We send doctors, not soldiers!

Report from a visit to Cuba’s medical brigade in Haiti  Monday, 1st March 7.30pm  Venue: St Matthews Rooms, Carver St, Sheffield S1

Speaker: Phil Lenton, Coordinator of ‘Salud International’, a trade union-sponsored NGO [‘Salud’: Spanish for ‘Health’]

More than 300 Cuban doctors were already in Haiti when the earthquake struck (since doubled by reinforcements). They immediately swung into action, reopening 3 hospitals in Port-au-Prince and attending to people where they lay.

Cuban doctors first arrived in Haiti in 1998, following the devastation caused by Hurricane Georges. In contrast to many international aid efforts that wind down after a few weeks or months, the Cuban doctors stayed and have been there ever since, providing free health care to a population which had only known expensive, private health care.

Unlike many other foreign doctors, the Cubans don’t use armed guards; before the earthquake only the Cubans regularly visited people in their homes as others considered the security risk to be too great.

Since 2000, 544 young Haitian doctors have graduated from Cuba’s Latin American Medical School, among 10,000 free medical scholarships to youth from deprived communities in Latin America, the Caribbean and even the USA.

Fidel Castro, January 14, two days after the earthquake struck: In the area of healthcare and others the Haitian people has received the cooperation of Cuba, even though this is a small and blockaded country.

Approximately 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 have been graduated as medical doctors in our country.

…Thus, up to one thousand doctors and healthcare personnel can be mobilized without any special effort; and most are already there.

Fidel Castro, January 24: Cuba will firmly stand by the opinion that the tragedy that has taken place in Haiti, the poorest nation in the western hemisphere, is a challenge to the richest and more powerful countries of the world.

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. That terrible earthquake occurred after the Copenhagen Summit, where the most elemental rights of 192 UN member States were trampled upon.

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 Haitians waiting to see Cuban doctors at a free clinic in Cange in 2006 the United Nations Organization nor the US government have offered an explanation to the world’s public opinion about this relocation of troops…. The UN should be entrusted with the leading role it deserves in these so delicate matters.

Our country is accomplishing a strictly humanitarian mission. To the extent of its possibilities, it will contribute the human and material resources at its disposal. The will of our people… is huge, and will rise to the occasion. We send doctors, not soldiers!

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