‘Cuba defies US pressure over health solidarity’

CUBAN President Miguel Diaz-Canel says the coronavirus pandemic has exposed the fragility of a fractured and excluding world.

He said, “we must face selfishness and be aware that assistance from the industrialised North shall be scarce”.

During a virtual Non-Aligned Movement summit “United against COVID-19”, President Diaz-Canel reiterated that Cuba shall not give up its solidarity vocation even when, “out of political reasons, the US government continues attacking and obstructing the international cooperation being provided by our country, which jeopardises access to health services for tens of millions of people”.

He said COVID-19 had proven to be a global challenge.

“It goes beyond borders, ideologies or levels of development. Therefore, the answer to it must also be global and joint and it should put political differences aside,” President Diaz-Canel said. “It is not possible to predict exactly the extent of its consequences. The high figures of infected persons and many human deaths are showing its devastating impact in an increasingly interconnected world which, still, has not been able to make use of such interconnection for the sake of solidarity and is paying today the price for its inability to correct serious social imbalances. It should be stated openly: Had we made solidarity global, as it was done with the market, the story would have been different.”

He noted a lack of solidarity and cooperation. “Those values cannot be replaced with profit-making, which is almost the only incentive for those who worship the market while forgetting about the value of human life. An analysis of the events that have disturbed humanity in the last four months must include the costly mistakes of neo-liberal policies, which led to a downsizing of state management and capabilities, excessive privatisations and a neglect of the majorities,” President Diaz-Canel said. “This pandemic has evidenced the fragility of a fractured and excluding world. Not even those who are most fortunate and powerful would survive in the absence of those whose work create and sustain wealth. The multiple crises it is bringing about foretell ravaging and lasting effects for the economy and all spheres of society.”

He said the pandemic was worsening the pressing problems in a planet riddled with deep inequalities and where 600 million people are living in dire poverty. President Diaz-Canel said nearly half of the global population had no access to basic health services, “whose management is defined by the market and not by the noble goal of saving lives”.

“In the meantime, global military expenditures are over US $1.9 trillion, of which more than 38 per cent, or $732 billion, were appropriated in the United States in 2020,” he said while invoking Fidel Castro’s clarion call of: “Instead of spending so much in the development of increasingly sophisticated weapons, those having resources for that should promote medical research and put the results of science at the service of humanity, thus creating tools for health and life and not for death.”

President Diaz-Canel demanded an end to wars, including non-conventional ones, so as to safeguard the right to peace.

“We reject the recent and serious military threats by the government of the United States against the sister Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. We reaffirm our solidarity with the government and the people of Nicaragua and reject measures against their right to well-being, security and peace,” he said. “In this complex situation, the United States is attacking multilateralism and it disqualifies unjustly the role of international organizations, particularly the World Health Organization.”

President Diaz-Canel said it was NAM’s role to lead actions toward the write-off of the uncollectable foreign debt which burdens countries and for the lifting of unilateral coercive measures being imposed on some of member nations as they, “together with the social and economic effects of COVID-19, are threatening the sustainable development of the peoples”.

“We must face selfishness and be aware that assistance from the industrialised North shall be scarce. We have to complement each other, share what we have, support ourselves mutually, and learn from successful experiences,” President Diaz-Canel urged. “Cuba is ready to share its experiences with the NAM countries to which it is bound by historic ties of friendship… In response to requests that were made, in the last month 25 new medical brigades of Cuban health professionals have joined the efforts in 23 countries to fight the pandemic. They have joined those who have been providing services already in 59 States, many of which are NAM members.”

He explained that for Cuba, the COVID-19 challenge has been a mammoth one.

“In the months prior to the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak, we were already facing a ruthless tightening of the US economic, commercial and financial blockade policy aimed at bringing our trade and access to fuels and foreign currency to a full standstill,” he said. “Through tremendous effort and sacrifice, we have been able under such conditions to keep in place our universal and free public health system that has dedicated and highly-qualified professionals who enjoy world prestige in spite of the crude and slanderous campaigns by powerful adversaries.”

President Diaz-Canel said the early warning signs on the possibility that COVID-19 would become a pandemic “came in the midst of this suffocating context of an economic war, and that made challenges bigger”.

“Right away, we drew a plan including measures based on our main strengths: A well-structured State that has the responsibility to protect the health of its citizens and a society with mass involvement as to decision-making and giving solutions to its problems,” he said. “The work resulting from years of resource appropriations to develop and strengthen health services and sciences has been put to a test and the evolution of the epidemic in Cuba in the last two months is showing the good impact social investment policies may have when facing the biggest and most unexpected challenges. In spite of the huge constraints being imposed on us by the protracted US economic, commercial and financial blockade, that are posing a big daily challenge to keeping our public health system in place and facing this pandemic in particular, we have ensured the right to health of the Cuban people with the involvement of society as a whole.”

President Diaz-Canel said scientific development had allowed Cuba to treat different communicable diseases successfully both in Cuba and in other nations.

“This time, the [Cuban] pharmaceutical industry has expanded the manufacturing of drugs of proven efficacy to prevent and deal with COVID-19 that we have shared with other countries,” said President Diaz-Canel. “We have a responsibility to combine our willingness and efforts to face this immense challenge. Let us promote international cooperation and solidarity. Our endeavor shall be decisive. Let us do it for the right of our peoples to health, peace and development, fully abiding by the founding principles of NAM. Let us do it for life.”

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