Haiti: Send doctors, not soldiers

January 30, 2010

On January 14, two days after the catastrophe in Haiti, which destroyed that neighbouring sister nation, I wrote: "In the area of healthcare and others, the Haitian people have received the cooperation of Cuba, even though this is a small and blockaded country.

"About 400 doctors and healthcare workers are helping the Haitian people free of charge.

"Our doctors are working every day at 227 of the 237 communes of that country ... No less than 400 young Haitians graduated as medical doctors in our country. They will now work alongside the reinforcement that travelled there yesterday to save lives.

"Thus, up to 1000 doctors and healthcare personnel can be mobilised without any special effort; and most are already there willing to cooperate with any other state that wishes to save Haitian lives and rehabilitate the injured."

When Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and the lives of thousands of Americans were in danger, Cuba offered to send a full medical brigade to the United States, a country with vast resources.

But what New Orleans needed were trained and well-equipped doctors to save lives. More than 1000 Cuban doctors mobilised and were ready to leave for that city at any time of the day or the night, with the necessary medicines and equipment.

It never crossed our mind that the president of that nation would reject the offer and let US citizens, who could have been saved, die.

After Haiti's earthquake, our country immediately responded to the US authorities' requests to fly over the eastern part of Cuba, and granted access to other facilities they needed to deliver help, to the US and Haitian citizens affected by the earthquake.

Cuba firmly believes that the tragedy in Haiti, the poorest nation in the western hemisphere, is a challenge to the richest and more powerful countries.

Haiti is a net product of the colonial, capitalist and imperialist system imposed on the world.

Haiti's slavery and subsequent poverty were imposed from abroad.

In the aftermath of the tragedy, a competition has been unleashed in Haiti to hastily and illegally adopt boys and girls. UNICEF has been forced to adopt preventive measures against the uprooting of many children, which will deprive their close relatives from their rights.

There are more than 100,000 fatalities. Eighty percent of the country needs to be rebuilt. Haiti requires an economy that is developed enough to meet its needs according to its productive capacity.

The post-World War II reconstruction of Europe and Japan, which was based on a much higher productive capacity and technical level, was a relatively simple task as compared to the effort needed for Haiti.

There, as well as elsewhere in the Third World, it is vital to create the conditions for sustainable development.

In the midst of the Haitian tragedy, without anybody knowing how and why, thousands of US marines, 82nd Airborne Division troops and other military forces have occupied Haiti.

Worse still is the fact that neither the UN nor the US government have offered an explanation for this relocation of soldiers.

Several governments have complained that their aircraft have not been allowed to land to deliver the human and technical resources sent to Haiti.

Some countries, for their part, have announced they would be sending exrta troops and military equipment. In my view, such events will complicate and create chaos in international cooperation, already complex.

Our country is carrying out a strictly humanitarian mission. The will of our people, which takes pride in its medical doctors and cooperation workers, who provide vital services, is huge, and will rise to the occasion.

We send doctors, not soldiers!

[Fidel Castro is a former president of Cuba. This article is abridged from Cuba.cu.]

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