By Jomo Sanga Thomas
(“Plain Talk”, March 27, 2020)
The most defining story of this coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is not the sad tale of hundreds of thousands of persons who are afflicted with this dreaded disease, not the horrific news that thousands are dead, and more will die. It is not the earthshattering rearrangement of every aspect of human life on this planet in the last few weeks, or the incompetence and ineptitude of the US regime led by Donald Trump and Mike Pence.
Those are imposing stories, but they all pale in comparison to a bright beacon, a point of light and hope in this dark world of pain and suffering.
The story that should remain etched in people’s consciousness, long after this pandemic is conquered, is the calm, stoic resolve and response of the revolutionary leadership of Cuba to the spread of this frightening killer disease.
Cuba, a country known for its honesty and transparency, in tackling difficult problems, has announced few cases of the virus. Based on its history and practice, Cubans are guaranteed and can deliver excellent care.
That’s a given. What is also true, but gets insufficient coverage, is the fact when the world grieves and needs assistance to tackle problems large and small, earthquakes in Pakistan or Iran, Ebola in West Africa, or personnel to staff a medical diagnostic centre in our country, Cuba willingly answers the call.
And so, it is with this COVID-19 pandemic. Cuba has aided Argentina, Antigua, Brazil, China, Grenada, Italy, Jamaica, Nicaragua, Peru, St Lucia, SVG and Venezuela. We can expect the list to grow as the disease continues its death march across the globe.
“This moment calls for the setting aside of political differences to focus on facing the emergency and its serious consequences’, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez said. ‘Each country can and should contribute with what is in its reach. The pandemic does not respect borders or ideologues. To meet such a serious challenge, we must join forces and support each other. We are motivated by the solidarity values that characterizes Cuba, including the promise of sharing what we have, even if it is scarce.”
Contrast this attitude with the pompous, idiotic comments that comes from the US president each day.
Worse, the US government is pressuring some countries to refuse Cuba’s offer of assistance. We hope that those who neglect the needs of their people and bend to such immoral and unethical pressures and bullying, pay a huge political price for their wilful ignorance.
A few things are worth remembering about Cuba. It is a small, resource starved country that has been forced to exist, since the Fidel Castro revolution overthrew Batista the US puppet leader, and embarked on a non-capitalist, revolutionary path of development.
It has not been an easy road. For close to six decades, the country has been pressured, attacked, smeared and blockaded by some of the most powerful governments in the World. However, the revolution has survived primarily because of the discipline and determination of the Cuban people whose leaders have been through the fires of struggle and resistance.
Against the odds, the Cuban revolution has grown to become a medical power, just as Fidel Castro predicted it will be in a speech in 1985. More than 30 years ago, the Cuban medical facility created interferon, the cancer-fighting drug. Currently, a variant of that drug is proving to be an effective battle against COVID-19.
People need to stop and think for a moment. Here’s this Caribbean country, one of the smallest nations on earth, offering critically important medical assistance to China, a country with the second largest economy on earth. It was a beautiful sight to behold as Cuban doctors and nurses landed in Italy, to wild and prolonged cheers.
Since the triumph of the Cuba Revolution, over 400,000 medical personnel went to the aid and assistance of people in 164 countries. These doctors and nurses offer selfless professional assistance. They work in some of the most difficult conditions imaginable. They seldom complain. Their genuine love and self- sacrifice for the people they serve, and for humanity, shine brightly.
We seldom stop to think why Cuba has been able to do all that it has done with so little. Why this wonderful story of help and assistance does not come from Argentina or Dominican Republic, France or the Czech Republic, Egypt or South Africa, Taiwan or the Malaysia, all countries with more resources than Cuba?
If you listen to the establishment media, BBC, CNN, MSNBC, Reuters, New York Times, we are reminded of the untold suffering faced by the citizens of Cuba. We never stop to ask why would a ‘brutal government’ invest in the education, health and welfare of its population? Why do respected international organizations such as the World Health Organization and the United Nations Educational and Scientific and Cultural organization (UNESCO) credit Cuba with exceptional performance in the field of health and education?
The truth lies in these simple facts. Cuba made a revolution more than 60 years ago. Its leadership resolved not to get rich and arrogant or continue with business as usual. The revolution took on the difficult, but doable task to lift all its citizens and imbue them with pride. They committed to transform the Cuban society for the better.
Consequently, the hopelessness and helplessness which characterise the lives of so many of the world peoples, including many Vincentians, do not find that stark expression in Cuba. This is a country with real problems, but a country nonetheless that works to solve its problems to improve the lives and existence not just of Cubans, but the lives of anyone, anywhere who calls.
Imagine then what other strides our brothers and sisters in Cuba could have made, would be making, had it not been for the criminal, illegal blockage of Cuba by the powerful, arrogant and influential United States. The US blockage has robbed the Cuban economy of more than US$200 billion. If Cuba does so much with so little, consider how much more can be done if given the chance to develop freely and independently without the attempts to deform, derail and destroy its transformative revolutionary process.
*Jomo Sanga Thomas is a lawyer, journalist, social commentator and a former Speaker of the House of Assembly in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the opinions or editorial position of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected].