Archive for the ‘health’ Category

Two stories regarding the editorials of The New York Times about Cuba

November 18, 2014


Omar Pérez Salomón

A CubaNews translation. Edited by Walter Lippmann.

The fact that The New York Times, one of the most influential
dailies in the United States and the world, has published in one
month six editorials against the economic, commercial and
financial blockade that Washington imposed on Havana more than 50
years ago is a sign that the Cuba issue has given rise to
differing opinions within U.S. political circles.

However, the search for ways to tighten the net around the
largest island in the West Indies is what has prevailed so far in
the executive, the legislative and the judicial branches. Two
examples confirm this.

The first refers to legal claims for over a billion dollars
belonging to Cuba. These have been frozen by our northern
neighbor following U.S. court rulings against the Cuban
government in the last few years in its ceaseless pursuit of new
sources to collect money.

This is why Cuban assets derived from telephone communications
with the United States, blocked in U.S. banks since 1966, have
been totally plundered as a result of the
“compensation” ordered by the courts. One of the
most notorious was Miami Federal Judge Alexander King’s
finding that the Cuban state and its Air Force had to pay $187.6
million dollars to the families of the pilots of the
counter-revolutionary “Brothers to the Rescue”
group whose planes were shot down when they violated Cuban
airspace on February 24, 1996.

On November 12, 1998, Judge King filed a motion before a New York
Federal Court seeking to order seizure of the blocked Cuban funds
and to start proceedings against AT&T and the Chase Manhattan
Bank. This was based on the Victims of Trafficking and Violence
Protection Act, approved on October 12, 2000, and thanks to which
the plaintiffs received around $97.6 million dollars.

The second example is the war declared by the multinational
Bacardi corporation against the French-Cuban Pernod-Ricard-Havana
Rum corporation over ownership of the Havana Club trade mark.
That ended in May 2012, when the U.S. Supreme Court prevented the
Cuban company Cubaexport from defending its right to renew
registration of the Havana Club brand with the U.S. Patent and
Trademark Office.

No enterprise has devoted so much in terms of money and resources
to finance actions against the Cuban Revolution as Bacardi, whose
managers have been involved in countless terrorist, subversive
and judicial maneuvers against Cuba. Back in the 1960s, Pepin
Bosch, the then head of Bacardi, organized the bombing of
Cuba’s oil refineries. As it happened, his plan, as well
as a picture of the B-26 bomber he had intended to use, were
exposed in The New York Times and never materialized.

Bacardi’s stockholders have stood out because of their
contributions to both Democratic and Republican Congress members
and anti-Cuban laws such as the Torricelli and Helms-Burton acts.
In the words of the Colombian journalist Hernando Calvo Ospina in
his book Ron Bacardi: la Guerra Oculta [Bacardi: The Hidden War],
“As one of the company’s top executives has
admitted, Bacardi is a Bermuda-based company without a
nationality. And yet, it used its economic power and contacts in
the highest political circles to virtually draft a U.S. law
tailored to its own needs. Not only does this piece of
legislation –known as the Helms-Burton Act–
threaten Cuba’s sovereignty and the survival of its
people, it also adds to the madness into which
capitalism’s commercial system is dangerously creeping in
its longing for bringing down every barrier to its.”

In violation of trade-related international standards, these same
actors promoted the approval of Section 211, as another step
toward the enforcement of the Helms-Burton Act included in the
4,000-plus-page 1999 budget bill. The first stages of Section 211
have it that no U.S. court can recognize any rights over foreign
trademarks or patents related to assets of an American citizen
confiscated without indemnity by the Cuban revolutionary
Jurisdiction over this
cause was thus denied to the judges.

As we can see, the fact that Pernod-Ricard executives attending
the recently-held Havana International Fair said they were ready
to market Havana Club rum in the United States and that several
American telecommunications companies such as AT&T and Verizon
are interested in re-establishing direct telephone links with
Cuba is not good enough. The whole thing is about penetrating the
anti-Cuban structure through which Washington’s Cuba
policy is dictated.

Hernando Calvo Ospina:
Ron Bacardí: la guerra oculta, Casa Editora Abril, 2000. P.

Will Ebola Finish Off the US blockade of Cuba?

October 27, 2014


A Creature of Its Own Making
Will Ebola Finish Off the US blockade of Cuba?
by W.T. WHITNEY Jr., MD ( Counterpunch )

The New York Times October recently praised Cuba for sending health workers to West Africa to fight Ebola. “Cuba stands to play the most robust role among the nations seeking to contain the virus,” the Times said, adding that “Cuba’s contribution (…) should be lauded and emulated.”

More than that: “[O]nly Cuba and a few nongovernmental organizations are offering what is most needed: medical professionals in the field.” Indeed nations “with the most to offer” have held back. The newspaper has some advice. “Washington (…) is diplomatically estranged from Havana, the boldest contributor. [Therefore,] the benefits of moving swiftly to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba” are clear.

The week before, the Times had also called for the U.S. government to establish normal relations with Cuba. But this time the editors added urgency to their plea and left out earlier qualifications.

The United Nations has secured pledges for almost $1 billion, but aid flows slowly; $50 million were in hand as of October 21. According to the Times, “19,000 doctors, nurses and paramedics are needed by December1.” The United States and Britain are sending soldiers and building field hospitals.

