Cuba’s Role in Fighting Ebola and the Reaction of Empire’s Newspapers
Asking other countries to do more to help stem the spread of Ebola, John Kerry, US Secretary of State, mentioned Cuba on Monday as an example of what others could do and praised the small island nation for sending hundreds of doctors to provide badly needed care to people of West Africa. New York Times, in an editorial dated October 19 and titled: “Cuba’s impressive role on Ebola”, wrote: “Cuba stands to play the most robust role among the nations seeking to contain the virus”. But feeling like it just committed an unspeakable crime praising Cuba, it quickly added: “Cuba’s contribution is undoubtedly meant, at least in part, to bolster its beleaguered international standing.”
Washington Post, in an article titled: “In the medical response to Ebola, Cuba is punching far above in weight”, wrote on October 4: “While the international community has been accused of dragging its feet on the Ebola crisis, Cuba, a country of just 11 million people that still enjoys a fraught relationship with the United States, has emerged as a crucial provider of medical expertise in the West African nations hit by Ebola. On Thursday, 165 health professionals from the country arrived in Freetown, Sierra Leone, to join the fight against Ebola – the largest medical team of any single foreign nation, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). And after being trained to deal with Ebola, a further 296 Cuban doctors and nurses will go to Liberia and Guinea, the other two countries worst hit by the crisis.”
“Cuba’s universal health-care system enables such an export. The country nationalized its health care shortly after its revolution, ending private health care and guaranteeing free health care in its constitution. The results have been widely praised. In 2008, evaluating 30 years of Cuba’s ‘primary health care revolution,’ the Bulletin of the World Health Organization pointed to impressive strides that the country had made in certain health indicators. ‘These indicators – which are close or equal to those in developed countries – speak for themselves,’ Gail Reed noted, pointing to a huge reduction in number of deaths for children under five years old and Cuba’s high life expectancy of 77 years. “… by 2008, it was training 20,000 foreigners a year to be doctors, nurses and dentists, largely free of charge.”
“Ebola isn’t the first time that Cuban health workers have been sent to deal with a global disaster. Even back in 1960, immediately after the revolution, Cuba sent doctors to Chile to help in the aftermath of a devastating earthquake, and the practice has continued for decades since. In 2005, Cuba even offered to send medical workers to the United States after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 (they were apparently rebuffed).
“Reuters reports that Cuba currently has around 50,000 health workers working in 66 countries. Israel, a wealthier country with a similar population, caused controversy this week when its Defense Minister rejected requests to send medical workers to Ebola-struck countries”. After publishing this article, the Post added an update online saying: “though the Foreign Ministry has since announced it would in fact send medical crews.”
Yes, Israel is wealthier than Cuba because it receives about $4 billion from the US each and every year which given its small population amounts to tens of thousands of dollars for each Israeli each year, and the only thing Israel exports is war. In stark contrast, Cuba remains blockaded by the US. As I wrote in a recent piece, while Israel was giving weapons and arms to the apartheid regime of South Africa, Cuba sent 25,000 troops to defend Angola against South African aggression, after Angola’s independence from Portugal in 1975. US and Israel continued to have close relations with South Africa till the very end.
After writing these facts about Cuba, on October 20, the Post, too, must have felt like a traitor talking about Cuba in such good terms. So, it tried to make amends. In an editorial titled: “Cuba should not be rewarded for denying freedom to its people”, it tried hard to find reasons to attack and discredit Cuba. So, what did they come up with? A car accident in which two opponents of the government were killed, which according to Post, must have been planned and orchestrated by the government, even though those individuals had been left free to voice their opposition to the government for years – Mr. Payá, one of the two killed in that accident, in fact, had been active since 2002, to Post’s own admission. If the government wanted to eliminate them, they could have done it long time ago. The Post says the Cuban government has not done a thorough investigation and demands “a credible investigation” into the accident. It goes on to say that “When the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States sent a query to Cuba about the case, they got no answer. Nothing.” Nothing, they emphatically repeat!
