Cuba's internationalist foreign policy
The revolutionary government of Cuba is sending hundreds of doctors and other medical personnel — selected from 15,000 volunteers — to treat people infected with deadly Ebola in West Africa and fight to roll back an escalating social disaster. They will join the more than 4,000 Cuban medical volunteers already serving across the continent.
This act of human solidarity, incomparable to the response by any other country, reflects the ethical and moral values of Cuba's working people, who took political power following the 1959 revolution that toppled a hated U.S.-backed military dictatorship. For more than five decades, Cuba's internationalist foreign policy has stood in stark contrast to the foreign policy of Washington, a government of the capitalist exploiters.
The mouthpieces of America's ruling families are disposed to brag, usually in dollar terms, about any supposed aid they dole out, although you rarely hear mention of what their money goes to or what effect, if any, their supposed aid has on the lives of human beings.
Speaking on "60 Minutes" Sept. 28, President Barack Obama boasted that Washington is the one "indispensible nation" that people worldwide turn to when in need. The context was U.S. "aid" to Iraq and Syria in the form of bombs and cruise missiles. "When there's an earthquake in Haiti, take a look at who's leading the charge making sure Haiti can rebuild," he said. "That's how we roll."
But the bombast is nothing but empty talk.
After the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti, the U.S. government allocated $379 million to "relief." Some 5,000 military troops were deployed to maintain "order" as millions, left homeless, starving and vulnerable to cholera and other diseases, scrambled to survive. Washington stationed warships off the coast to prevent Haitians from attempting to migrate to the U.S. One-third of the $379 million was used to "reimburse" the U.S. military deployment. Two years after the quake, 1 percent of the funds for reconstruction had been sent — to whom and with what results U.S. officials are suddenly too modest to say.
Cuba, on the other hand, already had hundreds of volunteer medical personnel in Haiti when the earthquake struck, providing health care free of charge. Cuba increased its medical mission to more than 1,400 volunteers and in the first two months treated more than 95,000 people and performed 4,500 surgeries.
"The major challenge begins now, when the press headlines abandon Haiti," Cuban President Raúl Castro said a month after the disaster. "Haiti doesn't need a fleeting and sudden gesture of 'charity.' It requires and deserves a major international effort for its reconstruction."
From December 1998, when Cuba was invited to open its first medical mission in Haiti, to August 2013, Cuban medical personnel treated 18 million people, performed 300,000 operations. As part of Cuba's worldwide Milagros (miracles) program, doctors restored eyesight to 53,000 Haitians suffering from cataracts, glaucoma and other forms of blindness.
Cuba's unbroken record of internationalism includes a proud history of combat missions and military aid to liberation struggles from Africa to Asia to Latin America.
Between 1975 and 1991 some 425,000 Cuban volunteers served in Angola where their participation was decisive in defeating the invading forces of the white-supremacist South African regime, strengthening the fight to bring down the apartheid system in South Africa. Washington sent aid as well — to the other side. And, according to recently declassified U.S. documents, U.S. officials were so incensed about Cuba's aid to African liberation that they not only abandoned the process of normalizing relations with Cuba, but prepared plans to invade the island and, in the words of then Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, to "smash Cuba."
Working people in the U.S. and worldwide should join Cuba in calling on governments across the globe — starting with Washington — to provide real aid to the people of West Africa with no strings attached and, together with Cuba, fight to eradicate the scourge of Ebola.