The U.S. government is stymied. “Up until now”, reports conservative Times columnist David Brooks, “aid has been scattershot [and] [c]oordination has just not been there. At root, this is a governance failure.” In a subsequent column, he blames out-of control fear, which is a “function of isolation.” And, “We live in a society almost perfectly suited for contagions of hysteria and overreaction, (…) a segmented society, [with widening] gaps between different social classes.” “[T]hings that are supposed to keep you safe, like national borders and national authorities, seem porous and ineffective.” Ebola “exploits the weakness in the fabric of our culture.”

On the other hand, with 15,000 volunteers to choose from, health authorities in Cuba selected 461 doctors and nurses for a three-week long training course aimed at preparing them for anti-Ebola missions in Africa. On October 2, 165 health workers flew to Sierra Leone, and 19 days later 91 more traveled either to Guinea or to Liberia; another 205 remain in Cuba waiting for assignments. Most of the volunteers have already served on overseas health care missions.

Cuba’s regional leadership in fighting Ebola was on display October 20 in Havana at an emergency summit meeting of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA). The nine-member ALBA group of nations, formed by Cuba and Venezuela in 2004, provides for “solidarity exchanges” of commodities, educational and technical projects, and health care. Two other nations applying for ALBA membership were on hand, plus Haiti as a “permanent observer.”

Opening the summit, Cuban President Raul Castro highlighted Cuba’s close ties with Africa. “Over 76 thousand Cuban collaborators have rendered health services in 39 (African) countries, while 45 nations have had 3,392 physicians trained in Cuba absolutely free of charge. At the moment, more than 4 thousand Cuban healthcare collaborators are working in 32 African countries and (…) they are all joining in the preventive effort against Ebola.”

A comprehensive plan with 23 recommendations emerged from the summit. The ALBA nations resolved to coordinate actions and communications, enhance research and epidemiologic surveillance, protect and support health workers fighting Ebola in Africa and Latin America, and carry out public education campaigns. ALBA nations will maintain ample reserves of both medical personnel and supplies and act under the leadership of the United Nations, the World Health Organization, and the Pan-American Health Association.

ALBA specialists and health leaders will hold a “technical meeting” October 29-30 in Havana. Health ministers will consider their recommendations in shaping a “Plan of Action” to be sent to heads of state no later than November 5.

The United States and Cuba are at opposite poles as they deal with Ebola. One seemingly is stuck in paralysis and a siege mentality. The other offers a confident, collective approach to calamity. As opposed to Cuba’s well-established ties of solidarity with African nations, the U. S. record is of helter-skelter private charities, military interventions under the aegis of the United States Africa Command, and sponsorship of global capitalism, plunderer in Africa.

For the epidemic to be halted and the U.S. population protected, the U. S. government seems to need Cuba. In his recent commentary “Duty Calls,” Fidel Castro offered cooperation with the United States in fighting the epidemic – not for “peace between the two states,” but for “peace in the world, an objective that can and must be tried.” Said the Times, editorializing most recently: “He’s absolutely right.”

Rarely, if ever, has the so-called “newspaper of record” said anything nice about Fidel Castro. On October 21, the U.S. government, according to the Times, announced it “welcomed the opportunity to collaborate with Cuba” in providing medical aid to West Africa.

The October 20 editorial statement was a breakthrough, especially in view of its effort the week previous. Then the Times skipped over any demand that Congress repeal legislation at the heart of the most repressive blockade regulations. The newspaper also recommended new U.S. Cuban policies allowing U.S. companies to operate in Cuba and do so with competitive advantages. That message recalled similar ones offered earlier in 2014 by the prestigious Atlantic Council think-tank and by retired government officials and business people signing an open letter to President Obama.

This time, however, the newspaper seeks normalization of relations in terms of benefitting all people. Surely, one assumes, Times editorialists accept the idea that protection of the safety and survival of citizens is the duty of government. If such is the case, then their suggestion as to U.S. government failure in this regard is serious business, but no less so than their vision of rescue by Cuba.

What’s apparent is a note of urgency in establishing decent relations with that island nation. Eventually it may prove that the Times just now took an important step towards altering U.S. behavior toward Cuba.

So far, the flood of U. S. enmity, injustice, and abuse toward Cuba has rushed on for over half a century. If the tide were to turn now, commentary in the future could well focus on the paradox that Cuba’s mission of human solidarity, long the object of U.S. sabotage, turned out to be of considerable benefit to Cuba’s oppressor.

There’s a pattern to the Ebola disaster and its context that Karl Marx and his followers elucidated in an earlier era. They counted on a new world emerging from the debris of the old; built-in contradictions there would generate new struggles. The “old world” in Africa entails privatization, cruel debt-recovery measures, and sway by transnational corporations. Within that context the Ebola epidemic advances because of impoverishment and feebleness of health-care infrastructures and public health capabilities in affected African nations. And, says Spanish health-care analyst and economist Vicente Navarro, the culprit is “Neoliberalism [which] has made this possible, both in West African countries and those of southern Europe.”

In this scenario, the old guard is unable to deal with a creature of its own making – that is to say, Ebola. That sector gives in; it reaches out, a little, to foot soldiers in the service of all humanity. Turmoil around Ebola has ushered in socialist human solidarity, with Cuba in the lead. A new world puts in an appearance.

