Glen Ford Black Agenda Report November 02, 2014
This week, the nations of the world – with two savage exceptions – instructed their emissaries at the UN General Assembly to tell the world’s self-designated “indispensable” country to end its 54-year-long trade embargo against Cuba. The virtually unanimous global rebuke to the American superpower tells us that it is Cuba, not the U.S. that is the truly “exceptional” nation on the planet. It was the 23rd time that the UN has rejected the embargo.
Despite having suffered cumulative economic damages of more than $1 trillion at U.S. hands over the last half-century, the island nation of 11 million people has made itself a medical superpower that shares its life-saving resources with the world. No country or combination of nations and NGOs comes close to the speed, size and quality of Cuba’s response to the Ebola crisis in West Africa. With 461 doctors, nurses and other health professionals either already on site or soon to be sent to Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, Cuba sets the standard for international first-response. The Cuban contingent of medical professionals providing direct treatment to sick people outnumbers that of all individual countries and private organizations, including the Red Cross.
Doctors Without Borders is second to Cuba in terms of health professionals. But the French NGO is a swiftly revolving door, churning doctors and nurses in and out every six weeks because of the extreme work and safety conditions. Cuba’s health brigades are different. Every volunteer is expected to remain on duty in the Ebola zone for six months. Moreover, if any of the Cubans contract Ebola or any other disease, they will be treated at the hospitals where they work, alongside their African patients, rather than sent home. (One Cuban died of cerebral malaria, in Guinea, last Sunday.)
In sheer numbers, the Cuban medical posture in Africa is surpassed in scope only by the armed presence of AFRICOM, the U.S. military command, which has relationships with every country on the continent except Eritrea, Zimbabwe and Sudan. The governments of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone collaborate militarily with AFRICOM, but the heavily-armed Americans were of no use when Ebola hit. Indeed, the Euro-American legacy in Africa that starved public health systems, is the root reason Liberia and Guinea have only one doctor for every 100,000 people, and Sierra Leone has just two.
When the call went out, 15,000 Cubans competed for the honor to battle Ebola in Africa. As reported in The Guardian, doctors like Leonardo Fernandez were eager to fulfill their moral and professional mission. “We know that we are fighting against something that we don’t totally understand,” he said. “We know what can happen. We know we’re going to a hostile environment. But it is our duty. That’s how we’ve been educated.”
For the United States, military adventure and the imperative to seize other countries’ natural resources or strangle their economies, are defining national characteristics – in complete contrast to Cuba. The U.S. embargo of its island neighbor is among the world’s longest-running morality plays, with Washington as villain. On this issue, the world’s biggest economic and military power could neither buy nor bully a single ally other than the Zionist state.
Cuba’s neighbors in CARICOM, the Caribbean Economic Community, were represented by Saint Kitts and Nevis, whose ambassador pointed to Cuban-built hospitals and clinics throughout the region; the hundreds of Cuban doctors that have provided the only medical services available to many of Haiti’s poor before, during and after the catastrophic earthquake of 2010; and the thousands of Caribbean students that have benefited from free university education in Cuba.
Cuba’s exemplary conduct in the world has made the yearly UN vote on the U.S. embargo a singular opportunity for all the world body’s members, except one, to chastise the superpower that seeks full spectrum domination of the planet. It is the rarest of occasions, a time of virtual global unanimity on an evil in which the Empire is currently engaged. Once a year, the world – in both effect and intent – salutes the Cuban model. For a moment, humanity’s potential to organize itself for the common good illuminates the global forum.
This year, the model glows brightly in the darkness of microbial pestilence. When 15,000 Cuban health care workers do not hesitate to step into the Ebola pit, the New Man and Woman may already exist – and there is hope for the rest of us. [Abridged]