Cuban visitors speak on world leading COVID-19 response

August 3, 2023
Marianniz Díaz and Ivan Ernesto Barreto building solidarity with Cuba
Marianniz Díaz and Ivan Ernesto Barreto speaking in Meanjin/Brisbane. Photo: Alex Bainbridge

Two young Cubans, currently touring Australia with the Australia-Cuba Friendship Society, spoke at a public meeting on July 31 on Cuba’s challenges and latest achievements.

Dr Tanieris Dieguez, Ambassador of Cuba, first spoke about the new Family Code, which legalises same-sex marriage and protects the rights of children, the elderly and those with different abilities.

Dieguez described the highly participative process which led to the new code, saying “everyone had their say”. The poll attracted a high turnout with a solid majority (66%) in favour. “All types of families are now respected and protected.”

Marianniz Díaz, a research scientist with the Centre for Molecular Immunology in Havana, described how she and a team developed and assessed the effectiveness of locally-made COVID-19 vaccines.

She worked on the government-backed BioCubaFarma, a network of 34 Cuban biotech companies, which developed Soberana 2 and Abdala, the first COVID-19 vaccine in Latin America and Soberana Plus, the first vaccine in the world designed for improved recovery from COVID-19.

Cuba was also the first country to develop a vaccine for children as young as two. The efficacy of these vaccines was measured at around 92%, with the entire population now vaccinated, on average, four times each. By contrast, Australia’s rate is about 2.5 doses a person.

Iván Barreto, from the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the Peoples (ICAP), focussed on the greatest challenge still facing the Cuban people. He gave a detailed history of the sordid impact of the United States blockade on Cuba.

First imposed in 1960, the blockade of Cuba is, by far, the longest period of sanctions on any country in history.

The motivations and objectives of the blockade were stated by US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Lester Mallory, in 1960, who wrote: “The majority of Cubans support Castro ... The only foreseeable means of alienating internal support [for the government] is through disenchantment and disaffection based on economic dissatisfaction and hardship.”

He stressed the two-way value of international solidarity and invited those who want to experience some of Cuba’s achievements first-hand to consider joining the annual Southern Cross Brigade to Cuba, organised by the Australia and New Zealand Cuba Friendship Societies with ICAP.

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