Socialist Cuba doing the heavy lifting in Ebola crisis

cuban doctors ebola

CUBA: the socialist country has airlifted an army of doctors and nurses with extensive supplies to West Africa

by Bill Bonnar While the world rallies to support the countries suffering the from the Ebola epidemic and Lord Bob Geldof and his tax dodging, self-publicising friends plug the latest Band Aid single, one country has intervened quietly and effectively to deliver significant aid to stricken countries.

Cuba has airlifted an army of doctors and nurses with extensive supplies to West Africa on a scale that would shame many richer countries. Those familiar with Cuban actions in dealing with these types of emergencies will not be surprised.

Cuba has a fine track record with such interventions which they see as international solidarity in action. Other interventions in recent years have included the appalling floods which engulfed large areas of Pakistan killing upwards of 70,000 people.

This action encouraged the Pakistan Government to establish diplomatic relations with Cuba in the teeth of US opposition. More recently the devastation earthquake in Haiti produced an even larger Cuban response although this was thwarted by an America blockade which physically prevented personnel and supplies reaching the Haitian people.

Cuban support for the people of West Africa is gaining growing recognition. According to the World Health Organisation: “Cuba is now the biggest single provider of health care workers to the Ebola crisis in West Africa. More than the Red Cross or richer nations. They have provided more human resources than many NGOs put together.”

Even US Secretary of State, John Kerry, in a rare moment of candour admitted: “Cuba is an example of a small nation which sent more than many richer nations.”

The practice of sending medical aid abroad, mainly to Latin America and Africa, dates from the earliest days of the revolution and has always been seem as support for anti-colonial struggles. It began in 1963 when Cuba sent a medical mission to Algeria after the collapse of the country’s medical system when the French colonialists withdrew.

Currently it is estimated that 42,000 Cuban doctors, nurses and dentists are delivering services in 103 countries; that is more medical personnel than provided by all the G8 countries combined.

In many cases the personnel are provide free but in more recent times they have formed part of wider agreements. Cuba has an agreement with the Venezuelan government which has involved more than 30,000 Cuban medical personnel providing health care in Venezuela in exchange for around 100,000 barrels of oil per day. Venezuela also ‘buys’ Cuban health care provision for other Latin American countries as an part and parcel of its own international aid programme.

John Kerry’s recent comments aside the US response to Cuban medical solidarity has been overwhelmingly hostile. Branding it ‘soft propaganda’ they have done much to disrupt the various programmes.

This has included an active campaign to encourage Cuban doctors working abroad to defect with promises of fast tracking them through the US immigration system and into lucrative jobs. In Haiti, as stated earlier they imposed a blockade around the island to stop medical supplies and health care workers from landing.

International solidarity has always been central to the Cuban revolution. The country has a proud track record in providing military, economic and diplomatic support to those countries and movements struggling against colonialism and imperialism. Perhaps the best example involved Angola.

When the MPLA came to power in 1975 after years of struggle against Portuguese colonialism the country faced a two pronged attack from the forces of imperialism. In the North the Zairian army invaded in support of the NFLA; a stooge organisation set up by the CIA.

At the same time South African forces invaded from the south. Facing a desperate situation the legitimate government of Angola requested Cuban aid. The response from Havana was to airlift thousands of Cuban troops who formed the front line routing both the NFLA and the South African army.

Nelson Mandela commented that the sight of the mostly white and hitherto invincible South African army fleeing from the largely black Angolan/Cuban army was the decisive turning point in the struggle against apartheid.

Cuba is a living example of the idea that the national struggle for socialism cannot be separated from the international struggle; they go hand in hand. At the same time Cuba itself is in need of solidarity. The American blockade, which has had a crippling effect of the people and economy of the island as ruthless now as it ever was.

The overthrow of the Cuban revolution and the return of the country to the status of an American colony remains a key strategic objective for Washington. The Miami Five, high profile Cuban political prisoners sentenced to life sentences in US prisons for trying to defend their country from terrorist attacks, remains an international scandal.

The Scottish Socialist Party’s support for the Cuban Revolution is total. It found expression in a large SSP delegation which visited the country in 2009 at the invite of the Cuban Government to mark the 50th anniversary of the revolution. It finds expression in our support for Cuba Solidarity events held regularly in Scotland and will continue to find expression in the years to come. Venceremos!

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