I’m really out of words to describe their hypocrisy! I don’t think that word does justice. When was the last time Washington Post condemned Israel for not responding to queries made by the UN Human Rights Commission, or by any human rights organization, not about a car accident which causes the death of two people, but massive war crimes and massacres of over a thousand defenseless Palestinians at a time, including women and children? Where is their protest about Israel breaking down doors and taking away “dissidents” and jailing and torturing them, including children as young as 13? Where is the demand for “a thorough and credible investigation”? A few days ago, an Israeli settler ran over a 5 year old Palestinian girl, killing her. He continued to drive and went home and “Nothing”, as the Post put it. Nothing! And that wasn’t even the first time. Israeli settlers routinely do that. They also burn olive trees Palestinians depend on for survival? What about atrocities committed by the “friendly” government of Saudi Arabia, where the government beheads its opponents every day?
So, what is it about Cuba that bothers these organs of the Empire so much that even when they report on Cuban doctors helping Africans, which they have been doing even long before the outbreak of Ebola, they mix in some unwarranted and ridiculous attack to reduce from the unwanted positive impact? They’re quick to point out that its GDP is not high or that it’s a poor country, but compared to what nations, the US, Germany, Britain or France? If Cuba were to loot dozens of nations in Africa, Asia and Latin America, it too would have been much richer now, not to mention the fact that it’s been under US economic embargo ever since they kicked Empire’s multinational corporations out of their country. And therein lies their real dismay with Cuba. That’s what really bothers them about Cuba: because it won’t let these giant corporations exploit their workers like they do in other countries where they pay poverty wages and fire them when they’re not profitable to them; that is if they survive at the job.
And what about “democracy” and “human rights” that these papers complain about in regards to Cuba? What makes Cuba deserving of criticism when Israel, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain and so many others who enjoy good relations with the US are off the hook and not subject to bashing by Empire’s papers? Simple: Cuba doesn’t allow the CIA to recruit and bribe people to organize a revolt and overthrow the government, as they do and have done in so many countries, the latest being in Ukraine. Cuba doesn’t allow provocateurs to create the grounds for a CIA coup as they did in Iran in 1953, in Guatemala in 1954, in Congo in 1960, in Chile in 1973, to mention just a few, not to mention regime change through war.
When speaking of democracy and human rights, there are three things that hardly ever get mentioned:
1. A small nation “in the backyard” of the Empire which has been a target for regime change for 55 years with its leaders targeted for assassination and its opponents constantly contacted and incited by the CIA to commit sabotage, does not have the luxury to be complicit or cavalier about the activities, associations or plans of such individuals. The same is obviously not true the other way around: Cuba is not and never has been trying to do regime change in the US, so the latter does not have the same political pressures, as Cubans do. Moreover, the Cuban government does not have the same powerful propaganda, deception and mind control machinery as the US.
2. The US does have its own dissidents and is not softer on them at all – not by a long shot. Cuba can try to be tough on its dissidents, but can never, ever, top the US, which sentences a young whistle blower (Chelsea, formerly Bradley Manning) to 35 years to prison and out of fear of facing a similar faith, another young whistle blower (Edward Snowden) is forced to leave the country and live in exile. Another dissident (Mumia Abu Jamal) was framed for murder and has been in jail for 32 years. Another political prisoner, Oscar Lopez Rivera has been in jail for 32 years, too. His crime? Fighting to free his homeland of Puerto Rico from US occupation which annexed it in 1898. Rivera never committed any violent act against anyone. Originally, he was sentenced to 55 years for “seditious conspiracy”; later another 15 were added for a total of 70 years, due to an alleged escape attempt. Leonard Peltier, a Native American who fought for his people’s rights is also languishing in a US jail for life. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was on the FBI list of individuals to be eliminated, was followed, pursued and spied on by the Bureau which ultimately played a role in his assassination which was mentioned in the civil lawsuit brought by his widow.
3. The US has the most massive and broadest spy program in the world spying on its own people, reading their emails, listening in on their phone conversations, viewing their posts and photos sent to friends. It also inserts agents into anti-war, environmental and other social justice organizations to spy on their members. During the Occupy Wall Street protests, police attacked, beat, arrested and brutalized peaceful demonstrators and the CIA was collecting information on the activists. And this is a nation that has absolutely no need to worry about a superpower next door trying to recruit its people to overthrow the government.
