[News] Why is the US Waging Perpetual War on Cuba's Health Care System?

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Mon Jun 6 11:20:14 EDT 2011

June 6, 2011

The Politics of Discomfort

Why is the US Waging Perpetual War on Cuba's Health Care System?


In January the government of the United States of America saw fit to 
seize $4.207 million in funds allocated to Cuba by the United Nations 
Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria for the first 
quarter of 2011, Cuba has charged. The UN Fund is a $22 billion a 
year program that works to combat the three deadly pandemics in 150 
countries. (Prensa Latina (Cuba), March 12, 2011.)

"This mean-spirited policy," the Cuban government said, "aims to 
undermine the quality of service provided to the Cuban population and 
to obstruct the provision of medical assistance in over 100 countries 
by 40,000 Cuban health workers." Most of the funds are used to import 
expensive AIDS medication to Cuba, where antiretroviral treatment is 
provided free of charge to some 5,000 HIV patients. (The Militant 
(US, Socialist Workers Party), April 4, 2011.)

The United States sees the Cuban health system and Havana's sharing 
of such as a means of Cuba winning friends and allies in the Third 
World, particularly Latin America; a situation sharply in conflict 
with long-standing US policy to isolate Cuba. The United States in 
recent years has attempted to counter the Cuban international success 
by dispatching the US Naval Ship "Comfort" to the region. With 12 
operating rooms and a 1,000-bed hospital, the converted oil tanker 
has performed hundreds of thousands of free surgeries in places such 
as Belize, Guatemala, Panama, El Salvador, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, 
Nicaragua and Haiti.

However, the Comfort's port calls likely will not substantially 
enhance America's influence in the hemisphere. "It's hard for the 
U.S. to compete with Cuba and Venezuela in this way," said Peter 
Hakim, president of the Inter-American Dialogue, a pro-US 
policy-research group in Washington. "It makes us look like we're 
trying to imitate them. Cuba's doctors aren't docked at port for a 
couple days, but are in the country for years." (Bloomberg news 
agency, September 19, 2007.)

The recent disclosure by Wikileaks of US State Department documents 
included this little item: A cable was sent by Michael Parmly from 
the US Interests Section in Havana in July 2006, during the runup to 
the Non-Aligned Movement conference. He notes that he is actively 
looking for "human interest stories and other news that shatters the 
myth of Cuban medical prowess".

Michael Moore refers to another Wikileaks State Department cable: "On 
January 31, 2008, a State Department official stationed in Havana 
took a made-up story and sent it back to his headquarters in 
Washington. Here's what they came up with: [The official] stated that 
Cuban authorities have banned Michael Moore's documentary, 'Sicko,' 
as being subversive. Although the film's intent is to discredit the 
U.S. healthcare system by highlighting the excellence of the Cuban 
system, the official said the regime knows the film is a myth and 
does not want to risk a popular backlash by showing to Cubans 
facilities that are clearly not available to the vast majority of 
them." Moore points out an Associated Press story of June 16, 2007 
(seven months prior to the cable) with the headline: "Cuban health 
minister says Moore's 'Sicko' shows 'human values' of communist system."

Moore adds that the people of Cuba were shown the film on national 
television on April 25, 2008. "The Cubans embraced the film so much 
it became one of those rare American movies that received a 
theatrical distribution in Cuba. I personally ensured that a 35mm 
print got to the Film Institute in Havana. Screenings of Sicko were 
set up in towns all across the country." (Huffington Post, December 18, 2010.)

The United States also bans the sale to Cuba of vital medical drugs 
and devices, such as the inhalant agent Sevoflurane which has become 
the pharmaceutical of excellence for applying general anesthesia to 
children; and the pharmaceutical Dexmetomidine, of particular 
usefulness in elderly patients who often must be subjected to 
extended surgical procedures. Both of these are produced by the US 
firm Abbot Laboratories.

Cuban children suffering from lymphoblastic leukemia cannot use 
Erwinia L-asparaginasa, a medicine commercially known as Elspar, 
since the US pharmaceutical company Merck and Co. refuses to sell 
this product to Cuba. Washington has also prohibited the US-based 
Pastors for Peace Caravan from donating three Ford ambulances to Cuba.

Cubans are moreover upset by the denial of visas requested to attend 
conferences in the field of Anesthesiology and Reanimation that take 
place in the United States. This creates further barriers for Cuba's 
anesthesiologists to update themselves on state of the art 
anesthesiology, the care of severely ill patients, and the advances 
achieved in the treatment of pain.

Some of the foregoing are but a small sample of American warfare 
against the Cuban medical system presented in a Cuban report to the 
United Nations General Assembly on October 28, 2009.

Finally, we have the Cuban Medical Professional Parole (CMPP) 
immigration program, which encourages Cuban doctors who are serving 
their government overseas to defect and enter the US immediately as 
refugees. The Wall Street Journal reported in January of this year 
that through Dec. 16, 2010, CMPP visas had been issued by US 
consulates in 65 countries to 1,574 Cuban doctors whose education had 
been paid for by the financially-struggling Cuban government. (Wall 
Street Journal, "Cuban Doctors Come In From the Cold" (video), 
January 14 2011.) This program, oddly enough, was initiated by the US 
Department of Homeland Security. Another victory over terrorism? Or 
socialism? Or same thing?

Wait until the American conservatives hear that Cuba is the only 
country in Latin America offering abortion on demand, and free.

William Blum is the author of 
Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II, 
State: a guide to the World's Only Super Power. and 
Dissident: a Cold War Political 

He can be reached at: <mailto:BBlum6 at aol.com>BBlum6 at aol.com

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