Another teaching from the same source also turns out to have been right. Realities – that which actually happens – supposedly operate to propel historical change. The force of ideals, alone, is not enough. And so the blockade hangs on. Agitation around ideas of cruelty, illegality, and immorality has fallen short. But now Ebola, as real a phenomenon as there can be, intrudes and may create circumstances that sap away at U.S. intransigence.

W.T. Whitney Jr. is a retired pediatrician and political journalist living in Maine.

The Director General World Health Organization (WHO) Margaret Chan Sends Message to ALBA Summit on Ebola

October 20, 2014


(acn) The Director General World
Health Organization (WHO) Margaret Chan, sent a message
to the Heads of State and Government of the Bolivarian Alliance
for the Peoples of Our America-Trade Treaty of the Peoples
(ALBA-TCP) that gathered in Havana for a Special Summit on
Ebola. Cuban News Agency now
reproduces the text of her message:
Greetings from the World Health Organization in Geneva,
I must begin by thanking the Cuban government for giving
the Ebola outbreak response so many highly experienced
Cuban doctors and nurses. I have seen the many news
photographs of these staff in their sparkling white lab
jackets, ready to help. This brings a most welcome face of
hope to what is otherwise a horrific outbreak.
I welcome this opportunity to address members of the
Bolivarian Alliance. I welcome the purpose of this
meeting: you are absolutely doing the right thing. You
want to step up your level of preparedness for an
imported Ebola case on the most urgent basis possible.
WHO working with PAHO are here to support you in any way
we can. Last month the Ebola
virus moved to your region. As experiences in Lagos,
Nigeria in July and now in the USA last month told us, any
country with an international airport is theoretically at risk
of an imported case of Ebola. We must all respect this
Ebola virus, which is one of the most deadly pathogens on
the planet.

This is an unforgiving virus that shows no mercy for
even the smallest mistake. It knows how to exploit every
single opportunity to flare up again or spread to new
areas. The Ebola outbreak in
West Africa is the most severe acute medical emergency
seen in modern times. Well over 400 healthcare workers have
been infected and more than half of them have died.
This has never been seen in any previous Ebola
outbreak. Like other parts of the world, countries in
this region are on high alert for any possible
importation of the Ebola virus in an air traveller.
Hardly a day goes by without rumors of an imported case
at an airport or in an emergency room somewhere in the
world. Governments are
right to bring out the protective suits and gear and
showcase their isolation rooms. This reassures their
citizens and their media crews that the country is
well-prepared to stop further transmission should an
imported case occur. This is understandable. The virus
is deadly. The disease is dreadful.

People are afraid. At the same time, we know that a
well-prepared country can defeat the Ebola outbreak.
On Friday, WHO will declare the outbreak in Senegal is
over. On Monday, we will do the same for the outbreak in
Nigeria, a feat that many health experts still find hard
to believe. But I can assure you WHO has full
confidence in this remarkable achievement.
Countries in the Bolivarian Alliance can and should do
the same. High-level political commitment and country
ownership make all the difference. Train your staff, use
drills to test performance, get protocols written
quickly, put systems in place, get your public and your
media behind you. Engage the community early to fight
fear with facts and understand the fundamentals of
infection prevention and control, especially in
healthcare settings. Protect against
mistakes. As recent instances of transmission of the
virus in Spain and the US show, wearing personal
protective equipment or PPE is not foolproof. It has to
be used in conjunction with excellent administrative,
environmental and engineering controls.
Let me repeat: on its own, PPE is not foolproof.
Last week, WHO issued new recommendations on PPE which
can help governments prepare efficiently and effectively.
As I said, WHO and PAHO are here to support you. I
sincerely wish you a most productive meeting.
Thank you.

Cuba triples doctors to fight Ebola in Africa

October 5, 2014

Featured Image -- 4999


The Militant

The revolutionary government of Cuba is nearly tripling the number of doctors, nurses and other health workers that it is sending to West Africa to combat the Ebola epidemic there, Havana announced Sept. 25.

Cuban Public Health Minister Roberto Morales had announced two weeks before that 165 volunteers were going to Sierra Leone in early October. But in answer to calls for help by U.N. and World Health Organization officials in the face of the rapid spread of the deadly disease, the Cuban government increased the size of the contingent to 461 volunteers, and expanded its operations to include Guinea-Conakry and Liberia.

“Many countries have offered money, but no other country has offered such a large number of workers to go in and help do the most difficult jobs in this crisis,” said Dr. Bruce Aylward, assistant director of the World Health Organization.

Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez told a U.N. meeting on Ebola Sept. 25 that Cuba “considers that coordination by the United Nations and the leading role of the World Health Organization are essential in guaranteeing collective, coordinated and effective action.”

Rodríguez said that Cuba’s response to the humanitarian crisis “is part of our spirit of solidarity with Africa, which has prevailed for more than five decades.”

French-based Doctors Without Borders has more than 240 foreign health workers fighting the epidemic in six treatment centers in West Africa, along with 2,800 locally-hired staff. Most of them are involved in “health care, water and sanitation in the centers, logistics (supplies) and health promotion activities,” Tim Shenk, Doctors Without Borders press officer, told the Militant. Volunteers with the group, from more than two dozen countries, comprise the main international help on the ground until the Cuban volunteers arrive.

