US efforts to discredit Cuba’s health missions have failed

Cuban health specialists who are in South Africa to support efforts to curb the spread of Covid-19. Picture: African News Agency (ANA)

Cuban health specialists who are in South Africa to support efforts to curb the spread of Covid-19. Picture: African News Agency (ANA)

Published May 6, 2020


Just a few days ago, US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo criticised the government of South Africa for receiving a Cuban Medical Brigade to assist in the efforts against Covid-19.

Instead of promoting co-operation and a collective response around the world, top US officials have devoted their time issuing statements threatening governments that exercise their sovereignty and seek Cuba’s assistance. 

What right does the US government have to pressure sovereign states to deprive their nationals of medical care? That is contrary to International Law and the Charter of the UN.

US officials are committing a crime when amid a pandemic they continue promoting a persistent and well-funded campaign to discredit our international medical co-operation.

They are trying to distort the nature of that co-operation and present it as what it is not, deliberately misleading the public. Their slanders still confuse many, but the vast majority is on the side of truth.

The US spends more money than any other country on an inefficient health-care system, dominated by

the private insurers, which cannot provide decent services for 28 million uninsured people. Instead of focusing on fixing that serious problem,

they lie by calling our medical co-operation an exploitation of doctors and human trafficking.

Those despicable slanders are an offence against Cubans that ultimately affects more than anything else - the US’s own credibility.

Why doesn’t the US government say that in all cases the Cuban government pays the salaries in full in Cuba of all doctors serving in other countries to which they travel based on individual agreements, with total voluntariness? Additionally, they receive remuneration in the host country which is necessary for the sustainability of our medical services.

From the individual agreement with each doctor assisting other countries, it is known what their personal income is and that a part is destined as a contribution to help sustain the free and universal public health system of Cuba, which they also enjoy.

The same occurs in Cuba in other sectors that generate convertible currency for everyone’s social spending. We live in a country where most of us work together to improve the lives of everyone and not just a few. We are very proud of our system and of our doctors, who are not looking for big payments or luxuries. Their priority is to save lives.

With the part of the income contributed by Cuba’s medical services, legitimate in any UN South-South co-operation scheme by which they are governed, costly supplies are acquired for the entire population, including diagnostic tests, supplies for the Cuban pharmaceutical industry and biotechnology, cancer treatments, etc.

The US, which blocks Cuba’s public health and wants to strangle the income of our people - including those from pharmaceutical and biotechnological exports or medical services - does not have any right whatsoever to meddle with the nature of Cuban co-operation schemes. It is a supreme act of hypocrisy to pretend to be concerned for the wages of those same health professionals they despise and attack with insults and sanctions.

Some Cuban doctors legally chose to live outside Cuba after completing their missions, attracted by better wages and conditions for a better life for themselves and their families in developed societies. Others have come out of love.

The Cuban experience is based on the notion that access to health care for all is a human right. That obligation and responsibility is written in our constitution. The US government will never mention that in Cuba nobody has to pay a cent for health-care services, even for the most complex medical procedures. Nor will they ever say that education at all levels, including university and medical studies, is totally free.

Cuba is not a rich country. We have limited resources and we suffer an atrocious US blockade that affects our entire population. The US’s goal is to suffocate our economy and provoke a change of government to one that responds to their interest. In 2019 alone, 86 new blocking measures were applied against Cuba, which do us great harm, and hinder even our ability to respond to Covid-19.

Only with an honest commitment and a firm political will from the government can a relatively small country, blocked and with limited natural resources and wealth, be able to guarantee to its entire population indicators of well-being and health comparable with that of advanced societies in the world.

The reality is that despite efforts to discredit Cuba, the pressure campaign initiated more than a year ago by Trump’s administration to end Cuba’s health missions has failed. The opposite occurred, because today there are many more countries that, due to the positive experience and the results achieved in health matters, highly recognised by the World Health Organization, request Cuban medical services in their different modalities.

The aggressive behaviour of the US will not prevent us from providing our help and solidarity. We will not deny anyone our medical assistance, not even, if necessary, to the country that causes Cuba so much harm.

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

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

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