Cuba: Fighting Corona and Blockade Simultaneously

On June 29th, 2021 at the United Nations General Assembly 184 nations overwhelmingly and democratically, cast their votes against the US blockade on Cuba, which represented a voting pattern that has been on display for the last 29 years. Regardless of this sentiment, the United States and Israel stubbornly stuck to their guns. Only three nations Colombia, Ukraine, and Brazil abstained from voting. 

While the United Nations as a body is not in a position to enforce this vote, it provides an invaluable platform that captures the mood and sentiment of an entire planet. How this vote differentiated from the previous 28 years, was every nation present to go through this ritual without question, were impacted and compromised by the deadly Corona pandemic.

Because pandemics and epidemics have the distinction of illustrating the degree of helplessness that can bring any society on earth to an absolute standstill, any nation that demonstrates the ability to not only maintain resolve under dire circumstances but selflessly lends a helping hand to others desperately in need is guaranteed to respect the world over.

While the international community boldly sides with Cuba in their courageous fight against this hostile and outdated political measure, one of the biggest challenges they have faced is not allowing the blockade to divert attention, from how the Henry Reeve Medical Brigade currently has 57 medical brigades in approximately 40 nations and territories fighting the deadly corona pandemic head-on.

During a recent press conference with media outlets based in Africa, Germany, Canada, Iran, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and four all sections of the U.S.A., the Cuban Permanent Representative to the United Nations H.E. Pedro Luis Pedroso Cuesta highlighted that in six decades, the accumulated damage that stems from blockade has cost Cuba $ 147,853,3 billion US dollars.

What must not be forgotten is the blockade was introduced by the administration of John F. Kennedy, on the heels of a failed military invasion of Cuba in 1961, commonly known in history books as the US Bay of Pigs.

While that captures the long-term impact of the blockade, Ambassador Pedroso Cuesta also revealed and contextualized losses incurred by Cuba during the pandemic, from April 2019 to December 2020 losses accumulated to over $9,157.2 billion dollars.

These numbers force the entire world to marvel in astonishment, while a nation confronted by such a crippling and hateful measure, shipping out their Doctors to save lives in every corner of the world knowing that members of their own biological families may not be alive upon returning.

Another accomplishment that the Cuban people can be proud of, is that in the midst of the pandemic, their beloved nation has created the Finlay Vaccine Institute which at the moment is the only vaccine manufacturer available in all of Latin America. 

Since its inception, this prestigious institution has proved to be an excellent complement to Cuba’s Center for Genetic and Biotechnological Engineering which was established in 1986.

Due to the threat non-communicable diseases present internationally, combined with meeting the mandate of Sustainable Development Goals, the Henry Reeve Medical Brigade’s appeal has skyrocketed even in nations whose governments have traditionally been their detractors.

When the brigade that consisted of 54 medics landed in Italy last year, with people waving the Cuban and Italian flags together, this shattered the myth that Cuba was guilty of practicing medical solidarity.

A significant portion of nations who have opened their doors to the Henry Reeve Medical Brigade, are neither socialist nor revolutionary and have no plans to embrace this way of life anytime in the near future.

Earlier this year South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa shared that his Cabinet approved a proposal to nominate the Henry Reeve Medical Brigade for the Nobel Peace Prize.

At a moment in history where promoting a narrative of victimization, especially by peoples who have endured colonialism and physical captivity, to see Doctors become the face of Cuban people.

Prior to the deadly Corona pandemic, their work in the Western hemisphere and on the African continent is a matter of public record therefore irrefutable.

The people of Venezuela can attest to the impact of Operation Project Miracle aimed at eradicating blindness, our extended kith and kin in Haiti consistently marvel about Cuban doctors stopping their well-deserved vacation to treat everyday people after a devastating earthquake.

This includes a willingness to go where they aren’t welcome or when resources aren’t available. Cuba offered to send medical personnel to the U.S. after 9-11 and also to the Gulf Region after the devastating Hurricane Katrina. Cuba also offered to send 4,000 HIV-AIDS Doctors and Specialities to the African continent, who would not return home until HIV-AIDS was eradicated.

Cuba has opened the doors of the Latin American School of Medical Sciences to thousands of students coming from Africa, the Caribbean, and Latin America, who after graduation will return to their nations of birth, the best Doctors available to their people.

The people of Pakistan and Chernobyl will never forget how the Henry Reeve medical brigade came to their aid after intense natural disasters.

A few years ago Cuba came to Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinee for the purpose of neutralizing and defeating the Ebola pandemic.

Since 2000, 200 US born students graduated from the Latin American School of Medical Sciences in Cuba, this program quietly has emerged as the biggest threat to the brain drain that has crippled and compromised many nations for decades.

Before his transition, Commandante Fidel Castro referred to Cuban Doctors as Cuba’s Greatest Army, and it was his brother Commandante Raul Castro who named the brigade after a man of European ancestry born in Brooklyn, New York, who served in Cuba’s army for seven years and fought actively in 400 engagements.

What must not be forgotten is many history makers like Frantz Fanon, Agostinho Neto, Samuel Parirenyatwa, Steve Biko, Che Guevera, and T.R.M Howard were freedom fighters that have medical backgrounds.

Whether it is fighting to bring an end to the blockade, or treating the sick, Cuba is more than prepared.

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Obi Egbuna Jr is the External Relations Officer of the Zimbabwe Cuba Friendship Association and the US Correspond to the Herald(Zimbabwe’s National Newspaper) his email is