Ebola grows exponentially

As of Sept. 26, more than 6,500 people are known to have been infected with Ebola Zaire, the most deadly of five Ebola strains, and more than 3,080 have died. Because many deaths are not reported, the total number is unknown. In Monrovia, the capital of Liberia, many bodies have “simply been thrown into the two nearby rivers,” according to the World Health Organization. “The current epidemic has been growing exponentially for at least 16 weeks, since May 2014. … The number of new cases has been doubling every 20-30 days.”

Ebola is a virus that is spread primarily through direct contact with body fluids. It impairs kidney and liver function and can cause severe hemorrhaging.

“In this epidemic, each Ebola patient is infecting around 2 other people,” WHO reports, “which means that just a twofold reduction in transmission will be enough to eliminate the virus.”

Traditional burial practices in West Africa — where mourners bathe or touch the deceased — and lack of modern sewage disposal helped lay the basis for the epidemic. There were at most one or two doctors per 100,000 in the three most affected nations prior to the onset of the epidemic. The virtual absence of any public health care system allowed the disease to spread largely undetected for several months.

Overwhelmed clinics in Liberia

In Monrovia, “much of the city’s health system has shut down over fears of Ebola among staff members and patients, leaving many people without treatment for other conditions,” Doctors Without Borders reports. The group has been overwhelmed, turning away patients from its 160-bed center in the Liberian capital.

Treatment for other diseases, births and traffic injuries have also been compromised. In the midst of the high season for malaria, stocks of anti-malarial medicines and bed nets have been depleted.

In Lofa County, Liberia’s breadbasket, nearly 170 farmers and their family members have died and their fields lie unattended.

Out of 15,000 Cuban health care workers who volunteered for the fight against Ebola, Cuban leaders chose 461 men. They will go as part of the Henry Reeve International Brigade, which was formed in 2005, when Cuba’s offer to send 1,586 health care workers to help victims of Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana was snubbed by the U.S. government. They have been undergoing intensive training in coordination with Doctors Without Borders and the World Health Organization.

“I’m not afraid,” said Julio César Gómez Ramírez, a nurse who is going to West Africa with the brigade. “We’ve been taught to help others. Like many of my compañeros, I participated in the war in Angola [when Cuban volunteers helped defeat invasions by the South African apartheid regime], and we risked our lives there. This isn’t more difficult.”

President Barack Obama also addressed the U.N. gathering on Ebola Sept. 25. He reiterated that Washington would “establish a military command in Liberia to support civilian efforts across the region,” and set up “a field hospital, which will be staffed by personnel from the U.S. Public Health Service, and a training facility.”

“None of the staff in the field are involved in direct patient care or working Ebola treatment units,” Kristen Nordlund, from the Centers for Disease Control Communications Office, told the Militant prior to Obama’s announcement.

Asked if U.S. Public Health Service workers will treat those infected, Kate Miglaccio, a spokesperson for the Health Service, told the Militant Sept. 29 that they would treat health care workers and “continue efforts to build capacity for additional care.”

“The 3,000-strong American mission will not treat patients,” the New York Times reported Sept. 25, “but will build as many as 17 treatment centers, with a total of 1,700 beds, and try to train 500 health workers a week.”

“ It is unclear who will run” the centers once they are built, the Times said.

“We call on the international community, in particular the industrialized states that have great resources, to energetically respond to the call by the United Nations and World Health Organization to immediately provide financial, health and scientific resources to eradicate this scourge,” Cuban Foreign Minister Rodriguez told the U.N. General Assembly Sept. 27.

Cuba maintains medical cooperation with 32 African countries and decided to extend it to the countries most affected by Ebola, Rodríguez said.

Since making the revolution that overthrew the Fulgencio Batista dictatorship in 1959, 325,000 Cuban health care workers have given aid to 158 nations, including 39 in Africa, he said. “We also are training 38,000 doctors from 121 countries without charge, 3,392 of them from 45 African nations.”

“If small and blockaded Cuba can do this, how much more could be done to aid Africa with the cooperation of everybody, in particular the richest nations?” he said.

On Purpose of Cuba and international cooperation (II)

September 19, 2014


By José Luis Rodríguez

The Venezuela initiative to consider as tradable goods which are included in the Cuban collaboration, not only represented a remarkable show of solidarity with the efforts had made by the Cuban Government in helping other people, but that allowed that the island began to raise revenue that took the balance of the total trade balance in deficit to surplus there after which enabled to make sustainable that policy and expand it.

Other nations such as Ecuador and South Africa would also proceed to compensate the medical services provided by Cuba on the basis of their economic possibilities.

The most recent case that took this modality has been Brazil, where the Government of Dilma Rouseff decided to undertake a year ago the operation “More doctors”, with a view to expand services to the most disadvantaged regions in the North and North-East of the territory, taking into account that the density of physicians per capita was only 1.8 per 1000.

15 460 health professionals, of whom were hired originally 3 891 Brazilian physicians, which finally fell to 938, demonstrating the need to go to others abroad, mainly from Uruguay, Argentina, Spain, Portugal and Cuba were needed for this operation.

