Reflections by Comrade Fidel
WE SEND DOCTORS, NOT SOLDIERS.
In my Reflection of January 14, two days after the catastrophe in
Haiti, which destroyed that neighboring sister nation, I wrote: “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. On the other hand, no less
than 400 young Haitians have been graduated as medical doctors in our
country. They will now work alongside the reinforcement that traveled
there yesterday to save lives in that critical situation. Thus, up to
one thousand doctors and healthcare personnel can be mobilized 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.”
“The head of our medical brigade has informed that ‘the situation is
difficult but we are already saving lives.’”
Hour after hour, day and night, the Cuban health professionals have
started to work nonstop in the few facilities that were able to stand,
in tents, and out in the parks or open-air spaces, since the
population feared new aftershocks.
The situation was far more serious than was originally thought. Tens
of thousands of injured were clamoring for help in the streets of
Port-au-Prince; innumerable persons laid, dead or alive, under the
rubbled clay or adobe used in the construction of the houses where the
overwhelming majority of the population lived. Buildings, even the
most solid, collapsed. Besides, it was necessary to look for the
Haitian doctors who had graduated at the Latin American Medicine
School throughout all the destroyed neighborhoods. Many of them were
affected, either directly or indirectly, by the tragedy.
Some UN officials were trapped in their dormitories and tens of lives
were lost, including the lives of several chiefs of MINUSTAH, a UN
contingent. The fate of hundreds of other members of its staff was
Haiti’s Presidential Palace crumbled. Many public facilities,
including several hospitals, were left in ruins.
The catastrophe shocked the whole world, which was able to see what
was going on through the images aired by the main international TV
networks. Governments from everywhere in the planet announced they
would be sending rescue experts, food, medicines, equipment and other
In conformity with the position publicly announced by Cuba, medical
staff from different countries –namely Spain, Mexico, and Colombia,
among others- worked very hard alongside our doctors at the facilities
they had improvised. Organizations such as PAHO and other friendly
countries like Venezuela and other nations supplied medicines and
other resources. The impeccable behavior of Cuban professionals and
their leaders was absolutely void of chauvinism and remained out of
Cuba, just as it had done under similar circumstances, when Hurricane
Katrina caused huge devastation in the city of New Orleans and the
lives of thousands of American citizens were in danger, offered to
send a full medical brigade to cooperate with the people of the United
States, a country that, as is well known, has vast resources. But at
that moment what was needed were trained and well- equipped doctors to
save lives. Given New Orleans geographical location, more than one
thousand doctors of the “Henry Reeve” contingent mobilized and readied
to leave for that city at any time of the day or the night, carrying
with them the necessary medicines and equipment. It never crossed our
mind that the President of that nation would reject the offer and let
a number of Americans that could have been saved to die. The mistake
made by that government was perhaps the inability to understand that
the people of Cuba do not see in the American people an enemy; it does
not blame it for the aggressions our homeland has suffered.
Nor was that government capable of understanding that our country does
not need to beg for favors or forgiveness of those who, for half a
century now, have been trying, to no avail, to bring us to our knees.
Our country, also in the case of Haiti, immediately responded to the
US authorities requests to fly over the eastern part of Cuba as well
as other facilities they needed to deliver assistance, as quickly as
possible, to the American and Haitian citizens who had been affected
by the earthquake.
Such have been the principles characterizing the ethical behavior of
our people. Together with its equanimity and firmness, these have
been the ever-present features of our foreign policy. And this is
known only too well by whoever have been our adversaries in the
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 aftermath of the tragedy, a competition has 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 one hundred thousand deadly victims. A high
number of citizens have lost their arms or legs, or have suffered
fractures requiring rehabilitation that would enable them to work or
manage their own.
Eighty per cent 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 reconstruction of Europe or Japan, which was
based on the productive capacity and the technical level of the
population, was a relatively simple task as compared to the effort
that needs to be made in Haiti. There, as well as in most of Africa
and elsewhere in the Third World, it is indispensable to create the
conditions for a sustainable development. In only forty years time,
humanity will be made of more than nine billion inhabitants, and right
now is faced with the challenge of a climate change that scientists
accept as an inescapable reality.
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 United Nations Organization nor the US government have
offered an explanation to the world’s public opinion about this
relocation of troops.
Several governments have complained that their aircraft have not been
allowed to land in order to deliver the human and technical resources
that have been sent to Haiti.
Some countries, for their part, have announced they would be sending
an additional number of troops and military equipment. In my view,
such events will complicate and create chaos in international
cooperation, which is already in itself complex. It is necessary to
seriously discuss this issue. 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, who takes pride in
its medical doctors and cooperation workers who provide vital
services, is huge, and will rise to the occasion.
Any significant cooperation that is offered to our country will not be
rejected, but its acceptance will fully depend on the importance and
transcendence of the assistance that is requested from the human
resources of our homeland.
It is only fair to state that, up until this moment, our modest
aircrafts and the important human resources that Cuba has made
available to the Haitian people have arrived at their destination
without any difficulty whatsoever.
We send doctors, not soldiers!
Fidel Castro Ruz
January 23, 2010