in lump sums to Cuba to avoid multiple transfer fees (please make cheques payable to ‘CSC’ and write Cuban doctors in Haiti) on the back) and send to address below. You can also donate by Credit Card at 0208 800 0155. All donations will receive acknowledgement.

2. You can make a direct bank transfer to the Cuban bank account (below) set up to receive donations for the Cuban medical effort in Haiti. Please note that making direct bank transfers to Cuba will involve paying significant bank and transfer charges and that you may not receive confirmation or receipts for your donation.

Title: Terremoto Haití (Haiti Earthquake)
Bank: BICSA
Bank Identification Code (BIC) Código SWIFT del Banco: BIDCCUHH
Account number: 01321010770900
Bank Address: Havana, Cuba

Please note: Payments to Cuba should be made in pounds sterling or euros, NOT US dollars.

For details of the Cuban efforts in Haiti including video reports see
http://www.cuba-solidarity.org.uk/news.asp?ItemID=1768
Cuba Solidarity Campaign is also supporting the TUC Aid appeal for Haiti http://www.tuc.org.uk/

Cuban doctors have attended to 18,000 patients in Haiti

Garcia said that there are 657 Cuban trained healthcare professionals currently working in Haiti, including 417 Cubans and 240 Haitians. In Port-au-Prince, they are working in three hospitals: La Paz, La Renaissance and Ofatma.

BY LETICIA MARTÍNEZ HERNÁNDEZ AND JUVENAL BALÁN, special correspondent

Port au Prince, Haiti.— Cuban doctors have attended to more than 18,000 Haitians patients since they began their labor the same day the 7.3 earthquake shook Haiti on January 12.

According to Dr. Carlos Alberto Garcia, head of the Cuban health mission in Haiti, Cuban doctors have performed more than 1,700 surgeries, 800 of which were complicated.

Garcia said that there are 657 Cuban trained healthcare professionals currently working in Haiti, including 417 Cubans and 240 Haitians. In Port-au-Prince, they are working in three hospitals: La Paz, La Renaissance and Ofatma.

The Cuban medical brigade has set up tent hospitals outside of Port Au Prince in Leoganne and Jacmel, and two more are being erected in Carrefour and Croix des Bouquet, and several Cuban doctors have been sent to other departments as Haitians leave the capital to find safer places.

Five Comprehensive Diagnostic Centers donated to Haiti by Cuba and Venezuela continue to operate around the clock attending the earthquake survivors. Two additional centers will be up and running next week in two departments outside of the city.

Among the other activities being carried out in Haiti by the Cuban medical brigade is a health prevention and protection campaign that includes a tetanus vaccination campaign that as so far administered 400,000 vaccinations donated by Cuba.

Cuba has also sent a team of specialist to fumigate and control outbreaks of disease, and a team of physiotherapists to aid in the recovery process of patients.

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