So far, Cuba has provided this operation 11 456 physicians through the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), which cover more than two thousand people in 26 Brazilian States, thus providing assistance that covers 74.1% of the lawsuit filed with its services.

As has happened with the presence of Cuban doctors in Venezuela and other Latin American countries, now also unleashed an intense media campaign against the Cuban specialists, who stands accused of displacing their counterparts in those countries. It is thus hide other realities, not by hidden less objective and often also painful.

First, the Cubans go there where there are no medical services. In very poor countries the absence of health personnel is almost absolute, but where there is – as the case of Venezuela or Brazil – many physicians are not hired to work in the public service and much less they go to regions where most they need them. Unfortunately, rather than receive a commensurate income according to their social contribution, the logic of competition in a market economy drives to go there where there is more money and not where most society requires it.

Secondly, if the Governments of the nations who hire doctors from other countries decide to capture personal competing with the highly profitable private medicine, they would have to face unsustainable expenditure for the public budget. Enough to recall that, according to studies carried out in Latin America, the expense of a patient assisted by private medicine in Brazil, based on the health insurance system, amounts as average to 606 dollars per year, while in Venezuela a basic medicine consultation can cost the equivalent of $127.

Certainly these are not the bases of calculation of Cuban cooperation programs, which are not governed by the price of the international market for these services, nor for the costs of training of highly qualified personnel.

What is meant to hide is that if today Cuba receives revenues reaching billions of dollars it is not related to prices imposed, but by the presence of 362 64 specialists in 191 countries, many of them free of charge.

Thirdly, the Cuban cooperation with other peoples is not the result of individual efforts, but should be understood as a policy advocated by the Cuban State for more than 50 years, and which relies on the use of resources that enter the country not only for the personal enjoyment of those who create the wealth, but on the needs of the whole society.

This does not exclude that insofar as the Cuban society can better recognize the efforts of its workers does not increase personal incomes of these. The wage increase recently approved this year for medical personnel, together with a greater involvement in income in currencies that generated while they remain on the outside, offers a clear testimony of this policy.

Cuba has developed a partnership with other peoples based on providing services of high quality and low cost, compensating for part of the expenses in the same measure in which revenues do not come into conflict with the principles of the deepest solidarity.

The essential motivation that has led to thousands of our doctors and teachers to work voluntarily away from their family and in very difficult conditions, saving lives or teaching from thousands miles their homeland, is the conviction that there is nothing more important to life and dignity of the human being. The value of these principles does not have a monetary expression.
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On Purpose of Cuba and international cooperation (I)

September 12, 2014


By José Luis Rodríguez

International collaboration provided by Cuba to other countries is an issue whose objective analysis abounds in the media all over the world. However, in recent times have appeared references to the subject in several works that challenge the collection of services to a group of Nations that are in condition to offset their higher costs. It gives the impression that this kind of considerations seeks to move the image that the country pursues millionaire winnings with the medical or educational assistance provided to other peoples, or that it’s acquiring influence policy in exchange for these services.

In this regard, it is important to remember that after the triumph of the Cuban revolution there has been evidence, more than 50 years of humanist vocation and solidarity that denies other interpretations which aims to judge marketing services of qualified labor force that the country exports today.

Since Cuba formed a medical Brigade to help the victims of a strong earthquake that struck Chile in 1960 – in the midst of the mass defection of 50% of the country who marched to the United States – until last year, the country sent 836 142 civilians 167 different Nations to help deal with serious shortcomings, especially in the area of health. That figure currently remain working more than 64 362 specialists in 91 countries, some 270 48 as health personnel, including around 20% of physicians in the country.

During the first years of the revolution, medical care was awarded primarily to those countries that were fighting for their liberation and which – in turn – presented critical health situations. Thereby, two of the most important medical brigades of those years went to Guinea and Tanzania. This line of action in Africa would be extended until the years 70 and 80 of the last century, with the outstanding participation of our medical staff in Angola and Ethiopia.

The comprehensive health program, which was a more effective approach to the assistance provided by Cuba, was established in the 1990s including medications, medical equipment and training staff.

Natural disasters from hurricanes that struck Central America and Haiti in 1998-99, as well as flooding in the State of Vargas, in Venezuela, generated the deployment of Cuban medical brigades composed of hundreds of specialists who allowed us greater efficiency in health care work.

A more specialized structure in the emerging confrontation of natural disasters the Henry Reeve Brigade was created in 2005, which offered its services to the Government of the United States to deal with the effects of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. This initial offering was not accepted but the Brigade served until 2012 twelve missions in different countries, especially in Pakistan, with 2 250 troops to deal with the consequences of a major earthquake, and again due to a terrible hurricane in Haiti, with 923 participants in 2010-2011.

Concerning the preparation of the medical personnel by Cuban specialists between 1976 and 2005 Cuba founded schools of medicine in Yemen, Guyana, Ethiopia, Uganda, Ghana, Gambia, Equatorial Guinea, Haiti, Guinea Bissau and East Timor. To the creation of the Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM) in 1999, which has graduated more than 20,000 doctors since then, and the program of training of physicians Venezuelans, who had an enrollment of 30,000 young people in 2012, among the larger projects would be added.

