Category Archives: Ebola

Ebola, Cuba and embargo

Since half a century US upholds a policy against Cuba that lately has become an interesting exception from the ordinary habit of the political system, which is to serve the real decision makers – the economic power. The American Chamber of Commerce, the business community’s most important lobby group, wants the embargo on Cuba to be abolished, while the politicians on Capitol Hill persist with their wish to strangle Cuba economically. The Masters of mankind prefer this time business to the ostentatious and cruel politics since long obsolete.

Not surprisingly one finds conservative media on the side of the real power. Some days ago New York Times made a policy statement in an editorial urging that the embargo be brought to an end. That was followed by such a rarity as a positive news report from Cuba, telling about the country’s efforts to help Ebola victims in Africa. 500 medical personnel will be specially trained for the task and prepared to go to the affected African countries. The US Ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, had publicly given special credit to Cuba and East Timor (!) for their willingness to send health care workers to the dangerous places where they are most needed, something many rich countries obviously hesitated to do on a larger scale.

In an academic work by two American scholars the Cuban health care system is described more precisely. One astonishing fact is that Cuba has sent out 30,000 health care workers – of which 19,000 doctors – to more than 100 countries around the world. (Doctors Without Borders – awarded the Nobel Peace Prize – have apparently around 3,000 doctors in field service. They are also active in African countries, treating Ebola patients.)

The Swedish population is of the same magnitude as the Cuban (9 versus 11 million), but we are immensely richer. Still we could certainly not send 19,000 doctors to help poor people abroad. We have just above 30,000 physicians altogether and can barely cover our own needs. We have to import doctors from less rich countries in Europe and elsewhere. That’s what’s happened to the former social role model in which people’s important needs used to be prioritized. (Instead we can nowadays buy hecatombs of stuff: a new cell phone each year, clothes we wear a few times, lots of food that bring us to premature death, and thousands of other things, all for the purpose of a superficial “happiness” but more for enriching the rich with ever growing profits.)

For us there is a lot to learn from this. Our mainstream media have not realized that it’s time to change foot on the Cuban issue. There is still just demonizing of the poor island to expect from our enlightened journalists and reporters. But we use to follow suit on USA even if we mostly lag some years behind. Like all others (except USA, Israel and occasionally some Pacific Island) we vote each year in the UN General Assembly for cessation of the Cuban embargo. But that’s because the strangulation violates the UN charter and WTO rules, and that acceptance of it could be precedential and thus hit back on us (it’s by no means for moral reasons, anyway).

The most important wisdom to gain from the Cuban example is how much humanitarian work we could have done with a minimum of our resources allocated to it. We can just imagine what enormous results we could achieve, had the rich countries made an effort in proportion just a fraction of the Cuban one. The lesson learned is that the well-being of mankind to a very large extent is a question of distribution based on a humanitarian ground.