Speaking of prisoners, the US stands alone among all nations of the world for having the largest prison population: 2.2 million, most of them from poor working class and minority backgrounds and many incarcerated for years for nothing but possession of drugs. The disparity between treatment of African Americans compared to whites within the American “criminal justice system” is so egregious that deserves to be heard by the United Nations Human Rights Commission. The issue of keeping innocent men in Guantanamo Bay and force feeding them through their noses is the icing on the US human rights cake.
Besides “human rights” which the Empire and its papers have no right to even mention, let alone boast about, but astonishingly do regularly, another issue that they like to use to condemn “unfriendly” nations with is “support for terrorism”. One of the two governments of US and Cuba sponsors, supports and engages in acts of terrorism against other nations, regularly. Guess which one! Not a hard guess, at all. One of these governments has been holding 5 nationals of the other in prison for life for nothing, but notifying local authorities about terrorists (Google “The Cuban 5”, referring to 5 Cubans imprisoned in the US). And, one of them has given refuge to terrorists who have engaged in acts of terrorism against the other, including blowing up a passenger airplane which led to the death of all its passengers. Luis Clemente Faustino Posada Carriles was recruited by the CIA and helped with the Bay of Pigs Invasion of US marines into Cuba. He received training at Fort Benning, and from 1964 to 1968 was involved with a series of bombings and other anti-Castro covert activities. After migrating to Venezuela in 1968, Posada became involved in various terrorist activities in the region, He was convicted in absentia in Panama of involvement in various terrorist attacks and plots in the Americas, including 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner that killed 78 people. Yet, he was allowed to move to the US without facing justice. So much for being against terrorism!
Is Cuba perfect? Of course not! But, one must ask the question: why the double standards about Cuba? As with so many other things and so often, it’s about economics. As they say: follow the money. Cuba does not open its doors to imperialism to come in and exploit its workers, as they do elsewhere wherever it reigns free and uninhibited, ruining the local environment, working their workers in unsafe conditions, assisting brutal dictators to stay in power and to keep wages low and paying little or no taxes, while they make a killing and take their resources cheaply, making themselves richer and keeping the subject people poor. But, we don’t have to examine their neoliberal and imperialist policies overseas to understand the nature and objectives of these corporations. Just look at what they do within the US itself. They’ve busted just about all labor unions in the last 50 years. They control all politicians and the political process, they literally buy elections and have done away with just about any governmental regulation and oversight and most of them pay little or no taxes and keep pushing for wars that are profitable for them. The results speak for themselves: wealth and income inequality is at an all-time high and so is the poverty, and to pacify people, police brutality and violence, especially against minorities, reigns supreme. Empire’s papers that attack Cuba while staying silent about friends like Saudi Arabia, Israel, Turkey, Jordan and others don’t like the fact that US corporations can’t get their hands on Cuba. They don’t like the fact that Cuba is not a capitalist society with foreign banks and corporations like Exxon-Mobile, Monsanto, Bank of America and others getting rich off their people. So, their concern isn’t about the Cuban people. Before one criticizes Cuba for its socialist economy, one must first ask: how is US capitalism working out for millions of Americans?
Cuban socialism has made tremendous strides in meeting its people’s needs, has provided free healthcare and education to the entire population, has close to zero unemployment, and provides secure retirement for life and guaranteed housing to all. Its infant mortality rate is in line with rich and developed industrial nations of Europe and its people’s life expectancy is one of the highest. And when there is a natural disaster like hurricane, which happens often in this island, they actually move people in the thousands to shelters until the danger has passed, unlike in the US where they leave the poor to die and let them become homeless.
Yes, Cuba is not perfect, but it’s much better than many others, including those in the same continent and others throughout Asia and Africa. But, whether it’s human rights or care for the poor, both domestic and in other nations, or in providing healthcare or financial security or dealing with disasters, the US has absolutely nothing over Cuba and indeed can learn much from it. The Empire’s papers like Washington Post can and will continue to try to demonize Cuba to keep the truth from the American people and keep them deceived, but the truth won’t stay hidden forever.