In addition to the above, in the field of international cooperation provided by Cuba not can be overlooked that also in the field of education has been given an important contribution. It is enough to point out more than 1 200 teachers who taught in Nicaragua at the beginning of the 1980s and the 21 thousand teachers that integrated the Che Guevara pedagogical internationalist task to teach between 1978 and 1984 in Angola. To this should be added the implementation of literacy method “Yes I can”, which has benefited at least 8.1 million people in 29 countries.

Until 2004, all these missions were taken mostly with resources provided by Cuba. So, following the methodology used then to calculate the official aid to development (ODA), estimated that in the 1980s Cuba went to that goal the 0.72% of its GDP, a figure that would rise to 2 percent in 2004, well above the 0.7% commitment assumed by the more developed countries of the world, but barely fulfilled only by a small number of them.

The greatness of that effort was appraised in December 2004 when the President of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez, proposed that massive medical assistance provided by Cuba to his country from previous years should become a tradable good and – therefore – were compensated monetarily from the resources of Venezuela as oil country.

It was that decision that – taking into account the amount of resources that were already used in the Venezuelan case, and considering the favorable economic conditions of that country — began to collect an important extent the medical services provided by Cuba, as well as other services in the areas of education and sport basically.

(To be continued)

The author is Advisor of the center of research of the global economy.
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The Prevention of Diseases in Cuba

September 12, 2014


For the results of the Immunoassay Centre, it has again been awarded as National Vanguard, for the prevention in Cuba of multiple diseases in all the stages of the life

By: Patricia Cáceres

A total of 583 medical services in Cuba are using the SUMA (Ultra Micro Analytical System) technology developed by the Immunoassay Centre (CIE) as part of the indispensable strategies of the Cuban Ministry of Public Health (MINSAP).
The CIE offers also goods, training for the specialists, and top-quality technical and external control assistance to the 527 Cuban laboratories which are working abroad.

The results of this institution, that is celebrating the 27th anniversary of its foundation, will benefit the prevention of multiple diseases in all the stages of the life.

The above was explained by the coordinator of the National Programs of Tecnosuma International S.A; sales representative of the CIE, Dr. Rebeca S. González Fernández who assured that such entity takes part mainly in four guidelines in the Cuban health system.

González Fernández said that «one of these guidelines is the Mother-Infant program. In this program the CIE contributes with its first product: the alpha-fetoprotein test for reducing mortality due to malformations in the neural tube. This is a test that is undergone by all expectant mothers in Cuba at present.

The SUMA technology is also used in neonatal research for the early detection of diseases like congenital hypothyroidism and other metabolic diseases which cause death or some kind of severe mental retard and other consequences which arise if they are not early detected.

The expert said that this technology has been also been implemented on the control of transmissible diseases like AIDS, hepatitis and Dengue, among others.

González Fernández also said that an important contribution has been made in the treatment of non-transmissible chronic diseases with the use of an instrument for the diagnosis and quantification of the micro-albuminuria (the presence of albumin in the urine) which is one of the first parameter of kidney disease, which considerably affects Cuba and the rest of the world.»

She assured that «the CIE, in collaboration with the MINSAP, has developed glucometers and biosensors which are given to the diabetic people in Cuba. This is an important contribution for the improvement of the health quality in diabetic patients, who will have a better control of their illness to avoid further complications like the blindness or retinopathy, or amputations. or amputation.»

Another important work of the CIE is that which has been done as part of the Integral Program for Cancer Control in Cuba. She said that «the CIE has the technological package to detect cervical cancer, which has a kit for obtaining cytological samples incorporated.

González Fernández also said that the CIE has developed a video-colposcope that is eight times more efficient in the diagnosis of any malignant or pre-malignant lesion than the diagnosis made by the specialist. The colposcopes are available in 45 consultation offices for cervical collar pathologies, and regarding the consultation for benign pathologies, they are present in more than a hundred of municipalities in Cuba. An equipment for electro surgery is also put together with the colposcope.

She highlighted the work developed by the Immunoassay Centre in the detection of specific antigens for the prostate or in the investigation of prostate cancer, the second cause of death in the Cuban male.

«The CIE has developed a quick immunological test for the detection of human hemoglobin in the feces, which is the one used all over the world for colon cancer screening, the third cause of death in Cuba in both sexes, feminine and male, she said.

«The CIE also has other products that are useful for the MINSAP, like the stereotactic frame manufactured in collaboration with the International Neurological Restoration Centre (CIREN). This device is applied in minimal access neurosurgery, and it’s used throughout Cuba and in other countries like Argentina, » she finished.

The CIE has a staff averaging 319 workers in all its systems and departments, and in 2013 the centre had sales of more than 84 billion pesos, and from these sales, more than 52 billion corresponded exports in CUC, for a total output of more than 243,000 pesos per worker.

Thus, the Immunoassay Centre has been awarded the National Vanguard award for the twenty first consecutive time in recognition of its results, and for many other projects in which its staff has been working at present. The flag for such a high distinction was granted by the Cuban Workers Federation (CTC) was awarded in a formal ceremony last Wednesday.

Translated by ESTI

More Doctors program receives 95 percent approval rating from Brazilians

September 6, 2014


According to a survey conducted by the Brazilian government, 95% of people treated under the More Doctors program were satisfied with the public health project, which employs 14,462 professionals, the majority Cubans, to treat people living in remote and peripheral areas.

