Monday, February 1, 2010

We Send Doctors, Not Soldiers

We Send Doctors, Not Soldiers


by Fidel Castro Ruz


In my Reflection of January 14, two days after the

catastrophe in Haiti, which destroyed that neighboring

sister nation, I wrote: "In the area of healthcare and

others the Haitian people has received the cooperation

of Cuba, even though this is a small and blockaded

country.  Approximately 400 doctors and healthcare

workers are helping the Haitian people free of charge.

Our doctors are working every day at 227 of the 237

communes of that country.  On the other hand, no less

than 400 young Haitians have been graduated as medical

doctors in our country.  They will now work alongside

the reinforcement that traveled there yesterday to save

lives in that critical situation.  Thus, up to one

thousand doctors and healthcare personnel can be

mobilized without any special effort; and most are

already there willing to cooperate with any other State

that wishes to save Haitian lives and rehabilitate the



"The head of our medical brigade has informed that 'the

situation is difficult but we are already saving



The Cuban health professionals have started to work

nonstop, hour after hour, day and night, in the few

facilities that remain standing, in tents, and out in

the parks or open-air spaces, since the population

feared new aftershocks.


The situation was far more serious than was originally

thought.  Tens of thousands of injured were clamoring

for help in the streets of Port-au-Prince; innumerable

persons lay, dead or alive, under the rubble of clay or

adobe used in the construction of the houses where the

overwhelming majority of the population lived.

Buildings, even the most solid, collapsed.  Besides, it

was necessary to track down, in the destroyed

neighborhoods, the Haitian doctors who had graduated

from the Latin American School of Medicine.  Many of

them were affected, either directly or indirectly, by

the tragedy.


Some UN officials were trapped in their dormitories and

tens of lives were lost, including the lives of several

chiefs of MINUSTAH, a UN contingent.  The fate of

hundreds of other members of its staff was unknown.


Haiti's Presidential Palace crumbled.  Many public

facilities, including several hospitals, were left in



The catastrophe shocked the whole world, which was able

to see what was going on through the images aired by

the main international TV networks.  Governments all

over the world announced they would be sending rescue

experts, food, medicines, equipment, and other



In accordance with the position publicly announced by

Cuba, medical staff from different countries -- namely

Spain, Mexico, and Colombia, among others -- worked

very hard alongside our doctors at the facilities they

had improvised.  Organizations such as PAHO, friendly

countries like Venezuela, and other nations supplied

medicines and other resources.  The impeccable behavior

of Cuban professionals and their leaders, who chose to

remain out of the limelight, was absolutely void of



Cuba, just as it had done under similar circumstances,

when Hurricane Katrina caused huge devastation in the

city of New Orleans and the lives of thousands of

American citizens were in danger, offered to send a

full medical brigade to cooperate with the people of

the United States, a country that, as is well known,

has vast resources.  At that moment what was needed

were trained and well-equipped doctors to save lives.

Given New Orleans' geographic location, more than one

thousand doctors of the "Henry Reeve" contingent

mobilized and readied to leave for that city at any

time of the day or the night, carrying with them the

necessary medicines and equipment.  It never crossed

our mind that the President of that nation would reject

the offer and let a number of Americans who could have

been saved die.  The mistake made by that government

was perhaps due to the inability to understand that the

people of Cuba do not see in the American people an

enemy; they do not blame them for the aggressions our

homeland has suffered.


Nor was that government capable of understanding that

our country does not need to beg for favors or

forgiveness of those who, for half a century now, have

been trying, to no avail, to bring us to our knees.


Our country, also in the case of Haiti, immediately

responded to the US authorities' requests to fly over

the eastern part of Cuba as well as other facilities

they needed to deliver assistance, as quickly as

possible, to the American and Haitian citizens who had

been affected by the earthquake.


Such have been the principles characterizing the

ethical behavior of our people.  Together with its

impartiality and firmness, these have been the

ever-present features of our foreign policy.  And this

is known only too well by whoever have been our

adversaries in the international arena.


Cuba will firmly stand by the opinion that the tragedy

that has taken place in Haiti, the poorest nation in

the Western hemisphere, is a challenge to the richest

and more powerful countries of the world.


Haiti is a net product of the colonial, capitalist, and

imperialist system imposed on the world.  Haiti's

slavery and subsequent poverty were imposed from

abroad.  That terrible earthquake occurred after the

Copenhagen Summit, where the most elemental rights of

192 UN member States were trampled upon.


In the aftermath of the tragedy, a competition has been

unleashed in Haiti to hastily and illegally adopt boys

and girls.  UNICEF has been forced to adopt preventive

measures against the uprooting of many children that

will deprive their close relatives of their rights.


There are more than one hundred thousand dead victims.

A large number of citizens have lost their arms or

legs, or have suffered fractures requiring

rehabilitation that would enable them to work or manage

their lives on their own.


Eighty percent of the country needs to be rebuilt.

Haiti requires an economy that is developed enough to

meet its needs according to its productive capacity.

The reconstruction of Europe or Japan, which was based

on the productive capacity and the technical level of

the population, was a relatively simple task compared

to the effort that needs to be made in Haiti.  There,

as well as in most of Africa and elsewhere in the Third

World, it is indispensable to create the conditions for

a sustainable development.  In only forty years' time,

humanity will be made of more than nine billion

inhabitants, and it is faced right now with the

challenge of a climate change that scientists accept as

an inescapable reality.


In the midst of the Haitian tragedy, without anybody

knowing how and why, thousands of US marines, 82nd

Airborne Division troops, and other military forces

have occupied Haiti.  Worse still is the fact that

neither the United Nations Organization nor the US

government has offered an explanation to the world's

public opinion about this deployment of troops.


Several governments have complained that their aircraft

have not been allowed to land in order to deliver the

human and technical resources that have been sent to



Some countries, for their part, have announced they

would be sending an additional number of troops and

military equipment.  In my view, such actions will

complicate and create chaos in international

cooperation, which is already in itself complex.  It is

necessary to seriously discuss this issue.  The UN

should be entrusted with the leading role it deserves

in these delicate matters.


Our country is accomplishing a strictly humanitarian

mission.  To the extent that it is possible, it will

contribute the human and material resources at its

disposal.  The will of our people, who take pride in

their medical doctors and workers who cooperate to

provide vital services, is strong and will rise to the



Any significant opportunity for cooperation that is

offered to our country will not be rejected, but its

acceptance will be entirely dependent on the importance

and significance of the assistance that is requested

from the human resources of our homeland.


It is only fair to state that, up until this moment,

our modest aircraft and the important human resources

that Cuba has made available to the Haitian people have

arrived at their destination without any difficulty



We send doctors, not soldiers!


Firma Fidel Castro Ruz January 23, 2010

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