Cuba shows a lead in solidarity amid COVID-19 crisis

March 18, 2020
The MS Braemar docks in a Cuban port.

Amid the mounting COVID-19 pandemic, capitalist governments around the world have clearly prioritised corporate welfare over public health.

Their dangerous prevarications in implementing emergency health and the withholding of information and practical advice to the public have led to panic buying and hoarding of essential supplies.

Instead of reassuring the population, capitalist governments have incited more fear, insecurity, selfishness and racism, eroding the very social solidarity that is critical to getting through the crisis.

By contrast, Cuba's socialist government has set an example of international solidarity in its response to the pandemic.

Cuba has sent doctors to Italy and other countries struggling right now, and has offered to supply countries with Interferon Alpha 2B and other drugs developed in Cuba that have proven to be powerful in treating COVID-19.

However, the illegal US-imposed blockade of Cuba is restricting the delivery of these life-saving medicines to other countries, including Venezuela.

Cuba's solidarity values were dramatised to the world by its decision to welcome the cruise ship MS Braemar, carrying more than 1000 passengers.

After COVID-19 cases were detected onboard, the shop was turned away from several countries in the Caribbean. To the great relief of passengers and their families, the Cuban government agreed on March 16 to let the cruise ship dock and help transfer those onboard to planes bound for Britain.

One of the MS Braemar passengers, Anthea Guthrie, expressed her gratitude to the Cuban people in a Facebook post: “I am quite honestly in floods of tears at their kindness. They have made us not only feel tolerated, but actually welcome.

"Thank you Cuba that you could open your hearts to us, we will never forget that you reached out to us when absolutely nobody, and I mean nobody else, would.”

Cuba's people-to-people solidarity has been expressed for many years in the form of brigades of doctors despatched to many Third World countries, including Australia's close neighbour Timor Leste. Not only has Cuba sent more doctors to Timor Leste than wealthy Australia, it trained 1000 new Timorese doctors over the past decade.

This Cuban medical aid made a critical difference to Timor Leste, as that country's former PM Jose Ramos Horta explained in an article in The Australian last year: “In 1999, we had 19 doctors and life expectancy at birth was under 60 years, a consequence of poverty and malnutrition.

"Today we have 1000 doctors thanks to a program offered by the Cuban government, and life expectancy stands at 69.2 for men and 70 for women.

"In 2002 malaria was rampant. Last year there was not one case of this centuries-old affliction in East Timor. Leprosy has been eliminated.”

The US and other right-wing governments have worked relentlessly to block Cuba's international medical solidarity program. In 2018, Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro terminated the Cuban medical aid program that placed 10,000 Cuban doctors in some of the poorest, most remote regions of that country. Now, however, Bolsonaro is begging Cuban doctors to help Brazil deal with COVID-19.

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