The program offers health services to 50 million people in 3,785 municipalities, living in remote and isolated areas and in 34 indigenous districts, according to a survey published yesterday by the Ministry of Health, on the first anniversary of the program.

According to the survey, 86% of those treated under the program “greatly improved” since the arrival of the new professionals.

The 4,000 people interviewed in 200 municipalities between June 4 and July 6 by the Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG) gave the doctors – on average – scores above eight (out of 10).
According to the EFE, 84 % of people were satisfied with the duration of the consultations, with 80% giving positive scores to the service provided by doctors.

The most positive aspects of the program were indicated as being the increase in the number of consultations (58%), the presence of doctors everyday in health centers (33%) and quality of care provided by professionals (37%).

In regards to doctors, of the 11,456 Cubans, 96% of patients evaluated them as competent and 90% stated that they offer satisfactory care.

“This study confirms that the beneficiaries of More Doctors on the peripheries of big cities, in the interior of the country, the Amazon jungle and the northeast (the poorest region in Brazil) are very satisfied with the doctors,” stated Arthur Chioro, minister of Health.

Time for a Little Anarchy in America? Imagine: Cuba

August 30, 2014



Imagine living in the world’s most literate nation—a nation where health care is free and universal, and of the highest quality by world standards.

Imagine that, in this nation, education (also free and universal) is not only considered a human right, but it is also higher in quality than that of the wealthiest, most super industrialized country the world has ever known.

Imagine that this nation actively seeks—from social to governmental dimensions—to correct and eradicate racism, and racist proclivities, so as to ensure a truer, more democratic inclusion for all.

Imagine its dedication to gender equality and women’s rights: more than forty percent of its parliament is female; more than sixty percent of its university positions are occupied by women; and all its women receive maternity leave for eighteen weeks with full pay.

Imagine that this nation prizes unity and community so greatly that many desire to participate in local government because they genuinely want to ensure social solidity and welfare, and because they want to keep unemployment low.

Imagine a million people celebrating International Workers’ Day (May 1st) every year in honor of the working class’ coordination of political power.

Imagine living in a radical democracy where virtually everyone votes in political elections that require neither party allegiance nor money in order for candidates to be elected to publically serve.

Imagine living in the only country to achieve sustainable development. What about homelessness and poverty? This nation is singular in its dedication to keeping homelessness nonexistent and to also ending poverty however it can. This nation also trains tens of thousands of medical doctors (and medical personnel) from all over the world, providing them with schooling that is accredited by the most rigorous medical board from the world’s most developed country. In fact, just imagine that doctors are this nation’s major export. Then, imagine a rich sports culture where not money governs sports but the love of the game. Imagine living in a nation whose poets and musicians enchant and lull the world.

Can you imagine it? Admittedly, is difficult to do so. Such a country seems farfetched at best. Yet, this is no make-believe utopia. This is Cuba.

One of the most disgusting habits of today’s imperium is that it continues to wave its rotten carrot in front of the faces of more than three hundred million Americans, swearing all the while that no alternative system to its own even warrants fathoming. Imagine that! America is the wealthiest nation on earth, and Cuba, one of the poorest, is even hard to conceive of despite the fact that it is real! Yet, maintaining domestic control of several hundred million Americans might prove very hard to do without unapologetically inveigling the public every single day on any number of issues. Think about how long this travesty that revolves around international and economic insecurity has kept power inside in its white house, guarded by its black gates. Then again, think about what might happen if too many people—too many Americans—really began participating democratically. If this seems scary to imagine, this alternate, democratic reality, then just imagine how badly it must scare the powers that be. It must scare them shit-less.

Of course, to compare the United States of America to Cuba is to compare apples and oranges. Nevertheless, the US appears fairly dull when one weighs the dissimilarities extant between it and its nearby Caribbean neighbor. While Cuba busies itself spreading literacy to some of the most remote and poorest countries in the world, Americans themselves are not yet as literate as Cubans. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) ranked Cuba sixteenth in its Education for All Development Index—the highest in Latin America; the US ranked twenty-fifth. Even Cuba’s goodwill embarrasses the US: Cuba mobilized 1,500 medical workers to aid Haiti after its 2010 earthquake catastrophe. The Cubans had reportedly vaccinated 400,000 people, treating more than 225,000 people. The US reportedly treated little more than eight hundred. Speaking of healthcare and treatment, the lowest HIV prevalence rates in the Americas are found in Cuba—not America. Another medical statistic shows that Cuba also has a lower infant mortality rate than the US does. The list, sadly, goes on.

For blue- and red-blooded Americans who might yet claim to love their democracy and freedom, it is a good idea to consider whether or not they truly live in the democracy to which they allude when proselytizing about their little “city on a hill” to future generations. Not only can one imagine the many unprecedented political strides that Cuba has nurtured with its progressive socialism (under an aggressive, US-sponsored embargo), but one can also empirically evince it. Moreover, it leaves the American system looking rather suspect.

