Cuban doctors and nurses arrived at Italy’s Malpensa airport to help Italy battle the spread of Covid-19 near Milan.     Reuters
Cuban doctors and nurses arrived at Italy’s Malpensa airport to help Italy battle the spread of Covid-19 near Milan. Reuters

World needs more solidarity, not sanctions, to fight Covid-19

By Rodolfo Benitez Verson Time of article published Apr 15, 2020

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The world is facing an unprecedented test, a health emergency far graver than what we have experienced in over a century.

Our human family is stressed, and the social fabric is being torn by Covid-19. Millions of people are suffering, sick and scared. Entire countries and cities are in lockdown. Borders are closing.

Societies are in turmoil. A global economic recession of record dimensions is a near certainty. There is no easy way out of this difficult situation, but we are not helpless. If we set aside political and ideological differences, and act swiftly and collectively, we can limit the effects of the coronavirus.

This is a humanitarian crisis that demands solidarity, co-operation and multilateral concerted action. Countries must unite for a concerted health response to suppress transmission and end the pandemic. Every life that can be saved must be saved. Further on, we will still have to confront together the devastating and enduring economic effects of the pandemic.

In our interconnected world, we are only as strong as the weakest health systems. Those who are doing relatively better should support the countries with fewer resources and those facing the most complex situation. Cuba is implementing a comprehensive national programme to control the infection. Social cohesion and solidarity have been of the essence.

We have a primary health care infrastructure that ensures efficient epidemiological control. Part of our scientific development has specialised in communicable diseases, and we have a pharmaceutical industry of a high technological level.

Despite our difficult economic situation, Cuba will continue sending Medical Brigades to many countries that have requested assistance to fight Covid-19. Based on the experience of the treatment of the virus in China with the use of medicine created by Cuba, we have received many requests for that medication, which we are trying to satisfy to the extent of our possibilities.

We are motivated by the deeply humanistic character of the Cuban Revolution, based on the principle of sharing what we have, even if it’s scarce. While the world needs more co-operation and solidarity, the US government intensifies the blockade and aggression against Cuba and other countries.

The unilateral blockade imposed against Cuba for 60 years is criminal, immoral and illegal, whether or not there is a pandemic.

But the Covid-19 has exposed even more clearly the murderous constraints that blockade imposes on our people. Maintaining and intensifying the blockade in the midst of a global pandemic as an instrument to generate suffering on our people, makes it even crueller and demonstrates the inhuman character of imperialism.

The blockade is the fundamental impediment for Cuba to acquire many medicines, equipment and materials required to face the pandemic. It affects our ability to respond to the emergency and to provide and receive international aid.

Without the blockade, Cuba could do much more in support of other countries. The terrible consequences of the blockade will be even greater for us in a context where our economy will be greatly affected due to the paralysis of tourism, and the decrease in production, foreign investments and trade worldwide.

Furthermore, when recognition of Cuba’s solidarity with other nations multiply in the world, Washington insists on a denigrating campaign against the presence of Cuban doctors in other countries and their noble work, even going so far as to demand governments to reject Cuban assistance for the fight against the coronavirus. This smear campaign by the Trump administration is immoral in all circumstances. In the present context, when we should all strive to promote aid to those who need it, it is particularly offensive to Cuba and the rest of the world.

As if all of the above was not enough, an unnamed top Pentagon official quoted by the publication Newsweek, recently affirmed that the US Intelligence Community had evidence that drugs were being trafficked between Cuba and Venezuela.

It is a total and unfounded slander, with dangerous implications. It is not by chance that those accusations were added to the White House’s recent smear campaign to link the leaders of the Venezuelan Government with drug trafficking. Using that opportunistic and false pretext, the US government has announced military operations involving deployment of warships nearby Venezuela and special troops movements.

Those actions are a serious threat to peace of all in the region. While governments of the world come together against the pandemic, the White House fabricates slanders to justify increasing economic siege measures against Cuba and Venezuela.

At international level, a widespread demand has been made for the US government to cease the unilateral sanctions and aggressions against Cuba, Venezuela and other countries, at least while the epidemic lasts.

But the Trump administration continues disregarding the urgent calls from the international community, including those made by the UN secretary-general, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the UN Special Rapporteur for Food, the World Church Service, the Latin American parliament, as well as many governments, political and social organisations and personalities around the world.

We are very grateful for the important statements in solidarity with Cuba made by the ANC, the South African Communist Party, Cosatu, and many other organisations and peoples in this sister nation.

We really need and appreciate those public expressions of support in the present context. The Cuban people will never forget those who are proving to be our true friends in such difficult times. Cuba’s response to the blockade and aggressions will continue to be to support as much as possible those who need it.

Even we would not hesitate a second to send medical assistance to New York or any other US city, if requested. We are proud of the tens of thousands of Cuban health professionals, our “Army of the White Coats”, who today, are in more than 60 countries assisting in the fight against this pandemic, and improving the health of many.

Despite all difficulties, our international solidarity cannot and will not be blocked.

Benítez Verson is ambassador of Cuba to South Africa, Eswatini and Lesotho

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