Cuba is Written with an S for Solidarity

By Katu Arkonada on April 25, 2020

Che Guevara said that solidarity is the tenderness of the people. This phrase could not be truer than in the case of Cuba, the tenderest people in the world.

A people, the Cuban people, that in spite of the difficulties it is going through while in a revolution that has already lasted 61 years, most of that time resisting a criminal economic blockade that prevents them from acquiring medicines, equipment, and supplies, currently has 22 brigades in 21 countries of the world specifically to help fight Covid.

There are 22 brigades and not 21 because in Italy there are two contingents of Cuban doctors. One of them, the one in the north, in Turin, one of the most affected areas, neighboring Lombardy, is called Humanity and involves Italian and Cuban nurses, and doctors with specialization in epidemiology and experience in Africa fighting Ebola. Humanity, a beautiful metaphor of the tenderness of the Cuban people with the Italian people.

Cuba, which also has more than a thousand infections and around 50 deaths, and has 8.2 doctors for every thousand inhabitants, one of the highest rates in the world, has sent 1,238 health professionals to these 21 countries in the world, ranging from Honduras, Nicaragua or Venezuela in Latin America, to Togo, Angola or Cape Verde in Africa, and Haiti, the Dominican Republic or Jamaica in the Caribbean.

But what many people probably don’t know is that Cuba has been working with medical brigades in China for 14 years, and has also been on the front line during the fight against the coronavirus in the Asian giant. It has also done so with an antiviral drug, interferon alpha-2B, made by cells belonging to the immune system of some vertebrate animals, a drug that has been instrumental in containing the spread of the virus and helping thousands of people infected with the new coronavirus to get better.

None of this is by chance. Already in the 1960s, Fidel began to think about a mode of production based on science, and this idea was accentuated by the U.S. blockade of an island that does not have the natural resources of many surrounding countries that are rich in oil, gas, gold or coltan, and that even its tourist industry was limited by the blockade.

Thus, especially in the 1990s, at the height of the special period, an industry took off that has managed to produce the pentavalent vaccine, which in a single dose protects against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, hepatitis B and type B influenza, or CIMAher (nimotuzumab), an antibody that treats advanced tumors of up to five types of cancer, including brain, head and neck. Also worth mentioning here is CIMAvax-EGF, which fights lung cancer (no country in the world has achieved that vaccine), or Heberprot-P, used in diabetic foot ulcer therapy, and which has reduced amputations in this type of case by 75 percent. Heberprot-P, by the way, is included since 2018 in the Issste’s Supplies Catalogue.

This medical-scientific development has enabled Cuba to have an infant mortality rate of 4.9 per thousand live births, and a life expectancy of over 78.6 years, higher than that of the United States (78.5), and similar to that of any developed country. All this in spite of being an island without natural resources subject to a criminal economic blockade (a blockade only supported in 2019 in the United Nations by Israeli Zionism and Bolsonaro’s Brazil).

In the midst of this health crisis that adds to the multidimensional crisis we were already experiencing (economic, financial, energy, food…), Cuba continues to be a beacon of hope that should give us light to think about this world where borders are closed to people and opened to capital, where xenophobia permeates our societies, where we care more about the contagion of the markets than about people, and where the pharmaceutical industry is one of the most powerful in the world. Probably a good metaphor for the capitalist mode of production.

Perhaps in these times of the coronavirus and the crisis of capitalism, we will realize the importance of the legacy of Fidel Castro and the Cuban revolution. Technology is important but more important are human beings.

Today, in a world with 820 million hungry people, 2 billion malnourished people and 3 billion who have no way to wash their hands, Cuba is becoming a reference point of solidarity in the face of the greed of other countries that pirate technology or masks as they once pirated the peoples, people and nature of the countries of the South.

It is in today’s world that Cuba has never bargained when it comes to saving human lives. The medical personnel (more than 400,000 people) who have carried out missions in some 164 or so countries with which Cuba has been in solidarity can attest to this.

That is why if anyone deserves the Nobel Peace Prize, above those who support the war and its henchmen in the neoliberal progress, it is the Cuban doctors, determined to continue saving lives where the state has regressed for the benefit of the markets and to the detriment of the people.

Source: La Jornada, translation Resumen Latinoamericano, North America bureau