Yet, the story need not end with facts and statistics stagnating the way they are—or worse. Long, long ago, Jean-Jacques Rousseau presented the political philosophy that a people, ruling through their collective will, constituted the autonomous sovereign within the state. Even in a constitutional government such as the US has, the people are the sovereign which rules through a corpus of law. Not only sovereignty, but also the consequences of anarchy—it must not be forgotten—are socially generated within a state. So, America has laws and people, but perhaps not the kinds of democratic freedoms that disturb their overseers with night terrors. But, for the thinking American, working toward the kind of democracy that Cuba has must outweigh the consequences that come with making it a reality. Perhaps all the American sovereign needs to do is accept that it is time for a little anarchy. Not to worry; the sovereign will define the consequences of it. Then, America need not contend with Cuba for rankings, but it can work alongside it to foment democracy around the world in a way that arouses not terrorism, but inclusion and freedom.

Mateo Pimentel lives on the Mexican-US border.,

The Threat of Good Example

July 25, 2014


Socialist Cuba Exports Health Care, Gains Important Recognition
by W.T. WHITNEY, Jr.

In Cuba recently press conferences and new reports celebrated the ten-year anniversary of Operation Miracle, known also as “Mision Miracle,” which occurred on July 8. This internationalized project aimed at restoring vision on a massive scale took shape within the context of ALBA, the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America.

Cuba and Venezuela launched ALBA in late 2004. Latin American and Caribbean nations belonging to ALBA engage in mutually beneficial trade-offs of educational and medical services, scientific projects, even commodities. They are referred to as solidarity exchanges. ALBA exemplifies Cuba and Venezuela’s central role in promoting regional integration.

Under Operation Miracle, Cubans and Venezuelans benefit from surgical eye care, as do tens of thousands of foreign nationals who’ve traveled to Cuba for treatment. Cuban ophthalmologists serving in Venezuela took the lead in establishing 26 eye care centers throughout that national territory. Staff consisting of eye surgeons, nurses, technicians, and other physicians have served Venezuelans and also vision- impaired people from 17 Latin American countries plus Italy, Portugal, and Puerto Rico. More recently organizers established centers in 14 Latin American and Caribbean nations. Ten years after its start the project operates in 31 countries, some in Africa and Asia.

Those receiving diagnosis and treatment through Operation Miracle had gone without eye care because of poverty and/or geographic inaccessibility. The most common cause of reduced vision the teams deal with is cataract. They provide treatment also for glaucoma, strabismus, retina problems, and abnormal ocular growths. Corrective lenses are provided. Services are available for patients at no personal cost, as are transportation and accommodations.

Operation Miracle reportedly has improved or restored vision for 3.4 million individuals. That measure of the project’s reach takes on additional meaning through World Health Organization data showing that 39 million people in the world are blind. These figures are within reach of one another, especially because most visual impairment – 80 percent – is preventable or curable.

So it seems that two formerly colonized, dependent nations have taken giant steps toward addressing a major cause of human disability. But who, one asks, knows this story of human betterment? Writing recently for Cuba’s La Pupila Insomne web site, journalist Jose Manzaneda charges that international media ignored this “spectacular news.”

He highlights the Spanish El Pais newspaper as a purveyor of anti-Cuban bias. Recently El Pais writer Mauricio Vivent reported on international assistance to Haiti, but failed to mention Cuban efforts to fill Haiti’s health-care vacuum. In fact, according to Manzaneda, 11,000 Cuban health workers, mostly physicians, have served in Haiti for more than 16 year, and 700 of them are there now. They’ve cared for 20 million patients, performed 373,000 surgical operations, and delivered 150,000 babies. Over1300 Haitian young people, recipients of Cuban government scholarships, have graduated from Cuban universities Currently 322 Haitians are studying medicine in Cuba.

Why the reticence on the part of the world’s dominant media? Historian Aviva Chomsky speculated in 2000 that Cuba is suspect because of its “threat of a good example.” She was writing about Cuban health care achievements.

The recent visit to Cuba of Dr. Margaret Chan, Director – General of the World Health Organization, elevated that threat to high alert. On July 16, while participating in the inauguration of a new structure in Havana that will house a center for bio-pharmaceutical development and another for clinical trials, she observed that Cuba “is the only country I have visited with a [health] system tightly connected with research and development in a closed circle … The objective of science is to serve health care and health and in this, Cuba is an example.” Chan lauded “the Cuban purpose of benefiting not only the health of Cubans but also of the citizens of Latin America and the rest of the world.”

Writing in the new guest book, Chan congratulated one center “for its great achievements over 25 years. This has been possible through the vision of leaders like Fidel and Raul Castro who think strategically, for the long term, and established the bases for the success we see today. I congratulate them for their contribution to the improvement of the health of people in Cuba, in the region, and in the world. The Pan American Health Organization and the World Health organization will always be your good and trustworthy friends.”

In a 2008 letter explaining his decision no longer to serve as Cuba’s president, Fidel Castro stated that, “My only wish is to fight as a soldier in the battle of ideas.” Indeed, medical outreach to Haiti, Operation Miracle, ALBA, and the centers that Dr. Chan praised are themselves ideas that Cuba has advanced, in struggle. The overarching idea, however, is “Patria es Humanidad” (homeland is humanity) which was pronounced by Cuban national hero Jose Marti. Surely, as demonstrated by down –to- earth, people – centered instances of international solidarity, Cuba’s revolution remains true to its Martian roots.

W.T. Whitney Jr. is a retired pediatrician and political journalist living in Maine.


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