There is a bitter irony in the fact that Cuba, a country which sent emergency medical brigades around the world to help fight the coronavirus pandemic, is forced by the US blockade to confront shortages of medical supplies in its own borders. But this is the reality imposed by imperialism.
Longtime Cuba solidarity activist Keith Ellis is coordinator for the Medical Supplies Fundraising Campaign launched by the Canadian Network on Cuba (CNC). He says that in the current situation, “Cuban hospitals, in different parts of the country, are struggling to acquire some very urgently needed items, mainly due to the US illegal blockade.” The three-month campaign launched on January 8 and will raise $50,000 to fill and ship a container with the critical supplies that Cuba needs. “The CNC has obtained a list of some of these items which we are attempting to source from suppliers of medical equipment in the Toronto area.”
The CNC notes that the launch date intentionally coincides with the day in 1959 that the rebel army, led by Fidel Castro and Camilo Cienfuegos, victoriously arrived in Havana. “Fidel Castro’s forward-looking policies led to Cuba’s distinguished medical accomplishments and international humanitarian aid around the world. Cuba’s Henry Reeve International Medical Brigade has been nominated for the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize. In appalling contrast, the increased tightening by the United States of its illegal, immoral blockade against Cuba has made it extremely difficult for Cubans to obtain urgently needed medical supplies while fighting the coronavirus pandemic.”
Last year, the US blockade caused nearly $5.6 billion in economic losses for Cuba, $1.2 billion more than in 2019. The tourist sector lost $1.9 billion, manufacturing over $600 million and the bio-pharmacological sector more than $160 million.
US-based political writer W.T. Whitney has said that the fallout from the blockade is particularly harmful for the healthcare sector. “Dozens of US companies, on being asked, refused to sell medical equipment and drugs to Cuban importers. When purchased through a third-country agent, they are more expensive. And supplies and medications manufactured in third countries may not be readily available… Cuba’s fight against COVID-19 took one hit when blockade regulations prevented the unloading in Cuba of a Chinese shipment of donated anti-pandemic supplies, and another one when Swiss manufacturers refused to sell ventilators to Cuba.”
There is hope in Cuba and around the world that the new US president will uncoil the tightened blockade and take steps to normalize relations. This is far from guaranteed, however, so solidarity movements are ramping up their anti-blockade campaigns in addition to their material aid efforts.
The Canadian Network on Cuba includes organizations like the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, several chapters of the Canadian-Cuban Friendship Association, the Communist Party and Young Communist League. The network has a strong record of sending material support to Cuba. All funds received are passed on to Cuba as the CNC covers all additional costs like transfer, banking and postage.
Readers may get more information or contribute to the campaign by emailing CNC co-chair and treasurer Elizabeth Hill.
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