[News] Why is the US Waging Perpetual War on Cuba's Health Care System?
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?
By WILLIAM BLUM
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
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
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