I’ve been taking a look at Covid case rates and deaths broken down by country and I’ve stumbled across something quite astonishing. Asides from the fact that Covid case rates and death tolls are significantly higher in most of the worlds biggest western economies and comparatively low in quite a few countries with more socialist governments, there’s a striking anomaly with Cuba. While their case rates were still fairly high (although no where near as bad as the US or the UK), the death rate as a %’age of the population was very low. Given that it’s highly unlikely that Cuba would have been given priority access to the Pfizer or AstraZeneca vaccines, it begs the question how they’ve managed to keep their death rate so low, despite a high case rate. What could be the reason for such a striking anomaly that no one else appears to have been able to replicate and why has the rest of the world not jumped on this? You’d assume they’d be falling over themselves to learn from the Cubans?
The trouble is, the US and, therefore, the rest of the world, is at war with Cuba. It’s not your traditional military attack, it’s economic warfare, it’s been going on for decades and it’s highly effective and yet, despite an ailing economy the Cubans have put the world to shame. It’s almost as if western economies that serve the global corporate agenda seem not to want a socialist country that provides free healthcare and free education (including free University tuition) to succeed.
Before the Cuban revolution, the country was effectively operating as a US state, controlled by major US companies, corrupt politicians and even the Mafia. Cuba’s bid for independence therefore had to be punished and so the US has maintained a 60yr long trade blockade on Cuba ever since. As part of the embargo, banks refuse to lend money to Cuba (Cuban citizens can’t even open bank accounts) and Cubans have limited access to internet services. The US blockade also prevents Cuba from trading with other western countries.
Apart from a short period of respite during the Obama years, the blockade has been crippling the Cuban economy for decades and things just got a whole lot worse under Trump. In fact, there was no respite even when the Covid-19 pandemic hit – access to medicines and medical equipment was highly restricted with US owned companies even refusing to sell ventilators to the Cubans.
Cuba also has a fuel crisis. In fact they’ve struggled to get oil ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 90s. This has restricted access to public transport and heavily impacted farming as farmer’s are unable to use any fuel driven farming equipment. The fuel crisis got worse recently when Trump decided to sanction ships delivering subsidised oil from Venezuela. Cuba & Venezuela have been allies for 2 decades. Venezuela had the oil the Cubans needed, in abundance, and Cuba was able to provide the medical care that the Venezuelans were equally desperate for. However, it seems that any country that threatens US economic dominance is fair game and US economic sanctions and blockades are highly effective weapons. They’ve even been known to attempt ‘regime change’, which is often really just an attempt to replace a democratically elected leader with someone who supports the US agenda in the region.
So, how is it that despite all the hardships of living under a 60yr long US blockade, the Cuban’s have still managed to put the rest of the world to shame in their efforts to fight the Covid pandemic? Cuba’s free education system has produced more doctors per person than anywhere else in the world. Cuba’s medical corp has even been called on by other countries at times of crisis. When Italy had become the epicenter of the Covid pandemic, Cuban doctors were asked to assist Italian medical staff in Lombardy. Cuban doctors also helped fight Ebola in Liberia. In fact, ‘The War on Cuba’ documentary reveals that Cuba has sent 400,000 medical personnel to provide assistance in 164 countries since the start of the program in the 1960s. However, the US have resisted any medical assistance from Cuba, despite urgent need. Cuban doctors were ready to go to New Orleans to provide medical assistance in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina but help was rejected by the Bush administration.
More recently, the Trump administration started to push a new narrative, accusing the Cuban government of exploiting medical workers and effectively describing what is essentially a humanitarian mission as “forced Labour” and “modern day slavery.” So when Jair Bolsonaro, a Trump ally, was elected President of Brazil in 2019, he ended Cuba’s medical aid program to Brazil. Of course, it might be pure coincidence that Brazil now tops the league table in respect to the highest number of Covid deaths as a %’age of the countries population, with the US running a close 2nd. Shortly after this, Ecuador’s President became a Trump ally and the US led a coup to oust Bolivia’s elected President Evo Morales. Ecuador and the new Bolivian regime also rallied behind the US agenda and took steps to expel the Cuban medical corp in their countries . It seems the US agenda of stifling the Cuban economy by blocking all revenue streams, even medical programs that benefits their host nations, takes priority over human life – even the lives of US citizens desperate for medical assistance after hurricane Katrina.
It’s also no coincidence that Cuba has the biggest medical school in the world. ELAM is Cuba’s Latin American Medical School and it’s totally free. In fact, ELAM has trained 30,000 medical professionals from 117 different countries around the world, including 198 US graduates and despite US efforts to stifle the program, the global pandemic has actually seen Cuba’s medical outreach program expanded. Cuba has sent medical assistance to numerous countries during the pandemic, including Haiti, Jamaica, Barbados, Grenada, Mexico, Honduras, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Peru, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Angola, Kenya, South Africa, Italy, Azerbaijan, Kuwait, Qatar and the UAE, to name but a few. In fact, they’ve sent over 4,000 doctors and nurses to over 30 countries to help fight the Covid pandemic. Not surprisingly, the countries that rejected Cuba’s medical assistance during the pandemic (Brazil, Ecuador and Bolivia) suffered some of the biggest losses of life by %’age of population.
Cuba’s medical professionals believe their success at containing the Covid pandemic in their own country can be attributed to their ability to provide door to door medical services and to easily isolate contacts. In a country where there are more doctors per person than anywhere else in the world, it’s easy to understand how they would be far better equipped to provide that level of service.
Perhaps then, the real reason why the eternally neoliberal, US administration and it’s allies, are so determined to see Cuba fail is because they are determined to ensure that a socialist project like Cuba – a country that believes in public ownership and providing free health care and free education for all it’s citizens – does not succeed. It’s not in the interest of the corporate paymasters, who fund both the US Democrat and Republican parties, for Cuba to succeed because it’s not in their interest to see socialism succeed. Of course we see the same pattern, of corporate interests influencing right wing and so-called neoliberal governments around the world, although it manifests itself in different ways. The UK had their best opportunity of a socialist government under Jeremy Corbyn in 2017. The socialist threat was so great that the establishment colluded in a campaign to smear and undermine the Corbyn leadership. Even in spite of the relentless attacks from opposition parties, right wing factions within the Labour Party and the right wing corporate media, there was still clearly an appetite for socialist policies amongst voters and the Labour Party came within a hairs breadth of winning the 2017 election. In fact, they would have won were it not for Labour’s own neoliberal faction sabotaging the Labour election campaign. Such was the level of collusion by the right wing neoliberal, corporate sponsored, establishment.
Despite everything, Cuba has been able to demonstrate to the world that socialist policies make a real difference to peoples lives and with their medical outreach program they’ve also shown how it’s possible to transform the world through compassion. I personally can’t help but imagine, what more might have been achieved if Cuban’s hadn’t been under a 60yr long blockade by Corporate America, or how many thousands of British lives might have been saved if a Corbyn led, socialist, Labour Party had been elected to government in 2017.
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